Winsome Conviction: Disagreeing Without Dividing the Church, By Tim Muehlhoff and Richard Langer alt

Winsome Conviction

Disagreeing Without Dividing the Church

by Tim Muehlhoff and Richard Langer

Winsome Conviction
  • Length: 224 pages
  • Dimensions: 0 × 0 in
  • Published: December 08, 2020
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 4800
  • ISBN: 9780830848003

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Christianity Today Book of the Year award of Merit

We generally assume that those sitting around us in church share our beliefs. But when our personal convictions are contested by fellow Christians, everything changes. We feel attacked from behind. When other Christians doubt or deny our convictions, we don't experience it as a mere difference of opinion, but as a violation of an unspoken agreement.

Tim Muehlhoff and Rick Langer offer a guide to help Christians navigate disagreements with one another. In today's polarized context, Christians often have committed, biblical rationales for very different positions. How do we discern between core biblical convictions and secondary issues? How do we cultivate better understanding and compassion for those we disagree with? Muehlhoff and Langer provide lessons from conflict theory and church history on how to avoid the dangers of groupthink and how to negotiate differing biblical convictions to avoid church splits and repair interpersonal ruptures.

Christian unity is possible. Discover how we can navigate differences by speaking in both truth and love.

"The church is a family, and as with any family there are bound to be disagreements. In a world of increasing theological relativism and shifting political correctness, there's plenty to get upset about. This much-needed book is a practical guide to picking your battles and developing the art of loving people with whom you disagree. Muehlhoff and Langer demonstrate that we can do both—and must for the health of the church."

Andy Steiger, president of Apologetics Canada

"Much of my work is in the realm of ethnic unity, where people hold very deep convictions and many times say the wrong thing. Sadly, when this happens, they are met not with grace and civility but with meanness. And most of this work is among Christians! We need to reexamine what we hold dear and how we can communicate our beliefs in a way that's winsome and compelling. For this I'm grateful to God for Tim Muehlhoff and Richard Langer and their timely resource, Winsome Conviction."

Bryan Loritts, teaching pastor at The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, author of The Dad Difference

"It's hard to imagine a more timely and relevant book for the church today as we navigate faithful living in a post-truth, post-civil, pandemic culture where the church seems as divided as the rest of the country. Muehlhoff and Langer spotlight the pivotal role that the church's transformational ministry can have during such times, and how it can lead the way in witnessing Christ in hospitable ways to a weary and often fear-filled public. These thoughtful scholars and practitioners prod us patiently, persistently, and gently to understand how we can experience Christian unity and what's at stake. A must-read."

Robert H. Woods Jr., professor of communication and executive director of the Christianity and Communication Studies Network

"After ministering in the nation's capital for forty years, it is our conviction that this inability of believers to thoughtfully disagree and to carefully hear and understand the strongly held beliefs of others who see things differently is a shameful reality that must be acknowledged and overcome. The time is now. Muehlhoff and Langer have given us a wise and practical tool that can help all of us—especially in our churches."

John and Susan Yates, former senior pastor of The Falls Church Anglican, Falls Church, Virginia

"This book could help us turn this world right-side up with meaningful conversations filled with kindness, grace, truth, and welcome. If you're tired of debating and the ensuing division, here's an alternative to change the conversation!"

Sharon A. Hersh, licensed professional counselor and author of Belonging: Finding the Way Back to One Another

"As a shepherd, I can't think of a more urgent and pressing need among disciples of the Lord Jesus today than the tools discussed in Winsome Conviction. My heart aches for the widespread pursuit of the 'wisdom from above' described in James 3 that is 'first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and sincere'; this book shines a light upon that pathway to peace among Christians who disagree. Muehlhoff and Langer have essentially laid out a battle plan against our enemy the devil in his most obvious attack in this age."

Darin McWatters, lead shepherd of Fullerton Free Church, Fullerton, California

"If you've been in a disagreement with a fellow believer that disintegrated into quarreling, you need this book. All over our world today we see Christians quarreling—in the church, on social media, and anywhere else opinions can be shared. And the volume on these disagreements seems to be getting louder. How do we disagree yet still resemble the Lord? In this timely book, Tim Muehlhoff and Richard Langer give practical steps to sharing our convictions in a way that still allows for unity."

Katie Potesta, community group pastor at the Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, California

"The passion of Rick Langer and Tim Muehlhoff is to 'find ways to deepen our beliefs and convictions while preserving the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace.' And they mean it. Helping us to understand where our own convictions come from—and are they absolutes or merely preferences?—is the starting point. Beyond that, they give us a backpack full of journey tools with which to undertake winsome conversations, reconciliation conversations, educating and edifying conversations. A must-read for the Jesus follower who cares about truth and biblical community and how they must intersect, particularly in our combative, vitriolic times."

Jenni Key, shepherd of prayer at Fullerton Free Church, chair of the Evangelical Free Church of America board of directors

"The body of Christ historically argues over issues. This treatise strikes a remarkable balance between scholarly treatment of biblical text, historic examples, and down-to-earth common sense to give twenty-first-century Christians counsel in navigating the landmines of culture, politics, and theology when they sit down to commune at the foot of the cross. Well done and extremely helpful!"

Steve Highfill, district superintendent of the EFCA West, retired, and church consultant

"Our culture seems to be increasingly defined by sharper elbows or sharper edges or sharper tongues. This seems antithetical to the gospel, which calls for truth with grace and grace with truth. The polarization evident in politics, media, and universities is even showing up in the church. Polarizing attitudes are not unifying attitudes, and this must grieve the heart of God. Through this book, Biola professors Rick Langer and Tim Muehlhoff offer a timely, helpful, and hopeful resource for Christians who yearn to cultivate biblical kindness and unity as we together seek truth. This thoughtful and practical book will certainly go a long way to help Christians model healthy discourse around crucial issues and to reclaim a winsome gospel witness to a broken world. I would put this on a must-read list for any Christian today who is a leader or aspiring to lead."

Barry H. Corey, president of Biola University and author of Love Kindness: Discover the Power of a Forgotten Christian Virtue

"It's no secret that when followers of Christ disagree, we often emulate the divisive approaches modeled for us by popular influencers of our day. I'm grateful for Tim Muehlhoff and Rick Langer's groundbreaking work that is piercingly relevant for this cultural moment. Finally, a book that excavates oft-forgotten biblical principles about disagreeing, and challenges readers to consider relationship over being right. It's a well-researched work that plumbs the depths of the topic more than most while remaining personal and practical. This book is refreshingly counterintuitive and is a rallying cry for the bride of Christ to be an attractive representation of disagreeing with listening, compassion, and understanding rather than giving away influence through divisive means."

Brian Mount, COO of Hume Lake Christian Camps, cofounder of Bridge Conciliation

"This is a book people have literally been asking for. How can fellow Christians—pursuing truth and bound by grace—arrive at such divergent conclusions on matters of enormous significance? Rather than becoming resigned to endure bitter discord with those whom we are called to love—or worse, ignoring them completely and retreating to safe echo chambers—many are ready for a more productive way to honestly explore and passionately express our deepest beliefs while still honoring the imago Dei of our fellow pilgrims. It is time for the way of winsome conviction."

Brian J. Shook, chief of staff at Biola University

"There is an art to disagreement that Americans by and large have forgotten. This ethical amnesia is all the more distressing when it arises in the church, where we look to find examples of wisdom and grace. But Tim Muehlhoff and Rick Langer are refreshing our moral memories when it comes to understanding how Christians may gracefully disagree. This is the type of work that can reweave the fabric of unity in the church and in America if we take it seriously."

John Wood Jr., national leader for Braver Angels and former vice chair of the Republican Party of Los Angeles County

Read an Excerpt


Introduction: Christian Unity in the Argument Culture

Section I: Biblical Foundations
1. Historical Prelude: Roger Williams
2. Disputable Matters: The Forgotten Middle Ground
3. The Conviction Spectrum

Section II: Communicating Convictions
4. Does Division Have to Be Divisive?
5. Crosscultural Interlude: Of Tattoos and Adultery
6. How Unity Is Threatened
7. Perception Is Reality
8. Fellowship Groups or Echo Chambers?

Section III: Putting It All Together
9. Power and Civility in a Broken Society
10. Healing Joint Pain in the Body of Christ
11. Conviction Mapping
12. Guidelines for Hard Conversations
13. Historical Postlude: Convictions in Nazi Germany

Name Index
Subject Index


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Tim Muehlhoff

Tim Muehlhoff (PhD, University of North Carolina) is a professor of communication at Biola University in La Mirada, California; codirector of The Winsome Conviction Project; and a speaker and research consultant for the Center for Marriage and Relationships. His books include The God Conversation, I Beg to Differ,Winsome Conviction, and Winsome Persuasion, which received a 2018 Christianity Today book award in apologetics/evangelism.

Richard Langer

Richard Langer (PhD, University of California, Riverside) is professor of biblical and theological studies at Talbot School of Theology and director of the Office for the Integration of Faith and Learning at Biola University.

Together with Tim Muehlhoff, he is the coauthor of Winsome Persuasion, which received a 2018 Christianity Today book award in apologetics/evangelism. In addition to teaching and writing, they are codirectors of The Winsome Conviction Project, which seeks to introduce civility and compassion into our discussion of differences.

An ordained minister, Langer previously served as senior associate pastor of Trinity Evangelical Free Church in Redlands, California, and as a missionary with Campus Crusade for Christ. He also speaks at seminars and conferences around the country and is a board member for Forest Home Ministries.  He and his wife, Shari, have two grown children.