What is a heretic? I think all too often we define a heretic as "anyone who does not agree with me." In a way, that's true - I disagree with heretics. However, every person I disagree with is not a heretic. That is a lesson I have learned over the last two year. Let me explain.
For all of my ministry years I have been part of a group of churches that pretty much all crossed out spiritual "t's" and dotted our spiritual "i's" the same way. In fact, on most theological issues we were pretty aligned. That is what I have always been use to and it was very safe and very comfortable for me.
Nearly two years ago I started pastoring a church outside of that group. In fact, this is the very first time I have pastored outside of that original group of churches. I guess I simply assumed that this new group of churches was the same as the previous group I was part of all of my ministry life. That ended up being a false assumption. When it comes to basic doctrine and the major points of theology we are in agreement. However, there are many parts of theology that this new group of churches does not take a definitive stand on. As a result there are many differing views on these issues inside the group.
For example, the group I come from, for the most part, held to a "pre-tribulation" view when it comes to eschatology and the timing of the rapture of the church. I myself am a committed "pre-tribber" but "pre-trib" is not commonly held by the majority in the group I am now part of. In fact, you will will find just about all facets of the eschatological spectrum. There are guys on my pastoral staff who do not hold the "pre-trib" view. I just spent the weekend with a group of pastors from other churches within this group and several of them do not hold the same view as I do. In fact, the pastor who led the retreat (and did an excellent job) is "post-trib."
What am I driving at with all this? If you would have told me two years ago that I would be pastoring a church where all the pastoral staff is not "pre-trib," I would have said "NO WAY!" If you would have told me I would be sitting at a pastoral accountability retreat where the pastor leading the discussion was not "pre-trib," I would have said, "NEVER!"
But I've learned something in the last two years. I've learned that just because someone does not hold the same exact theological views as I do (aside from the essentials, of course) does not make them a heretic. Though I disagree with them on this point - we disagree agreeably. I can partner with them in spite of some of our differing stands., I can learn from them in spite of some of our differing stands. I can be refreshed by them, pray with them, and share with them in spite of some of our differing stands.
Don't take me wrong - there are some doctrinal issues where I believe it is "cut and dry" and there is no room for "differing stands." But in a way, I feel like I have been "set free" in my understanding that just because someone disagrees with me doesn't make them a heretic. I'm just glad that as I become better friends and closer ministry partners with them, that when the rapture does take place (prior to the tribulation, of course), I'll be able to smile at each of them as we "go up" and say, "told ya so!"