Disagreeing without being disagreeable

Published 5:40 am Sunday, December 17, 2023

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By Michael J. Brooks

 I was rendered speechless—highly unusual for a Baptist preacher.

I was in college serving a church in the Birmingham area as interim pastor for what became an eight-month assignment. I enjoyed the experience immensely preaching three times a week, attending deacons meetings and visiting the sick. I learned a lot and had a lot to learn (still do).

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The Billy Graham ministry scheduled a crusade at Legion Field in Birmingham that May. I heard about volunteer counseling, took the training and reported for duty.

I stood backstage one night waiting for the event to begin when Graham walked by. I quickly stuck out my hand and shook his, saying, “God bless you, sir.” I once joked that “the glory of God washed all over me”!

The week was memorable in another sad way since it was the week Alabama Gov. George Wallace was shot in Maryland.

Anyway, I was telling my church at the Wednesday night Bible study about plans for the following week and how we’d been trained to help those making decisions. Then I asked for their support and prayers. One of the long-time members said, “Preacher, I wouldn’t walk across the street to hear Billy Graham.”

All my enthusiasm melted for the moment. I didn’t know how to respond, and don’t remember how I did. Nor did the lady further explain her antipathy. Nor did I pursue it with her later at leisure. But it was one of my first experiences with a negative thinker.

Maybe she didn’t think the crusade approach to evangelism was best, though it was effective at the time. But even though she had issues with Graham or his crusades, I think she could’ve kept this private and simply prayed God’s blessings on the effort.

A motto I’ve always heard in congregational churches is that we can “disagree without being disagreeable.” This is a worthy attitude, and very scriptural.

The Apostle Paul said, “love does not insist on its own way” (1 Corinthians 13: 5), and exhorted Christians to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

One of the finest Christians I’ve ever known opposed a building project in our church, but was supportive after the congregation said, “Let’s go.”

In fact, I shared this story at Bill’s funeral. He and I had talked about the renovation proposal. He felt it unwise due to the economy (a reason cited most every year and in most every project!), but he promised he’d help the church complete this work, and he did. At the memorial service I said this was the mark of a magnanimous man and a great Christian and deacon.

We can disagree without being disagreeable. 

“Reflections” is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.