Make Peace in Your Church
- Monday, April 02, 2007
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Alfred Poirier's recent book, The Peacemaking Pastor: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Church Conflict, (Baker Books, 2006).
Conflict in church comes in many forms – gossip, controversial staff decisions, sexual scandals, broken business deals between members, and more. As a pastor, you may see conflict as an annoyance to ignore so it doesn’t distract you from your ministry. But dealing with conflict is an important part of your ministry. Jesus calls you to face conflict head-on and work to resolve it. It’s only by embracing your calling as a peacemaker that you can reconcile your congregation to God and each other.
Here’s how you can make peace in your church:
* Assess the ways you usually respond to conflict. Ask yourself what you usually do when you encounter conflict. Do you try to escape? Do you attack others? Do you minimize the problem? Do you yell? Do you clam up? Ask your spouse and a close friend to give you their insights into this issue as well, so you can fully understand your current patterns of dealing with conflict.
* Confess your own sins before trying to help others. Recognize that you can’t effectively help other people deal with conflict if you have conflict of your own in your heart. Regularly examine your attitudes and behaviors, and confess your sins to keep your heart clean before God while leading your church. Whenever you’re involved in a conflict with someone in your life (such as with a family member), don’t focus on how God can change the other person. Instead, focus on how God can change you. Honestly consider whether or not any of your desires may be in conflict with God’s will for you, and regularly submit yourself to His will for your life.
* Rely on God’s generous grace. Remember that you can count on God to give you all the strength you need to work through conflict in your church. Instead of depending on your own limited strength, rely on the unlimited supply of grace God will give you to handle every situation.
* Seek God’s purposes. Trust that God will use each conflict in your church to work for the good of everyone involved, as well as for His glory. Ask God to reveal His redemptive purposes behind every conflict you encounter, and pray for each conflict to lead to renewal in your church. Rather than perceiving conflict as an obstacle to your ministry, welcome it as an opportunity to glorify God and see His wisdom and power at work bringing about reconciliation.
* Remember that your church is a family. Understand that when you work for peace, you reflect most what it means to be a child of God, since God is always at work reconciling people to Him and each other. Keep in mind that every person in your congregation is a brother or sister in Christ – not just people who fill the seats during worship services or attend your church’s programs. Don’t use people as instruments to advance your agendas or gratify your desires. Instead, build genuine personal relationships with them simply to know and love them for who they are. Ask God to help you love your congregation like family members. Encourage them to see each other as family members, and act with compassion, mercy, and forgiveness toward each other.
* Consider whether or not you should overlook the offense. Know that some minor offenses should just be overlooked. When deciding whether or not to overlook an offense, ask yourself: “Who sinned?” (Sins are more serious if they’re committed by Christians who know better than by nonbelievers who don’t know better, and by authority figures such as parents, teachers, and church leaders than by those who are not positions of authority.), “Against whom?” (Sins are more serious if they openly dishonor or mock God, or if they’re committed against someone in authority, in close relationship to the person who sinned, or a weaker person.), “What is the nature of the offense?” (Consider such issues as whether or not there was a malicious motive behind the sin; if the sin was acted upon rather than just expressed in attitudes or words; and whether or not the sin was committed publicly, deliberately, or frequently.), “What were the circumstances?” (Consider how serious the time and place of the sin was. For example, was it committed during a Sunday worship service?). Also consider whether or not the person who has sinned is trapped in persistent sin and needs your help to find freedom, and whether or not the offense is hindering the relationship between the person who sinned and the person who has been sinned against. If you choose to overlook an offense, make a proactive decision to forgive the offender and not pursue any form of correction or admonition.
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