Sunday, March 8, 2009


Christian Stabilizers and Destabilizers

Recent discussions on this page have set me to thinking about some principles of negotiation I was taught in a military school not long ago: the idea that negotiations generally feature stabilizers and destabilizers. I think this idea is helpful to understanding the tension between evolutionary and revolutionary change.

Stabilizers are generally interested in consensus. They look into a difference of opinion and see common ground. They are vital to a negotiation where the goal is to reach an agreement. The church needs its stabilizers, lest every minor controversey end in division. As Jesus would say, "Blessed are the peacemakers ..."; or the Apostle Paul, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Moreover, while he agreed with those who believed in their freedom to eat meat sacrificed to idols, he also chided that it was not worth causing their weaker brethren to stumble: "Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification."

On the other hand, destabilizers are also important to a successful negotiation, because someone needs to make and defend the case before the stabilizers give everything away in their pursuit of consensus. The gospel itself is fundamentally destabilizing, beginning with a very radical premise: that an infinite, eternal, unchangeable God will judge man for his sin and rebellion! Both Jesus and Paul, their quotes above notwithstanding, were themselves highly destabilizing where they needed to be ("I did not come to bring peace but a sword"), and both ultimately paid for it with their lives. When it came to the core principles of the gospel message, they stood firm, often resorting to passionate and "destabilizing" language, whether speaking to the enemies of God: ("You brood of vipers! "); the troublemakers in the church, ("I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!"); or the church itself, ("You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?")

So clearly there is a time for everything, to build and to tear down, to keep and to throw away. Wisdom is knowing which is which. When do godly men need to be destabilizing: to tear down, throw away, and draw a line in the sand, saying "this far and no farther!" (or, alternatively, "we must go farther!")? Alternatively, when is the time to stabilize: to build, keep, and bear with one another's weaknesses?

One historical example may help illuminate this problem: Luther and Calvin were highly destabilizing in a necessary way, but were their differences over Christ's spiritual presence in the Lord's Supper worth the deep and enduring schism that resulted between these two great Reformers and their followers? Would not a stabilizing influence have profited the church more at this key point?
The problem of the stabilizer in a negotiation is that he will give away too much in his pursuit of an agreement. For the Christian stabilizer, it is that he will compromise until he has lost all his principles. Unity will become the overriding goal to the detriment of truth, which will ultimately ends in ... well, something that looks a lot like Unitarian-Universalism: there is no Truth ... there is only "truth for me" and "truth for you".

The problem of the destabilizer, of course, gets this exactly in reverse, and truth becomes the only worthy objective. Besides unnecessarily dividing the body of Christ over minor differences in theology or method, the destabilizer unguided by love and the Holy Spirit can easily become the dogmatic. The "truth" he so ardently defends may actually be falsehood, because he knows everything he needs to know and no longer learns from God.

Consider this an "open thread" and record your thoughts below in the "comments".


  1. What you've posted here seems to me to be Scriptually correct. I would only add that a destabilizer must have a calling from God, an anointing and the authority from God himself otherwise it is rebellion. There are many who run around claiming to be prophets or teachers and God has not given them that task nor the authority to do that yet they can really come on strong, bold and arrogant and make a mess. The Apostle Paul & Peter had many runs ins with such people whom were not God's bold ones but had a boldness from another spirit. 2 Peter 2:10,11 "This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority. Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord." God's bold one are instructed to be firm and refute them (prove them wrong and silence them). Titus 1:9 "He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. 10For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. 11They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain.

  2. Just to add something - in Scripture we have 5 main types of ministers: Ephesians 4:11 "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers" Of those 5, the 3 top authority rankings are: 1 Corinthians 12:28 "And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers .." It is these 3 that are the very bold ones in the book of Acts. These 3 offices also very bold in the various letters of the Apostles in the New Testemant. However, most Evangelists and Pastors are normally peace makers or stabilizers as you say. For example Peter is called a Shepherd by Jesus a shepherd is a Pastor and Peter is the one who wants to please people in Gal 2 and Paul -- who is never called a Shepherd/Pastor but instead is called an Apostle, Prophet and Teacher -- boldly confronts Peter in public, not in private and corrects him on a matter. Now had some self proclaimed teacher or prophet done that to Peter I imagine the result would have been different than God's anointed Apostle Paul doing it or God's anointed teacher Appolls doing it. And not a single pastor or evangelist in Antioch would confront Peter because they are gifted to be more peacemakers than confronters. (Gal 2). Blessings

  3. Good points Stacey. We all need to be very careful that what we claim to speak is truly with the words of Christ in the Spirit of Christ and not from
    a. (for the stabilizer) the desire for peace for its own sake or
    b. (for the destabilizer) the desire to be correct because I love to be right.

    I think we use the words "anointing, anointed" and "calling" rather loosely these days. Could you clarify what you mean by these terms?

    Even within our giftedness, there is a strange correlation between many of the commands that God has given every Christian and the gifts he supplies. There is a gift of mercy yet we are commanded to be merciful. There is a gift of faith yet we are called (all of us) to believe. There is a gift of giving yet we are all exhorted to be generous and willing to share. We are all called to be peacemakers and to confront sin. In essence, we are called to act like Jesus who did all those things. Of course, we may not all do them as well as those with giftedness in specific areas.

    I agree with you that there are many who are more interested in defying authority simply because they think it's cool. Seems as if these same folks are probably those who can tear down but have no idea what they would build up once the wrecking ball has done its work.

  4. The $100 Prayer

    A little boy, who wanted $100.00 very badly, prayed for two weeks but
    nothing happened. Then he decided to write GOD a letter requesting

    When the postal authorities received the letter to GOD, U.S.A., they
    decided to send it to the President. The President was so
    impressed,touched, and amused that he instructed his secretary to
    send the boy $5.00. Mr. President thought that this would appear to be
    a lot of money to the little boy.

    The little boy was delighted with the
    $5.00 and immediately sat down to write a thank you note to GOD
    that read: "Dear God, Thank you very much for sending me the
    money. However, I noticed that for some reason you had to send it
    through Washington, D.C., and, as usual, those JERKS deducted
    $95.00 for taxes!.


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