A Reformation Day Post…

A great post from our friends over at Redeeming Church Conflicts in honor of Reformation Day: “495 Years and a Lot of Conflict “. Here’s a quick peek, but I encourage you to read the whole thing:

The conflict over salvation by faith alone or faith plus our works is eerily manifested in almost every church conflict case where I have been a consultant. What happens when Christians fight is that they become either legalistic legalists or legalistic antinomians. They defend their actions on the grounds of either how their faith has been more righteous (that is, that they have kept the commandments—works righteousness—better than their opponents), or how their faith has been demonstrated with more love than their opponents (that is, that they have kept the commandments—works righteousness—better than their opponents). Either way, they forget that it is not their righteousness that matters; it is Christ’s and his alone.

How to Fire Your Pastor (part 3)

Redeeming Church Conflicts bookA blog post from RedeemingChurchConflicts.com, written by Dave Edling and Tara Barthel, co-authors of the new book, Redeeming Church Conflicts.

Q. Sometimes, even in a mature church, a time comes when a servant-shepherd pastor must be let go. In this situation, how should the pastor and his family, and the other church leaders and members respond so that they can all work together to redeem this difficult situation?

A. My last two blog entries in this short series have distinguished between two types of pastors/situations:

  • Those in ministry for career employment (“hired-hands” as described in John 10:12-13) who are “fired” from their position just as any person in a secular job is fired (Part 1); and
  • Those “servant-shepherd” pastors who are called to a life of humble sacrifice and suffering for their service, who are then persecuted for the sake of Christ’s righteousness (as described in Matthew 5:11-12) by being maltreated (and ultimately “fired”) by immature Christians in their churches (Part 2).

Today’s post addresses a third type of situation—one in which a servant-shepherd pastor is appropriately  let go by mature (wise, loving, God-glorifying) Christians.

A few notes before I begin …

First of all, I fully recognize that these three groupings of people and situations may seem too restrictive. I readily admit that most situations are actually somewhere in-between on the spectrum: many pastors truly desire to serve as servant-shepherds, but they also recognize that their calling is also their “job” in that they provide for their families through the income they earn through the pastorate. I also recognize that many church members and leaders likewise fall somewhere in between “mature” and “immature” on the spectrum—they may (immaturely) be persecuting their pastor for worldly reasons and using secular causes and means for firing him; but often, there is a mix of godliness and maturity in the situation that causes these situations to be far more “gray” than I am describing in this series.

But a blog entry can only be so long! And the focus of Tara’s and my book, Redeeming Church Conflicts, is the painful division engendered by the reality of conflict in the church. Thus, we hope that you will read all three of these blogs from a perspective of grace and “wisdom from Heaven” which we know from James 3 is “pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit.” Seeking wisdom is particularly important today, as my personal observations and convictions about this topic will undoubtedly bring up many questions and ideas that I can’t possibly try to address. There are simply too many variables present when a pastor is let go from a church. To paraphrase our own words in Redeeming Church Conflicts by applying them to this blog series (rather than to our book):

Church conflict is complex. The various causes of church conflict, the personalities involved, the church’s polity, and the level of spiritual maturity among leaders and members will raise questions that no [blog series] could possibly address with specificity. Therefore, be careful and pray as you seek counsel from other church leaders and members about the application of [these posts] and various scriptural passages to your church’s specific situation. By seeking counsel from wise and spiritually mature Christians, all of us will hopefully avoid using any part of [this series] as a weapon to hurt others or to fulfill any sinful goals we might have. Plenty of biblical peacemaking principles have been taken out of context and forced on others in loveless and selfish ways. We pray this will never be the case with [these blog posts]. Instead, we pray that our efforts in [these blogs] will encourage and guide Christians and their churches in redemptive responses to conflicts—responses that are based on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Theologian Dr. Dennis E. Johnson captures the heart of our concern when he writes: “In Scripture the starting point of instruction on right behavior is not a list of our duties, but a declaration of God’s saving achievement, bringing us into a relationship of favor with him.”

So, with all of those caveats in mind (my lawyerliness is really showing today) … how ought we to respond when we (wisely and lovingly) discern that it is time for a pastor to leave a specific church?

We ought to embrace God’s agenda for change and allow that change to produce holiness in all of us.

Will that change be easy? By no mean. There will undoubtedly be uncomfortable moments in leadership meetings when new ideas are discussed or information is analyzed and everyone involved (including the pastor) will begin to have that uncomfortable sense that God may be leading their church in a way that is not a good fit for the current pastor. Hopefully, everyone involved will be prayerful and careful (full of care) as small discussions begin to grow into larger discussions. Communication with other leaders (for example, elders to deacons or council members to bishops) will be intentional and clear. At all times, people will hold firmly to the standard set for speech in Ephesians 4:29—edifying, bringing God’s grace. There will be no gossip or slander. Love for God and neighbor will be the defining mark of every meeting, announcement, and decision. The pastor will never be gracelessly criticized. Instead, every person will guard him, build him up, and help him (and his family) to transition to his new pastorate.

That sounds great in theory, doesn’t it? But we know that there will, of course, be bumps in the process. Immaturity and even outright sin will arise. But the pastor, his family, and every mature leader and layperson will embrace even those difficult and painful situations as opportunities ordained by God for growth in holiness. As Drs. Paul Tripp and Timothy Lane state in their must-read book, How People Change:

Making us holy is God’s unwavering agenda until we are taken home to be with him. He will do whatever he needs to produce holiness in us. He wants us to be a community of joy, but he is willing to compromise our temporal happiness in order to increase our Chrislikeness.

Wise and mature pastors, leaders, and members will recognize that this pastoral change is part of God’s plan for producing holiness in His eternal children. They will respond with light—truth, healing, beauty, compassion, and care—because their life goal is to reflect all of the characteristics of their Lord and King, Jesus Christ. But others? Sadly, they will respond with darkness—lies, distortions, relational injury, ugliness, judgment, and betrayal—because even though they claim to live for Jesus and His glory, they are ultimately motivated by their own selfish desires. They are willing to sacrifice the unity of the saints to fulfill their agendas. They do not pick up their cross and lay down their lives for their friends.

But even then, the wise and mature Christian will see even these attacks of darkness as opportunities to model Christlike humility and love because how we fight in the church differs significantly from how the world fights. Or it ought to.

I will close with just a few questions that you might consider in order to walk through your pastoral change with holiness:

  • How can we please and honor the Lord in this situation by respecting and honoring His under-shepherd, our pastor, even though we agree he should leave this church and continue his ministry elsewhere?
  • How do we guard our own hearts and minds through all of this so that our trust in God for our church (His church) is evident to everyone?
  • How can we continue to fulfill our duty to render “double-honor” (1 Timothy 5:17) to our pastor by meeting all of his and his families’ worldly needs during the transition period?
  • How can we best work with our pastor to help him continue his ministry during the transition period and into his next assignment in the Church (note the capital “C;” the Church is much larger than any one local congregation)?
  • How can we utilize pastoral change as an opportunity to help our immature brethren grow in Christ?
  • How can we guard the pastor’s family from harmful gossip and speculation?
  • As needed, how can we best use God’s plan of accountability (church discipline) to build his church by correcting the sinful behaviors of those acting in a manner inconsistent with their own profession of faith?
  • How can we bless our present pastor by ensuring that we call another true servant-shepherd pastor to follow in his steps building on the foundation he has faithfully laid?
  • How can we craft our pastor’s legacy of godliness as a model for future pastoral relationships?

Over the past two decades I have witnessed how both “hired-hands” and true servant-shepherds respond to dismissal from their pastoral office.  The thing that has surprised me (and inspired me!) the most has been not only how the latter personally responded but how they also prepared their fellow church leaders for the trial. I have not seen servant-shepherds respond with anger (although frequently with a degree of sorrow), and not with self-justification (although frequently in defense of God’s Word).  As they have led other church leaders and members into an understanding of what being “called to the ministry” means (a life-long quest for God’s glory wherever their unique contribution to God’s Kingdom can be made) they have imparted an understanding of the cost of redemption. While we use the word “redemption” frequently and in different settings, are we remembering that the cost was the death of Jesus, the Son of God? Church leaders and church members tutored in the message of the “cost” have been equipped to see God’s much grander plan for his Kingdom when they face even the loss of a beloved pastor who is being unleashed for even greater Kingdom service and sacrifice. To quote Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

Praying for peace as we await “The Day” of The Shepherd’s return (Hebrews 10:25; 2 Peter 3:10)!

-Dave Edling

How to Fire Your Pastor (part 2)

Redeeming Church Conflicts bookA blog post from RedeemingChurchConflicts.com, written by Dave Edling and Tara Barthel, co-authors of the new book, Redeeming Church Conflicts.

If you’ve read “How to Fire Your Pastor — Part 1,” then you know that its content only applies when the pastor is best characterized as a “hired-hand” (see John 10:12-13). In contrast, today’s post addresses the issue of letting a pastor go when the pastor is a true servant-shepherd. In these situations, there may be godly and appropriate reasons why he must leave. There could be compelling personal considerations, changing demographics, a difference of opinion or purpose that is not sin-driven but may reflect a differing philosophy of ministry, a humble recognition of the fact that the spiritual gifts of another may better serve the changing environment, etc. But, sadly, there may also be sinful reasons why the servant-shepherd pastor is being let go. The “firing” may actually be revealing spiritual immaturity in a few (or many) members of the flock.

It is the latter situation—sinful reasons for the firing—that usually brings up the greatest amount of hurt and destructive conflict for the pastor, his family, and the rest of the church. This is the focus of today’s post:

How does a servant-shepherd pastor redeem even his unjust firing for God’s glory and for personal and corporate spiritual growth?

First, let’s consider the background for when a servant-shepherd pastor is sinfully fired (treated just like any employee at any old job).

We live in a day and age when even Christians, having been conformed to the priorities and patterns of our loud culture through its incessant demands, forget they have been called to hunger for the things Jesus hungered for: righteousness, mercy, peace, humility, compassion, and justice, to name but a few. People conformed to the pattern of this world (see Romans 12:2) can lose focus and even become intolerant of a pastor who models Christ-like obedience and humility in their confused quest for greater “relevance” in the world. Whenever church people begin to measure the “success” of their pastor by making comparison with what passes as successful in this world, it is not unusual for persecution of the pastor to follow. How should a true servant-shepherd respond?

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil things against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:11-12

Furthermore …

And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth. 2 Timothy 2:24-25

A servant-shepherd who has preached, taught, and modeled Christ by manifesting all of the fruit of the Spirit does not respond to conflict with conflict. He responds with the message of redemption and reconciliation. The issues of concern that go by secular titles (“wrongful termination,” “due process,” etc.) seem trite and insignificant to the true servant-shepherd because he doesn’t carry concern for his “job” but, rather, is consumed with a passion for the souls of God’s sheep (who are also his sheep), even those souls seeking his dismissal. Having been called to the ministry by God, his vision is one of care and compassion even for (especially for!) the spiritually weak, confused, and immature.

And so we find ourselves at the real questions in this situation:

  • When immature Christians try to force a servant-shepherd pastor out of office, how will the other church leaders and members—those who are mature in Christ—respond? Will they look at their pastor and recognize the presence of grace and godliness in their midst? Or will they be taken over by worldly goals and patterns?
  • And how about the pastor and his family? Will they confidently continue to trust in God, even in the face of persecution? Will they keep an eternal perspective and see God’s glory at work, even if their own personal story becomes one of being forced to leave the church on account of righteousness? Will they remember that how they respond to even this persecution is going to be a part of their lasting legacy at this church?

From God’s perspective, “firing” one of His under-shepherds is the epitome of foolishness. In Psalm 14:1 we are told:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

Whenever God’s people seek removal of a true servant-shepherd pastor due to any priority inconsistent with the Lord’s revealed will, they essentially affirm in their hearts that there is no God. In their foolishness, they deny that God could place in their midst one who would speak and model God’s Word of truth in love. Because God’s truth is frequently hard to hear given our culture’s demands and its loud voice, it is not surprising that churches do seek the removal of godly pastors. And shouldn’t that cause conflict? Shouldn’t there be people rising up to oppose the ungodly acts of unrighteousness seeking to be imposed on others? And the true servant-shepherd will not run from conflict (as the hired-hand does), but he will stay and guide his sheep in the way of redemption and reconciliation regardless of the outcome. He will do that with care and compassion because he knows that God will sovereignly grow his people up in maturity through such encounters. He always remembers that:

God is present in the company of the righteous. Psalm 14:5b

And this presence reveals itself even when conflict comes to the church.

One closing note to servant-shepherd pastors: In at least half of the church conflict intervention cases I have consulted on, by the time mediation services were engaged, the pastors had already fled the congregation. Rather than staying to shepherd their people at the point of their greatest spiritual need, these men proved the charge that they were merely “hired hands” when they saw the wolf of conflict coming! It grieves me to say it, but I do believe that such men are no longer worthy of the title “pastor” because they did not prioritize the care of the flock over their own personal or professional “needs.”

I know these situations are frightening and often infuriating. This is exactly how an attack from a real wolf would be! If you are reading this and you just found out that you are being fired by your church, you are probably flooded with adrenaline and tempted to give in to fight or flight. Please fight this temptation with all of your strength! Don’t be afraid. Don’t be fooled. Stay the course! As needed, repent, confess, and change. But stay the course. Don’t stay merely to contribute to the conflict through self-serving defensiveness, but rather lead your people through the conflict by redeeming it for God’s glory and your (and God’s!) sheep’s spiritual growth. You can always leave later if that seems wise and would serve God’s interests, but first build a legacy of sacrifice that will leave a lasting impression and enduring memory that will change your sheep for their future in the church. Even foolish sheep, after all, need a model of what a true shepherd is like.

And for the rest of the leaders and church members? Tune tomorrow to read my entry on how you should have dealt with your servant-shepherd pastor, rather than merely firing him in a worldly manner.

For the glory of the Lamb,

Dave Edling

How to Fire Your Pastor (part 1)

Redeeming Church Conflicts bookA blog post from RedeemingChurchConflicts.com, written by Dave Edling and Tara Barthel, co-authors of the new book, Redeeming Church Conflicts.

Q. Getting rid of a pastor can cause a lot of conflict. What should be happening for both the pastor and other church leaders and members when everyone is figuring out if the pastor should be let go? How should a church let a pastor go?

A. It depends (typical lawyer answer, eh?) …

  • Is your pastor a “hired-hand” (see John 10:12-13) or a servant-shepherd ready to lay down his life for God’s sheep?
  • Is the tradition and history of the church to hire a man to lead by fulfilling a “position description” or is the attitude of everyone (pastor, leaders, and members) reflective of “calling” only God’s chosen under-shepherd who through supernatural spiritual gifting humbly models Christ by imitating His sacrifice?
  • Is your pastor one who curries favor with people or one who pushes forward Christ and the Holy Spirit’s agenda while making nothing of himself?
  • Do people of the church want a pastor who is popular by the world’s standards or one who is poor in spirit (MT 5:3), one who mourns (MT 5:4), one who is meek (MT 5:5), one whose hunger and thirst is for righteousness (MT 5:6), one who is merciful (MT 5:7), one who is pure of heart (MT 5:8), one who is a peacemaker (MT 5:9), and one willing to accept persecution because of righteousness (MT 5:10)?
  • Has the church “filled the pulpit” with an appealing and clever orator or a man of godly character who is qualified as one who is above reproach, husband of one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money, a model manager of his own family, and one who has a good reputation with those outside the church (1 Timothy 3:2-7)?
  • Is your pastor displaying evidence of the influence and fruit of this world (loud, pushing his agenda, seeking man’s approval, demanding his way, proud, arrogant, etc.) or the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)?

If your pastor, and the people of your church, are predominantly described by any of the characteristics and/or descriptive statements appearing before the word “or” in the above questions you most probably have a mere hired-hand for a pastor. Firing a hired-hand is no different than firing any other person holding a secular job: you must be knowledgeable of and comply with your state’s statues and laws concerning employment to avoid a charge of “wrongful termination.” It will mean dotting all of the “i’s” and crossing all of the “t’s” of procedure dictated by legally-mandated due process considerations. And, it will mean “managing church conflict” among those who will be driven by worldly expectations and sentiments akin to those experienced when the best player on the local high school sport’s teams is benched because he or she is failing academically (howls of indignant outrage). But the church will get through it even though some people may leave. That won’t be the concern in such a church because the focus will be merely on answering the question, “Who can we hire into the position next?”

But …

If you have a servant-shepherd pastor, and the people of your church are characterized by the statements following the word “or” above, then you have an entirely different situation … an entirely different problem. That discussion comes, Lord willing, in “How to Fire Your Pastor — Part 2.” (Part 2 will be posted Thursday.)

-Dave Edling

When “Peacemaking” Causes Even More Conflicts

Redeeming Church Conflicts bookA blog post from RedeemingChurchConflicts.com, written by Dave Edling and Tara Barthel, co-authors of the new book, Redeeming Church Conflicts.

Q. I am afraid to go directly to the person who has seriously sinned against me as it says I should do in Matthew 18:15. I am afraid because I think by going it would make matters worse between us. What should I do because I want to follow the Bible and be reconciled?

A. Thank you for respecting the authority of God’s Word. That, I believe, is the core issue confronting Christianity: Is God’s Holy Word as found in the Holy Bible worthy of absolute authority because it is our Creator’s binding revelation to us? You seem to have settled that question in your own mind by how you have asked your question. You indicate that it is binding on you and you do want to obey it. Again, I commend you for this view. And because you desire to honor God by following his principles laid down on the pages of Scripture I will attempt to do the same by speaking truth in love to you.

“Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace” (Amelia Earhart, Aviator). I am quite sure that Miss Earhart, not especially known for her theological acumen, did not write those words in the context of your question. She was, however, an extremely confident and brave person. Her words capture an important biblical principle central to an answer to your question. That principle is that the fear of man (the controlling power of the opinion or actions of others) cannot be allowed to override your holy and awe invoking fear of God.

Psalm 27:1 asks rhetorically, “Whom shall I fear?” “The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid?” All of Psalm 27 calls us back to that eternal perspective that frees us to be confident and courageous, with the hope of encouraging peace.

The prophet Isaiah, called to serve God as a covenant prosecutor bringing God’s charges and his condemnation against a people who had turned from him, issues the same call as Psalm 27 to people of enduring faith; those needing hope and encouragement as the faithful remnant who would survive God’s judgment: “Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you’” (Isaiah 35:4). Verse 51:7 also seems appropriate because you have God’s law in your heart: “Hear me, you who know what is right, you people who have my law in your hearts: Do not fear the reproach of men or be terrified by their insults.”

One thing that we can certainly say of the Christian faith is that it is not a faith for the timid or cowardly; the Lord changes such people into confident warriors by placing in their hearts an awesome and rejoicing fear of God that dwarfs the fear of any man. You can be strong and courageous because you are “in Christ,” the spiritual reality of your faith given to you through grace, so that you can know for certain the source of all strength.

At the same time, however, God calls us to be wise. It is right for you to carefully examine the reasons why you are fearful of this confrontation. Is this person in a position of authority over you; are they socially more powerful? Is that other person known for anger, violence, or irrational behavior? By pinpointing exactly what you fear (loss of the relationship, tainting of your own reputation, your physical safety or the physical safety of others, etc.), you can make a decision that both honors God and displays wisdom.

For example, taking another person with you to fulfill Matthew 18:15 does not necessarily mean you have overlooked the requirement to go personally to the one who has sinned against you. Taking another person along for this first encounter not as a “witness” as used in the sense of Matthew 18:16 but for wisdom’s sake does not violate the spirit of the biblical process. We must remember that that process is designed to reclaim the one whose sin has hurt you and broken fellowship with you and with God.

(And a note from Tara … We must also remember that there are limits to what we can accomplish in the peacemaking process. Romans 12:18 states that, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” This means that we cannot “make peace.” All we can do, and all the Lord requires of us, is to do what is possible, so far as it depends on us. When teaching on this topic, I like to use a phrase that one of my blog readers gave me when I asked a similar question to yours:

“How far should I go in this peacemaking process? I want to be reconciled, to be sure. But I don’t want to be a reconciliation stalker.”

God will honor your efforts to boldly speak the truth in love and you never know how your courage to confront in love may be used by God to deeply affect others. But you never want to be a reconciliation stalker.)

Instead, remember what Ken Sande has so cogently stated in The Peacemaker: “Our only job is to be faithfully obedient; God’s job is to bring the result. Keeping those responsibilities separate and clearly before you will lead you to a right and God-honoring action, even if things get a little “messier” in the short-run.

Blessings to you—
Dave Edling & Tara Barthel

How to Find the Perfect Church

Redeeming Church Conflicts bookA blog post from RedeemingChurchConflicts.com, written by Dave Edling, co-author of the new book, Redeeming Church Conflicts.

 “The church is divided and broken. It is filled with sinners and hypocrites. It is not perfect and, in this life, it will never be perfect, but it is nevertheless instituted by God. God has always entrusted his gospel, the ministry, and the sacraments to redeemed sinners, and he expects those who bear his name to be united to a particular congregation.”

With those sentences, and a few others, Dr. R. Scott Clark begins his excellent article A Perfect Church? Not In This Life (Evangelium Vol. 4: Issue 2, MAR/APR 2006; a quarterly publication of Westminster Seminary California).

A Perfect Church! In this Life! That is what many desire … demand … expect … covet. A church where everyone always thinks only on “whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).” That would be ideal. Perfectly ideal. A church where everyone lives consistently with all of the implications of the Christian Gospel. A church where self-interest is always secondary to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). A church where there is no conflict!

How can a person find such a church? As the title of Professor Clark’s article implies: Die.

Only in eternity does such a congregation flourish (see Revelation, chapters 21 and 22). We know now, however, based on God’s promises, that one day those who faithfully serve and persevere in the imperfect church will finally find the perfect church they long for. Dr. Clark writes, “Since the fall, the institutional church has always contained believers and unbelievers. Our Lord himself compares the church to a field with both weeds and wheat. According to Christ, the program for this age is to ‘let both grow together until the harvest, and at that time I will tell the reapers,’ ‘Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn’ (Matthew 13:24-31; ESV). The church is composed of wheat and weeds. We live in the time of sowing. We need to adjust our view of the church to match that of Jesus.”

Conflict in your church? People living for self? Defensiveness and self-justification at every turn? Welcome to the church, the perfect church! It is perfect because it is Christ’s. It is perfect because it reflects the reality of our humanity (very imperfect!), and it is perfect because it matches what the Lord has ordained it to be for this age. You are probably already a member there!

Some abandon and flee their church because it is sinful, but, as Dr. Clark notes, “I suspect the real problem that some have with the church is not just its sinfulness, but more fundamentally, its humanity.” Yes, the church is human but not of human origin. It is the church of God and a divine institution. The hard part for me, and I think probably most of us, is not confusing my definition of “divine” with that of our Lord’s.

-Dave Edling

Now Available: Redeeming Church Conflicts

Redeeming Church ConflictsWe’re excited that a new book is now available to serve church leaders and members, particularly when their church is going through a significant conflict. In Redeeming Church Conflicts, authors Tara Barthel and David Edling bring their years of experience in helping conflicted churches and have created a resource that gives a vision for redeeming even the most painful and difficult church conflict. In the book, they look at Acts 15–the first recorded conflict in the early church–and from that passage, they unpack a scriptural framework for responding to church conflict. It’s a book filled with practical guidance, biblical wisdom, real-life examples, and gospel-centered hope.

Order a copy of Redeeming Church Conflicts now.

Dave and Tara have created a blog where they’ve already written many excellent posts, digging deeper into topics they couldn’t fit into their book. We’ll be re-posting several of them here in the coming weeks, but I encourage you to explore for yourself. They also just released a video trailer for their book. Watch the video below to get a sense of their heart and the content in the book:

And later this week, we’ll be sponsoring a giveaway of this and other peacemaking books at Challies.com, so stay tuned for details.

Five Warning Signs of a Sick Church

From Thom Ranier of Lifeway. Seems about right…

1. The church has few outwardly focused ministries. Most of the budget dollars in the church are spent on the desires and comforts of church members. The ministry staff spends most of its time taking care of members, with little time to reach out and minister to the community the church is supposed to serve.

2. The dropout rate is increasing. Members are leaving for other churches in the community, or they are leaving the local church completely. A common exit interview theme we heard was a lack of deep biblical teaching and preaching in the church.

3. The church is experiencing conflict over issues of budgets and building. When the focus of church members becomes how the facilities and money can meet their preferences, church health is clearly on the wane.

4. Corporate prayer is minimized. If the church makes prayer a low priority, it makes God a low priority.

5. The pastor has become a chaplain. The church members view the pastor as their personal chaplain, expecting him to be on call for their needs and preferences. When he doesn’t make a visit at the expected time, or when he doesn’t show up for the Bible class fellowship, he receives criticism. In not a few cases, the pastor has lost his job at that church because he was not omnipresent for the church members.

Read the whole thing.

HT: Z

Latest Edition of Reconciled

Reconciled Cover Page The latest edition of our bi-monthly publication is now available for download online. I’ve included the table of contents and download link below:

Contents – Creative Churches, Ethiopia, and Peacemaking Education Online

  • Churches Find New Ways to Impact Using REC
  • Peacemaking in Ethiopia
  • New Resources… Online and Off
  • Peacemaker University
  • Event Schedule
  • Connect Online

Download Reconciled

The Body of Believers: An Island Story

We are so grateful to our brother Thabiti Anyabwile, Pastor of First Baptist Church in Grand Cayman, for posting his reflections on the peacemaker event hosted by his church this past week. Even though I wasn’t actually there (though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish I was there) it is easy to see how impacting this event was for Grand Cayman. Believers from various churches met for edification and encouragement around the unity of the gospel. The message may not have been new to most of these folks but the reminders were timely. I’d like to share a little portion of Thabiti’s thoughts that resonated with my soul:

The most noticeable thing for me is the evident change already at work in my people and me.  People are putting the principles into practice.  People are taking major risks to seek and make peace.  We’re seeing 4-year old grievances resolved.  We’re seeing broken relationships mended.  We’re seeing everyday acts of peacemaking take place.  We’re seeing the gospel go forth with fresh power and application.  It’s happening in the church.  It’s happening in the workplace.  It’s happening in hospitals and in correctional settings.  The work has been viral to this point.  There really are too many stories to recount.  Part of what sparked this, humanly speaking, was Ken’s visit.  We’d completed the 8-week study with some benefit.  But Ken’s visit and the conference seems to have ignited much more application.  There was perhaps something about the in-person interaction and experiencing the spirit of the teaching that made the notion of peacemaking more do-able and accessible.  The folks have had their hearts impacted and that’s been translated into real peacemaking fruit.  Of course, the Real Explanation is God the Holy Spirit at work through the gospel application.  To Him belongs all the glory.  And we’re praising God for the fruit He is producing.

But you’ll have to read the rest for yourself.

Ken Sande and Annette Friesen spent a couple of evenings ministering to the island people of Grand Cayman. They also had the opportunity to speak with pastors, youth kids, children at a Christian school and a special session with the women. Each group was reminded of the call to live in unity with other brothers and sisters in Christ as referenced in Jesus’ command in John 13:34-35:

A new command I give you: Love one another. as I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

It hurts my heart to watch believers treat each other as enemies instead of fellow heirs of Christ. I know the Lord is grieved when the eye fights with the hand saying “I don’t need you” (1 Corinthians 12:21). In our human nature it is difficult to live in unity when someone has hurt me, slandered my loved ones or who I just flat out disagree with. This is why I need to be reminded – we all need to be reminded – of the gospel of peace and the power of the Holy Spirit to live out that gospel on a daily or moment-by-moment basis.

Peacemaker Ministries is proud to partner with churches like First Baptist Grand Cayman to share these principles in a practical and powerful way. If your church is interested in hosting an event like this one please contact myself at kgoss@peacemaker.net or by calling 406-256-1583 x.120.