Book Review: The Peacemaking Pastor

The folks at 9 Marks just posted a detailed review of Alfred Poirier’s book, The Peacemaking Pastor.  (We include this book as part of the pastor’s material in the Peacemaking Church Resource Set.) I particularly appreciated the reviewer’s candor at the end. Here’s a snippet:

Now that you really want to read the book, I must warn you. This book is sort of like progressive revelation. The more you read, the greater your accountability. For this reason, it may not receive the readership it deserves. More than once while reading, I had to put the book down, confess my sin, and pick up the phone to get involved again in a situation I was conveniently ignoring.

At one point in my reading I was even sitting in a courtroom where two professing believers, each represented by an attorney who also professed Christ, were locked in a legal process that had the potential to do great harm to the gospel. God graciously allowed me the opportunity to negotiate a peace between the parties, and the case never went to trial. For that reason alone, I am grateful to Alfred Poirier for his book.

Here’s the link for the whole review.

Pre-Conference Registration Closes This Week

I was just told by our events staff that registration is closing this Friday (August 29th) for most of the 2008 Pre-Conference Events. The only exception is the Conflict Coaching training, which closes on September 17.

So if you have any thoughts of coming to Orlando a little early and deepening your skills in peacemaking, please make sure you register in the next few days!

Taking Offense

Anne at the Palm Tree Pundit has shared some great words from Puritan/Pilgrim pastor John Robinson, found in the book Of Plymouth Plantation: Bradford’s History of the Plymouth Settlement 1608-1650.  This is as they are getting ready to set out for the new world:

Now next after this heavenly peace with God and our own conscience, we are carefully to provide for peace with all men so far as in us lieth especially with our associates; and for that we must be watchful that we ourselves neither give, nor easily take, offence…

Persons ready to take offence, either lack the charity which should cover offences; or the wisdom duly to weigh human frailty; or lastly are gross though close hypocrites, as Christ our Lord teaches (Matt. 7: 1-3). In my own experience I have found few who are quicker to give offence, than those who easily take it. They who have nourished this touchy humour have never proved sound and profitable members in societies…

And if taking offence causelessly or easily at men’s doings should be so carefully avoided, how much more is it to be heeded lest we take offence at God himself, — which we do as often as we murmur at His providence in our crosses, or bear impatiently such afflictions as He pleases to visit upon us. Store up, therefore, patience against the evil day, with which we take offence at the Lord Himself in his holy and just works.

Great words for any of us who work with, live with or just generally associate with other people. :)

The Gospel at the Heart of Peacemaking

I had mentioned in an earlier post that often, folks that are new to peacemaking have a hard time “getting it.” What I mean by that is that it is very easy to look at biblical peacemaking as a set of rules or skills — i.e., here’s how you get to a place of peace from a place of conflict. Valuable as those skills are, what they tend to miss is how integral the Gospel is to reconciliation. So to me, a person who truly “gets” biblical peacemaking is one who understands the intimate connection between what God has done for us in Christ and how we treat one another.

I’ve been trying to communicate this idea in a new brochure about Peacemaker Ministries. Here’s the brief blurb that tries to get this across:

Reconciliation is at the heart of the gospel, and so the gospel is at the heart of our ministry. Even when we were still his enemies, God made peace with us through the death and resurrection of his Son. And since we have been reconciled with God, we can be reconciled with one another. Because God has forgiven us in Christ, we can forgive others. This is a radically different way for Christians to relate to each other—a way that glorifies his Son and powerfully appeals to a watching world. Peacemaker Ministries exists to help the church live out this wonderful truth.

Does this make sense? Let me know if you have ideas on how I can communicate this better, because I really do believe it is at the core of what we do as a ministry (and how we live as Christians).

What Others Are Saying

I’ve been collecting a few links related to what others are saying about Peacemaker Ministries and peacemaking in general. Now seems as good a time as any to roll them out.

A set of articles from Focus on the Family on peacemaking 

Conflict Resolution: Article Overview
Tips and Tools for Healthy Conflict Resolution

Family Ties—When Conflict Strikes Close to Home
Destructive Conflict: Recognize It. Stop It.
Workplace Conflict—One Woman’s Story
Unresolved Conflict—Next Steps

They drew some of their material from Peacemaker Ministries. While they didn’t say things quite the way we would have, I hope that some of these are helpful to others.

An article on peacemaking from ByFaith Magazine

The Church’s Fight for Peace

I set up the interviews for this article. Overall, I think the author did a nice job, but I also learned that A) it’s really hard to tell the whole story in a limited number of words, and B) it’s really hard for someone unfamiliar with peacemaking to really “get it” the first time around. With that said, maybe you’ll learn something about Peacemaker Ministries and the heart of the ministry from this article.

Blog post referencing Peacemaker Ministries’ materials

DOCTRINE MATTERS: Essential Reading Curriculum: Church Youth & Parents

While I’m glad that others view some of our materials as essential reading for kids (and adults), does anyone else look at this list and say, “Wow! There sure are a lot of “essential” books that I haven’t read myself!”?

Conference deadline and other musings

Today (August 15) is the last day to register for the Peacemaker Conference (and Pre-Conference events for that matter) at a discounted price, so if you have any thought of going, register quickly!

Now that the business part of this message is out of the way, I just thought I’d mention how things always seem to ramp up around our offices when we get close to the Peacemaker Conference. The conference itself always takes quite a bit of preparation, and of course, wise or unwise, there are many projects that we try to get done “in time for the conference.” But all in all, it’s a fun time of year, and there’s a certain buzz and sense of comradarie around here as the activity level increases to frenzied proportions.

All that to say that sometimes, as the pressure rises, we need to blow off a little steam as a staff. This led to the (mostly) lighthearted video below, where 10 staff members give their own reasons for attending the conference. I hope you enjoy seeing a few of the faces that are working diligently behind the scenes to put on the best conference yet! (And do consider joining us in Orlando in September.)

The Posture of Mercy

Jerry’s post yesterday on mercy made me think of a chapter that I had read that morning from Dave Harvey’s book When Sinners Say “I Do.”  Chapter 5 is called “Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment.”  I love one phrase that he uses — that “mercy sweetens marriage.”  Here’s an extended quote that describes how and why:

Notice that Luke 6 is not a call to discrete, isolated acts of mercy, but something much broader — to a merciful disposition of the heart, to lovingkindness. Dwelling in the heart, lovingkindness preempts our sinful judgments. God doesn’t just dispense mercy. He is merciful (Luke 6:36).

 Such kindness expressed to us makes a claim upon us: We are called to continue in the kindness we have received (Romans 11:22). We don’t wait to be sinned against and then try to respond with mercy. Rather, we adopt the posture of being willing to experience sin against us as part of building a God-glorifying marriage in a fallen world. Kindness says to our spouse, “I know you are a sinner like me and you will sin against me, just like I sin against you. But I refuse to live defensively with you. I’m going to live leaning in your direction with a merciful posture that your sin and weakness cannot erase.”

How can you be kind knowing that there may be another sin against you right around the corner? Because kindness does not have its origins in you, but in God. It isn’t a personality trait, it’s a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22; Colossians 3:12) and an expression of biblical love (1 Corinthians 13:4). Kindness recognizes that God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23). There is fresh grace for each failure for both the sinner and the one sinned against. And kindness is a posture of heart that flows out into actions — daily-life stuff that reprograms behavior in marriage away from self-focus to the redemptive purposes of God.

 The faithful practice of lovingkindness sows experiences of grace into marriage. The coffee run for the husband working late, the mini-van washed and cleaned out for the busy mom, the intentional words of encouragement in an area of weakness — these are more than good manners or duties. They are kindnesses sown into the normal routine of life. They are the grace moments that we draw on in times of trial.

When Sinners Say “I Do,” pages 84-85

Have mercy on me, a sinner…

John Mark Reynolds over at The Scriptorium has a post called “On John Edwards: Blessed Are the Merciful.” I found it interesting, thought-provoking, and closely tied to biblical peacemaking. He discusses both mercy and forgiveness in the case of John Edwards. I was struck by occurrences of the 7 A’s of confession throughout.

Some quotes to whet your appetite:

Forgiveness is not naive or incompatible with justice or the other virtues…

True repentance is matched by deeds and not just words…

Forgiveness may release us from guilt, but it cannot free us from the hard sould work of dealing with the consequences of our deeds…

Reynolds encourages us neither to withhold mercy nor to offer cheap forgiveness, but you really just need to read the post.

His conclusion:

Mercy is not very much in evidence in our cynical and world-weary culture, but it is the very medicine we most need. The merciful are happy, blessed by God, the Lord Jesus Christ said, because they will receive mercy. My own heart yearns for mercy and so when I see the repentance of others, my first thought is to pray with them, “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”

A Peacemaker in the News

Jack Eades, a friend of Peacemaker Ministries in West Virginia, was recently featured in an article in the Charleston Gazette. Jack has a real passion for bringing peacemaking into the churches in his region, helping them to begin the journey toward a culture of peace and encouraging them to form a peacemaking team. We are grateful for the work Jack is doing, and are glad to see him get a bit of local exposure through the popular press.

Teaching Peacemaking Cross-Culturally

This past Thursday, Friday and Saturday, I had the opportunity to take part in our Teaching Peacemaking Cross-Culturally training (the next offering of this training will be at the Peacemaker Conference in Orland0).

As I was preparing for this training, I was struck by a paragraph in our homework book, Duane Elmer’s book Cross-Cultural Connections; not only does it have good application to us as we contemplate stepping out to teach peacemaking around the world, but also to our everyday lives in whatever community/body the Lord has placed us in:

For many years, Sidney Harris wrote a widely syndicated editorial column for the Chicago Tribune. Among his penetrating insights, I remember one in particular. He stated that “every book that is ever published, every article ever written and every speech delivered should have the subtitle ‘How to Be More Like Me.'” His point: We all believe that our way is the right way, our beliefs are correct and our culture is superior. So whenever I write or speak, the subtle message that transcends my words is: “You would be wise to change your ways to be more like me” (page 22).

As a complement to that insight, I really appreciated the constant emphasis in the course, from the students and the instructors, on being humble and prayerful. This is especially true now that I have spent several years traveling the world and sharing peacemaking with people from a variety of cultures. We win people’s hearts and leave room for the Holy Spirit to speak to them through Scripture when we humbly present what we see in God’s Word about conflict resolution and relationships, without presuming to have all the answers or to know precisely how it will work itself out in a particular culture. As was said several times in class, Scripture in Christ through the Holy Spirit trumps human culture and tradition.

Two of the big challenges that we face when teaching peacemaking cross-culturally are these comments:

  • “This is wonderful; it’s clearly biblical and so easy to understand. We will take everything Peacemaker Ministries has experienced in the United States and apply it directly to our church in __________” ….. OR,
  • “That might work for you, but that’s just not how we do things in ____________.”

The interesting thing about both of these comments is that neither is entirely true or helpful, but they do have glimmers of the truth.

In response to the first comment, we agree: we have made a very diligent effort to keep them rigorously biblical. HOWEVER, we recognize that almost everything was written from the perspective of people who live in the United States. There might be ways of responding to conflict biblically in the United States that are ineffective or even offensive in other parts of the world. To “gently restore” a brother or sister who is caught in sin can legitimately look differently — not only from culture to culture, but also in our own individual lives! I don’t want to sound relativistic here, but I do want to be realistic, that often teaching peacemaking cross-culturally requires a certain degree of cultural acumen and even educating your audience about culture before they’re able to really apply what Ken Sande teaches in their ___________ culture.

The second statement is also fraught with cultural assumptions, the most dangerous of which is that culture trumps Scripture. What’s so interesting about this objection is that people in other cultures are implying that peacemaking must somehow be part of our culture here in the United States; the truth, however, is that peacemaking is always counter-cultural. It’s challenging in different ways and for different reasons in different parts of the world; but because of our fallen condition, humbling ourselves, confessing our sin and forgiving others is always going to be contrary to human nature. The only answer to this objection is to recognize that Scripture must trump culture; there may be ways that we can nuance the application of Scripture in a particular culture, but we remain committed to helping people find ways to experience the power of the Gospel in their relationships … and that is a powerful reality wherever God is at work, regardless of the culture and traditions.

One of our big goals in our global work at PM is to walk beside people as they internalize and spread culturally appropriate applications of peacemaking. For the most part, we’re sitting in an office in Montana; a great place, but not exactly the heart of contextualization! This actually works to our advantage, though, as it compels us to our knees, and also to find ways to equip other people to work out this contextualization from within a culture, rather than trying to tell them how to do it from our outsider’s perspective. It’s a tremendous privilege and blessing to partner with people around the world in this way …. and oh man do we have some amazing partners!

Going back to Elmer’s quote from Sidney Harris, this past weekend was a great reminder to me — the message that I take around the world and encourage others to take cannot be, “You would be wise to change your ways to be more like me.” Rather, I pray that our message is, “Let’s be wise and learn together how to change our ways to be more like Christ.”