“Loyal opposition is one of democracy’s grandest terms. Once used to shield the party out of power from accusations of treason, it now describes the institutionalization of opposition, most famously Great Britain’s elevation of the minority party leadership to a shadow cabinet. Termed the “greatest contribution of the nineteenth century to the art of government stand-in for some of the best practices in democracy: making space for dissent, knitting outsiders into democracy’s fabric, attending to the institutional dimensions of integration. It perfectly captures one of the basic aims of democracy: maintaining an opposition that is loyal.”
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In the church, “The “Loyal Opposition” are those who have given their time, talents, and treasure to the ministry for years and have genuinely sought to support the leadership, but now must put “integrity” over any such loyalty.
Most all of us avoid conflict. I realize that some must like it. Nevertheless, I well imagine that anyone involved in a disagreement would rather avoid it — especially after it is over – ugh!
Nevertheless, there are times when strong and needed disagreement needs to be voiced to leadership. There is such a thing as “loyal opposition.”
“Loyalty” and “opposition” are not opposites.
A person can be loyal and still be “hurtfully critical” of what has been said or done. If that were not true, Proverbs 27:6 (“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”) would not use the word “wounds.” The word is not “pokes,” “nudges,” or “elbows.” Their words and actions leave bruises.
Their words not only offer no support but actually hurt.
They are not only against an action or decision but publicly vote against what is being suggested.
By the way, it is the “kisses” that are pernicious and sinful. We have heard it said — “They are kissing up to them!” That is exactly what is happening when people dissemble to one’s face, but behind closed doors, say and seek that same person’s downfall.
Loyalty must never outweigh integrity!
At times, maintaining integrity requires stated and/or public opposition.
Also, it should be said that it is “integrity” that generates loyalty! It is because of a person’s integrity, there is an accompanying loyalty. When a person’s integrity is fractured or worse, so is one’s loyalty to that person.
There are some clear and poignant reasons ministry leaders and pastors need the loyal opposition.
#1 — Varying Intelligence: “Loyal Opposition” is needed because no one  is smart enough to . . . .
- think of all the options
- see all the opportunities
- grasp all the intricacies
- address the variety of situations
- know and understand the various specialties
- realize all of the implications
- think of a better, or the best
You probably are not the smartest man in the room. You may be in charge, but that is not an indication of your intelligence. The proof of that is seen repeatedly at all levels of society. There are those in authority who lack even common sense.
An intellectual arrogance fuels a disregard of, and even disdain towards, “opposition.” “We all” think that we are smarter than we are. That is part of our sinfulness. If anyone ought to seek out a different vantage, it is God’s people, who understand that truth.
“Every man is right in his own eyes.” However, when “his neighbor searches him out, “that a decision, action, or situation is seen in its full light.
#2 — Varied Perceptions: “Loyal Opposition” is needed because there is more than one vantage or viewpoint on almost all life issues. We all realize that there is “more than one way to skin a cat.” There are different ways to accomplish the same end. Allowing those who see things differently to feel the freedom of input generates different ideas about “cat skinning.”
#3 — Self-Serving Thinking: “Loyal Opposition” is needed because there is an all too natural tendency to make self-serving decisions. Those decisions do not benefit God’s people, the church, or the kingdom work. They were brought to the table and introduced because it advantaged the one making the decision, recommendation, or policy change.
There are those who serve in leadership positions and even serve as pastors, who suggest and/or implement changes that benefit their family, children, finances, workload, and/or benefits. The potential examples are all too numerous .
#4 — The Church’s Giftedness: “Loyal Opposition” is needed because the church was designed to involve people with a variety of different gifts. Those different gifts motivate the way we think and respond to events in life. The person with the gift of “mercy” responds to a situation differently than the one who is gifted with “administration.” One of the reasons God’s people think and act differently is that their gift pushes them in a different direction.
#5 — A Mutual Respect: “Loyal Opposition” is needed because leaders and pastors need to develop respect for those who disagree. There is a “cancel culture” that has long been part of far too many ministries and local churches. Long before that term was created to describe what is taking place in society and culture, it was part of church culture. Disagree, criticize, and/or speak up, and you are charged with “sowing discord.”  You are now marginalized — you are now “Marjorie Taylor Green-ed.” You will not sit on any “committees.” You may be villainized, or threatened, or even dismissed from membership — with the same lack of process we see and deplore in our society!
There is an appalling lack of respect for those who disagree, disagree, stand in opposition, and/or criticize  bad and even sinful decisions and actions. Some may not grasp how difficult it is to stand up to wrong-doing and wrong-doers in a church setting. There is a strong desire to allow a lot of leeway to the pastoral leadership in the church’s operation. As I would often say to my children who were attending our Christian school — “If a teacher comes to me about your behavior, it has to be bad because I know how difficult it must be for them to speak to me as the pastor!”
It is no surprise that the world is unimpressed by the church, which lacks the ability to navigate disagreements and loyal opposition because they are often disrespected as well. Dealing with disagreement, criticism, and opposition in the church is a good place to learn respect for those who differ!
Jesus and the woman at the well demonstrate the respect due to all men, no less the household of God. He never “canceled culture” and dismissed those who disagreed! Rather, He died for all men — for both thieves!
Had some of those involved in contemporary ministry scandals had some board members, yoke-fellows, friends, or their wives who were willing to speak up and stop the madness taking place, the story might have ended a different way! The end of the story was sad and damaging because no one spoke up, or spoke up in a way that was strong enough to hurt — to “wound.”
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1. Please do not disregard the fact that there are degrees of intelligence. There are highly intelligent people who have a lot of experience and knowledge under their belt. There are those who are very ignorant! If you don’t recognize that fact, you will listen to all and everyone with equal weight. There are the “simple (naive), the wise, the perverse, and the alert, as seen in the book of Proverbs.
2. Here are just a few I have seen (and even tempted by as a pastor) . . .
- Administrators and pastors who make changes of policy that benefit their children attending their Christian school
- Changing the insurance plan, now that they have faced or are facing a substantial deductible.
- Revamping the staff salary schedule when their son or daughter is now working in the church ministry.
- A new policy that now allows nepotism.
- Seeking constitutional changes that give greater freedom for leadership to make decisions without seeking congregational approval.
- Setting up a church business meeting situation so that few can or will attend, or so that there is little-to-no genuine opportunity for input or discussion.
3. There is a parallel “cancel culture” spirit, which can be found in too many churches. Disagree, and you are charged with “disunity.” That has been part of the church culture for years in far too many churches. “Sowing Discord” is the church’s cancel culture mantra used to squelch needed, candid, and truthful criticism. There is little-to-no place for the loyal-opposition* to challenge the self-serving decisions and actions of those in power and influence positions.
Sometimes, the ones “sowing discord” are those in position and power. Their decisions, policies, pronouncements, actions, or words caused a problem that must now be addressed by those who are part of the membership. While those who now disagree and stand up against what has been done are labeled as “sowers of discord,” the truth is that it is the reverse! Who are the “sowers of discord” when James MacDonald’s words and actions became so abusive that he was rebuked? The members were vocally critical of his actions. Ultimately they voted him out of his leadership position — (sound like “publicly disagreeing” to me)! He claimed that they were sowing discord. Hardly!
4. Yes, there it is wise to seek to and/or address an issue first with those who are/were involved in making that statement, decision, or policy. That may not always be possible due to the unwillingness of those in leadership to make their actions or decisions known before announcing them and/or presenting them in a business meeting. There are even those who will so arrange a general meeting to avoid any genuine or fair discussion.
Like you, I “hate” going down that road, but it is only because those addressing wrong-doing and wrong-doers should not be canceled or silenced!