This post was inspired by something John Piper wrote, which you can read here.
Can my ministry flourish in a Reformed environment even though I hold to Arminian theology?
I don’t want to encourage a pastor, whether a worship pastor or senior pastor or associate pastor, to act in a knee-jerk way about being out of sync with his church. It may have happened because he came into the church unaware of where they were. It may have happened because her theology changed after she got there.
There are different reasons why you might wind up in this situation. And once you do, what I want to say first is, Don’t assume it can’t happen. Don’t assume flourishing can’t happen. And by “flourishing” I mean that over time the people would grow with you into greater truth about the love of God. And it can happen in ways that are not dramatic.
In other words, an Arminian position mainly means, God is holy, good, just, moral, loving, and always does what is right. You can trust Him. We’re going to ask God to change lives here. We’re going to tell individuals that God loves them. There are a lot of born-again Calvinist people who like that. It’s because they don’t see the implications of their theology.
And if you get a congregation liking that over time—”God is good, and we’re going to celebrate his character and his nature and his love” (just leave it undefined for the time being. Everybody believes in the love of God, one way or the other)—what happens is that when God works on your heart, you begin to trust him and seek first his kingdom. So even if you initially have a distorted view of God, when you get to specifics in John 3, Romans 10, 1 John 4, about love and whatnot, your heart is more ready for it.
So the flourishing could be that you’re taking people where you know you want them to go, just because you know that God genuinely cares about them. And your Arminain orientation makes you keenly aware of that. Their Calvinistic orientation doesn’t naturally make them as aware of that. And you’re going to take them there. And when the whole spirit of the place changes, then the theology might grow. And that’s what I mean by flourishing.
Now that might not happen, because as you begin to go there you might encounter opposition. People might say, “I’m tired of this God shows no favoritism nonsense. We need more exclusivity. It’s not my responsibility to preach the gospel, God loves me but he hates you”—though they wouldn’t use those words necessarily. They think that God values them more than others. They’re showing pride. This is just too serious.
And so over time, your effort to simply make much of God in Christ would encounter opposition. And then, yes, you would probably have to find another place.
So the general point there is, Pray toward a process that is open and above board. If you are a worship leader, then you should be totally candid with your senior pastor or the pastoral team and say, “Here’s where I am. Do you want me here? If you don’t want me here, I should go.” If they say, “We want you here, just don’t push your peripheral distinctives,” then you may respond, “Well, we’ll make a go of it, and I’ll try to design services that I think honor God. And you’ll have to tell me in the long run whether you think I’m pushing my distinctives.”