• people are friendly and speak to me.
  • I see signs of mission involvement and evangelism.
  • there's an air of expectancy.
  • the church has children.
  • people are carrying their Bibles.
  • warmth.
  • a variety of age groups.
  • in the parking lot and at the front door, servants are showing me Jesus in their very actions.

If I could choose one moment, one sliver of time, that would tell the story on a church and allow me to decide on the health-status of the congregation, it would be: How they handle a conflict.

For years, I thought Acts 6:1-6 was all about the origin of the first deacons in the church. Finally, it hit me that that is a very minor part of that story. The major theme of that story is how the church dealt with a challenge to its fellowship and peace.

You and I cannot sit off to the side and watch the Jerusalem congregation deal with the dissension that arose when one group of widows began complaining that they were being neglected in the daily distribution of food in favor of the majority group. We can't, but plenty of others in the city were watching.

They watched and they were most impressed by what they saw.

And what exactly did they see? They saw the leaders, the Apostles, move quickly as soon as the dissent arose. They saw them defer to the congregation, instead of handling the matter themselves. They saw the congregation do the most amazing thing: select seven good men from among the dissenting group and put in charge of the food distribution. They saw how it pleased everyone and how the congregation settled back down in harmony. And they made a decision.

They wanted what these Christians had.

Acts 6:7 reads, "So the preaching about God flourished, the number of disciples in Jerusalem multiplied greatly, and a large group of priests became obedient to the faith."

Question: When was the last time your church impressed the outside world by the way it dealt with conflict?

When was the last time newcomers walked into your fellowship and were so impressed by what they saw, within one minute they were ready to sign on the dotted line? What could they have possibly seen that would have brought about that kind of reaction?

I do not have all the answers on this. However, this would be a great subject for a discussion with your church leadership.

I know this: many of the first-time visitors to your church will be making a decision on whether to return within the first minute or two after they get out of the car. What they see will either draw them in or turn them off.

Scary stuff.

Dr. Joe McKeever is a Preacher, Cartoonist, and the Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. Visit him at joemckeever.com/mt. Used with permission

Publication date: January 14, 2011