Sam Storms, myself, and Tim Kimberly have been discussing this question on Theology Unplugged. As it turns out, there are quit a few people who are going through doctrinal statement “revisions” at the respective churches. Some are making the statement longer due to all of the traditional theological issues out there that are being challenged (penal substitution, the nature of God, imputation, committment to the Reformation, etc.). However, many people are putting their doctrinal statements on diets, cutting away what they believe to be excess weight in hope of facilitating more unity.

Yet “How long should your doctrinal statements be” (what we ended up naming the Theology Unplugged series) is not exactly what I am asking. Specifically, I often wonder how diverse that the church should be? And even more specifically, I ask how diverse should we intentionally try to make it?

Another way that I look at this is to picture myself starting a church. You do the same. What do I want that church to look like, doctrinally speaking? What do I want the members to believe? How much agreement to I want on the pastoral staff and elder board (or leadership in general)? If I wanted it to follow my flow I would say that it needs have these doctrinal bents (among other things):

  • Evangelical
  • Soft complementarian (distinction in role between men and women)
  • Evangelical Calvinistic (with some wavering/maneuvering on the fifth point)
  • Somewhat liberal (or a better word, “gracious”) on the remarraige thing
  • No tongues or prophecy
  • Premillenial eschatology (but not too fanatical about it)
  • Believers baptism by immersion
  • Memorialist with regard to the Lord’s Supper

This sounds really nice and I am sure that we could have some great unity of mind at pastors meetings as we share our passions. But don’t I want some diversity? Isn’t that what being Evangelical is all about? You know our credo: “Unity in the essential, liberty in non-essential, love in all things.” Don’t I even want some diversity among the leaders? Wouldn’t this make it more Evangelical?

If so, how much and with what issues? Personally, I would have much less problem serving with someone who is a little more conservative on the marraige issue than I would rubbing shoulders with a nasty Arminian! 😉 (to say nothing of an Egalitarian!). But if the Arminian (and Egalitarian) is representative of a legitimate doctrinal position in Evangelicalism (i.e. it is not an essential issue and there are good people on both sides), then shouldn’t our staff and congregation have representatives from both sides? Shouldn’t I intentionally hire a Evangelical Arminian (or at least be open to it)?

Here are a few positives that might come from it:

  • You will demonstrate the unity and diversity of the church.
  • In doing so you will make the cardinal issues of Christianity more central.
  • Seeing as how there are good (Evangelical) people on both sides of many of these issues, your people will have more of an opportunity to hear from the opposing position in order to discover truth. And is this not what we are after? Truth? Not prejudice.

However, with some of these issues it is not practical to encourage diversity. Think of the Egalitarianism/Complementarianism issue. If I were to hire a woman Egalitarian pastor, whose theology do we put into practice, her’s or mine? If I were to allow someone who believes in infant baptism to be on the staff, what do we do? Dunk adults at night, sprinke children at day? If we had both a cessationist and continuationist on staff, whose preference rules the Sunday morning service. Would not some of these issues, while non-cardinal, confuse the congregation? If so, does this outweight the benefits?

At Stonebriar Community Church, where I was a pastor for six years, while we had a pretty tight doctrinal statement, there was some diversity represented among the staff. While I had a more liberal position concerning divorce and remarraige, others were very conservative (they would always send everyone to me!). I was a five-point Calvinist (most days) and most of the other pastors were four-pointers. I was more of a progressive dispensationalist while others were more revised (I know . . . that is not THAT diverse).

Any way, enough of the introduction. I want to know what you think.

How theologically diverse should churches be?

What are your thoughts on this matter?

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    61 replies to "How Theologically Diverse Should Your Church Be?"

    • wm tanksley

      Wikapedia says there are 38,000 denominations. Oy Vey!!! Even if they overstated by 90%, that’s still 3,800 denominations.

      The interesting thing is how that number was arrived at. Any church that listed itself as “independent” was counted as a single denomination, regardless of their willingness to be counted with others (the people doing the counting didn’t bother asking).

      Thus, all of the people who feel as you do would EACH be counted as a denomination.

      So your evidence destroys your own argument.


    • mbaker


      Not trying to argue, but what since when has statistics, on either side, defined the relevance of Christianity, and how?

    • wm tanksley

      mbaker, what statistic did I cite? I didn’t intend to, and I don’t see it looking back…

    • mbaker

      I think you were both citing numbers, were you not? Numbers don’t prove Christianity. So how is that relevant to either side? My point is when we get into numbers either way, we are missing it. For Christians it’s always about one number – Christ on the cross.

    • wm tanksley

      mbaker, I agree with you by and large; although numbers can hint that one has the wrong approach, they’re not proof of anything. (For example, the fact that in America self-identified “Evangelicals” have the same divorce rate as the rest of the culture.)

      I’m not citing any numbers, though. I do claim that his numbers aren’t any good for the purpose he claims, because they’re inflated precisely by people saying what he’s saying.


    • A. Amos Love


      “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”
      Mat 28:20.

      1 – **Jesus**
      also taught “His Disciples” that “All” would be “taught of God.”
      So, when “We” teach a potential “Disciple of Christ,”
      a “learner and pupil of Christ,” one who learns directly from Jesus;
      “We” can let them know that God is their teacher – NOT man.

      It is written in the prophets, And they shall be **ALL** taught of God.**
      John 6:45

      But the Comforter, [which is] **the Holy Ghost,**
      whom the Father will send in my name, **he shall teach you all things.**
      John 14:26

      Howbeit when he, **the Spirit of truth,** is come,
      he **will guide you into all truth.**
      John 16:13

      2 – **John,** the apostle, taught…
      “The Annointing” “in you” **teaches you** “ALL” things.
      And **you need NO MAN teach you.**

      These [things] have I written unto you
      concerning <>
      But **the anointing** which ye have received of him
      abideth **in you, ** and <>
      but as **the same anointing teacheth you of “ALL” things**…
      1 John 2:26-27

      3 – **God** in the OT, also teaches that **God wants to be our teacher.**

      **I will instruct thee** and **teach thee** in the way
      which thou shalt go: **I will guide thee** with mine eye.
      Psalms 32:8

      Receive **my instruction,** and not silver;
      and **knowledge** rather than choice gold.
      Pro 8:10

      Good and upright [is] the LORD:
      therefore **will he teach sinners** in the way.
      The meek will **he guide** in judgment:
      and the meek will **he teach his way.**
      Psalms 25:8-9

      Out of heaven he made thee to **hear his voice,**
      that **he might instruct thee:**
      Deuteronomy 4:36

      Seems a “Disciple of Christ” can learn directly from Jesus. Yes?
      And a “son of God” can be **Led** by the Spirit? Yes? Rom 8:14

    • wm tanksley

      Amos, it seems you’re ignoring my statements and reposting your own. I have failed to make myself clear.

      The fact that we are led by God to accept Christ does NOT mean that we should never accept teaching from men. The fact that Christ taught that God would teach His people didn’t mean that Christ didn’t command his people to teach.

      In fact, Christ DID so command His people. And He (and his apostles) commanded His people to learn from men.

      So your readings of the “they shall be taught by God” passages are clearly inadequate. I think what you’ve missed is that with the exception of one single passage, none of the verses even imply that people are not taught by men; and absolutely none of them say or imply that people *should not* be taught by men. That is, they all clearly say that God teaches; but they don’t say that it’s wrong to learn from men.

      The one passage that actually indicates that men don’t teach (but doesn’t say it’s WRONG for men to teach) is in 1 John 2. There are two problems with reading this passage to mean that nobody should accept teachers. The first is that the Bible everywhere else contradicts it; and the second is that the passage as a whole is not talking about learning from teachers, but is rather talking about how we know that we are God’s children. The answer is that we can only know that because we learn it from God — and, of course, because we have not left Him (as the false teachers in this chapter did).


    • A. Amos Love


      “So your readings of the “they shall be taught by God” passages
      are clearly inadequate.”

      Here’s what my computer dictionary says about the word “Clearly.”

      Exaggerators like this word, along with its cousins ( obviously, undeniably, undoubtedly, and the like). Often a statement prefaced with one of these words is conclusory, and sometimes even exceedingly dubious. As a result—though some readers don’t consciously realize it— clearly and its ilk are ‘weasel words’—that is, unnecessary words that supposedly intensify the meaning of a statement, but actually weaken it. Just how much clearly can weaken a statement is evident in the following example, in which the author uses the word to buttress a claim about his own state of mind: “Clearly, I am not to be convinced that this is a small matter.” (Stephen White, The Written Word; 1984.) — BG

      Hope this helps

    • A. Amos Love


      Yes. we’re in agreement… Pheeewwww! A notable miracle…

      “The fact that we are led by God to accept Christ does NOT mean
      that we should never accept teaching from men.”

      Have learned from many men, and women, and the least of these.

      My point is “The traditions of men” make ” the word of God” of none effect.
      and “Titles” “Pastor/Teacher” cause walls of separation and cause
      new believers to believe they have to “follow a man”
      “a teacher/leader” in order to learn about Jesus.

      They don’t know they can experience and learn from
      a living Christ within them from day one.
      Jesus can teach anyone at anytime.

      I have learned much from those who are considered “the least of these”
      and those who are new in the Lord.

      I’ve also learned about Jesus from “teacher/leaders.”
      But, I’ve also been very disapointed.
      From official “teacher/leaders” I’ve learned deception, disappointment, disgust, etc.etc.

      Isn’t that the tradition that is taught in the institutional religious system.
      You need a man with a degree in order to explain the Bible,
      an elder/teacher/leader.

      Yet, Jesus said He wants to lead and guide and teach.
      They shall all be taught of God.
      And the Holy spirit will teach you all truth.
      The Spirit of truth will guide you into all truth.
      John the apostle said; You need no man teach you.

      I’ve seen many men pay the price of thinking they are “the teacher/leader.”
      The one’s who really have a heart for Jesus really struggle
      with serving so many masters and knowing what the denomination says
      is contrary to scripture. Or how their independent pastor friends
      run their business (church) and the way they treat the sheep and fleece them.

      Yes. You can learn from man.
      You can also get it directly from Jesus.
      You can be – A “Disciple of Christ.”
      A “Learner and student of Jesus.” And forsake “All.”

      Be blessed…

    • Ed Meardon

      Do you have a complete listing of these “doctrinal bents” so I could more easily compare where I am and where my church is, and how really important they are in following Christ? (also listing which doctrines are diametrically opposed to each other).

      I could look them up, but I feel that my list would be incomplete. This is what I have so far: Evangelical, Soft complementarian, Evangelical Calvinistic, Somewhat liberal , Premillenial, Believers baptism by immersion, Memorialist, Arminian, cessationist, continuationist, four-point and five-point Calvinist, progressive or revised dispensationalist.

      I understand most of these, but I’d like a complete listing as possible, so I can compare and contrast better.


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