Exciting Announcement: Dave Harvey as a Keynote Speaker at our 2009 Conference

An exciting announcement from Kerri Takeuchi, our Peacemaker Conference Manager:

Peacemaker Ministries is proud to announce that Dave Harvey will be a keynote speaker at the 2009 Peacemaker Conference held at the Hyatt Regency DFW in Texas September 24-26, 2009. Dave oversees Church Care and Church Planting at Sovereign Grace Ministries. He has been a pastor for over 20 years, has served as a member of the Sovereign Grace leadership team since 1995 and also serves on the board of the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF). Dave is the author of When Sinners Say “I Do”: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage (Shepherd, 2007), contributor to Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World (Crossway 2008), several booklets for Sovereign Grace Ministries, and continues working on various other writing projects. Dave and his wife, Kimm, have four children and call West Chester, Pennsylvania home.

With all the connections that Dave has with Peacemaker Ministries and his focus on keeping the gospel at the center, Dave will bring another gospel-based message to the “Church on a Journey” conference theme.

 On a personal note, I’m thrilled that Dave will be sharing with us.  My husband and I read When Sinners Say I Do as part of our premarital counseling and thought it was the best thing to happen to our relationship since, well, each other!  He is incredibly skilled at helping us apply the truth of the gospel to our everyday lives and relationships. We’ve made this book a standard gift for couple friends who are at all stages of their relationships (along with the accompanying Study Guide, which we didn’t use because it came out after we were married).

Just to give you a taste of what Dave is like, here’s a quote from Sinners on what he calls an “ironic biblical tension,” a tension that committed peacemakers are familiar with:

We are called to be merciful and withhold judgment. But we are also called to challenge one another — to correct, exhort, and speak truth to the one we love (Hebrews 3:12-13). This can seem like a paradox, even an apparent contradiction in our call. But it’s not. On the contrary, God has set us in our [relationship], at this time, with this person so that we can perform the extraordinary task of ministry. We can fulfill the call of reconciliation — turning a wandering believer back to the God who saves. We can love by bringing truth in gracious ways; applying grace through speaking the truth. When we do this ministry, we not only fulfill the role of Nathan, we represent our Lord Jesus Christ, who came and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

Dave Harvey, When Sinners Say I Do, page 120

 Finally, please note that we have an upcoming conference registration deadline: register on or before Sunday, May 31 to receive a lower registration price of $269.  After May 31, the price will go up to $299.

Click here to register.

More on Approachability

In continuing this short series on approachability in church leaders (see previous entry), I am again pointing to the recent article by Ken Sande entitled Approachability: The Passport to Real Ministry and Leadership. This time, I’d like to point to another “passport killer” — a habit or attitude that pushes people away (keeps people out of your territory as it were) as a leader. Ken writes:

Guard against institutional dynamics that can undermine approachability. There are several dynamics in some church and denominational cultures that can aggravate a pastor’s tendency to be unapproachable. A culture that has a strong emphasis on theology and doctrine can produce “relationally challenged” leaders who prefer preparing sermons over engaging people (which is a tendency in my own denomination). Approachability can also be undermined by a culture or polity that minimizes congregational influence (“We lead, you implement”) or provides no meaningful accountability beyond a closely knit leadership circle in the local church. Such cultures can easily produce leaders who are not inclined to welcome ideas and suggestions from laity, admit areas of weakness or lack of competence, or be open to seeking counsel from outside the leadership circle. Similarly, a polity that fuels political maneuvering between competing cliques will usually produce leaders who are guarded in their relationships. None of these factors inevitably produces inaccessible or deficient leadership.  Humble and spiritually mature leaders (like Jason in my opening illustration) can counteract each of these institutional dynamics, but only if they are aware of these pitfalls and constantly vigilant against the way they can undermine approachability.

Do you see how this can be so true? Do you recognize how institutional dynamics can contribute to a lack of approachability? I readily see these tendencies in my own church. And if you go to a church where a hierarchical structure is in place, you’ll need to be extra cautious about how that structure affects the relationships between leader and congregration. But that structure itself (i.e., your church’s polity) is not determinative. It doesn’t have to affect relationships one way or another. Ken included in his footnote a great quote by Ed Clowney (don’t miss it!):

“Better by far are imperfect structures in the hands of devoted servants of Christ than the most biblical form of church government practiced in pride or in a loveless and vindictive spirit.” (The Church, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Il, 1995, p. 202)

That right there was worth the price of admission! Regardless of the polity of a church, the type of leaders make or break it.

2009 Conference Update: Release of keynote address from Ken Sande and Deadline Approaching

Note from Annual Conference Manager, Kerri Takeuchi

What do a coffee pitcher, a pair of binoculars, a portable CD player, an empty bag, and a life preserver have in common? This week the staff of Peacemaker Ministries spent time on an all-staff retreat. One of our tasks was to produce a skit using designated props with the 2009 Peacemaker Conference theme “Church on a Journey.” These were the props that my team and I had to use to come up with our skit.

I won’t pain you by having you watch that video to get excited about our conference coming to Dallas in September but what I do want to share is a very important video. We have just released the opening keynote session from the 2008 Peacemaker Conference in Orlando featuring Ken Sande, President of Peacemaker Ministries. I hope this video will give you a taste of the richness and depth of the teaching that you will experience again at this year’s conference. Please take about 30 minutes to watch this video (for free!) and be reminded of the refreshing news of the gospel. Note: To download the video for personal use you will need to join Vimeo (free subscription). You can do so by following the link on the bottom right of the webpage. If you would like just the audio you can get it (for free!) through our bookstore. We would LOVE to have you participate with us this year in Dallas to experience this kind of teaching and more for yourself.

Register by June 1st and save. Prices go up after that time. Reminder that there are student, pastor, specified denominations, and registered team member discounts. Contact me at 406-256-1583 x. 120 or email ktakeuchi@peacemaker.net

Also, please note that if you register for the 2009 Pre-Conference by June 1st, you will also receive an early registration discount.  Prices go up after June 1st so why wait?  Get on the bus, and take advantage of some great courses this year:  Conflict Coaching & Mediation, Reconciling Church Conflict, Reconciling Marital Conflict, Certification, Case Administration (new), and Teaching Peacemaking Cross-Cultrually.  Yes, you still must take Conflict Coaching & Mediation before taking any of our advanced trainings.  If you would like to find out more about the 2009 Pre-Conference please visit our website or contact Bethany Amman, Training Events Coordinator at (406) 256-1583 ext. 123. 

Come journey to Dallas with us!

Leadership and Approachability

I am currently deep in the weeds on developing a new resource for church leaders on peacemaking (available the beginning of August, Lord willing), and so I’ve been pondering quite a bit about what it means to be a church leader who leads well. 

For that reason, I’m grateful that Ken Sande recently wrote a new article for church leaders on Approachability and updated an earlier one on Accountability. These two articles really go together–if a leader is willing to be accountable and grow in areas of weakness or mortify areas of sin (i.e., to have someone else help him remove the log/speck from his eye, so to speak) then he must be approachable. Leaders that put off a vibe of “Don’t bother me. I’ve got important ministry to do,” push away the very people that God might use in their lives. Plus, if a leader is going to be a peacemaker and enter the messy areas of people’s lives, he’ll need to be trustworthy. And approachability is definitely a component of gaining trust.

I’d like to point out some of the key points from Ken’s articles in a series of posts here, but to begin, here is Ken’s summary statement from his Approachability article:

Becoming an approachable leader and earning passport into others’ lives is no easy task. The very qualities that cause others to recognize a person as a leader can also result in an image or demeanor that keeps others closed off and distant. No one was more likely to have such an aura than Jesus. Yet his humility, love, and desire to connect intimately with others were so strong that people were constantly drawn into the safety of his presence and desirous of having him enter deeply into their lives. If you are a leader, I encourage you to make it your life-long pursuit to draw on God’s grace and develop this same approachability in your life.

Ken also mentions a series of tips to prevent “passport killers” — those habits and attitudes that keep people out of your territory as a leader. Here’s the first, which provides some interesting food for thought:

Maintain a “gentle authority slope.” The Bible teaches that God has established authority arrangements in the family, church, workplace, and in civil government to maintain peace and order. As Jesus warned in Mark 10:42-45, however, sin often tempts leaders to “lord it over” others by over-emphasizing their own authority and others’ responsibility to be submissive. As Jesus teaches, the best way to guard against this tendency is to cultivate the attitude of a servant, seeing oneself as being below rather than above others (vv. 43-45). As servant-leaders cultivate the Christ-like attitude described in passages like Philippians 2:1-11, they can replace the “steep slope” of authoritarianism with a “gentle authority slope” that is easy for people to climb and invites them to bring questions, concerns, and correction to a leader rather than letting something fester.

Does that make sense? It makes me think of playing “king of the hill” as a kid. Someone is at the top of a pile of dirt or rocks, and if it’s a really steep slope, the guy at the bottom has a really hard time even getting up to the top, let alone being able to grapple with the current “king.” The guy at the top has a great advantage and can send the “attacker” tumbling back down with minimal effort. Likewise, if there’s a steep authoritarian slope between leader and church member, it’s first of all unlikely that the member will ever make it up to the top to talk to the leader about a difficult issue (and make it more likely in time of trouble for the church member to lob verbal “grenades” from a distance). But should they make it to the top, the member is at such a disadvantage, that it’s much more likely that they are sent away as the definite “loser” in the situation.

So let me ask, how steep is the slope between you and your church leaders? Or if you are a leader, what efforts have you made to make that slope more gentle? Lots of good thoughts here, and I invite you to read both articles. I’ll be back with more soon.

Where is Your Heart?

In cyberspace there are way too many good sites to visit and blogs to read. I have to limit the ones I do follow, and even then, can’t squeeze in enough time to read what’s there. Some of the blogs I visit are not faith oriented, but hobby oriented. One in particular I enjoy is Kristen Armstrong’s Mile Markers from the Runner’s World website. In a recent post she ended her blog about a particularly busy season and how she was trying to relax in her weekly yoga class:

“It sounds embarrassingly simple, but I was struck by the reminder that no matter how many thoughts my brain can tick through in succession, I can only be present in one place at a time. So I have a new question to ask myself, “Where is your heart?” The only acceptable answer is, “Right here.”  If my heart is somewhere else, I’m going to go there and join it. So whether I’m pouring my love into a child, helping with homework, writing a column, combing out tangles, in downward facing dog, walking the dog, running up a hill, or being part of a conversation, the same answer applies….The more I ask myself the question, the more present I become.”

As a peacemaker I know that at the root of my conflicts is my heart desires that battle with other people’s heart desires, (See Getting to the Heart of Conflict). So her question is a good one for me to ask when I am experiencing conflict; or for that matter, at any time, “Where is my heart?” WhenI ask this question though, I do it in the most important realm, the context of God’s word:

“…for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  Matthew 5:21 – Where is my heart?

“You shall the love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30 – Where is my heart?

“Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.” John 14:1 – Where is my heart?

“…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…” Ephesians 3:17 – Where is my heart?

“Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith…” Hebrews 10:22 – Where is my heart?

So I am asking myself today, and encourage you to do the same, where is your heart? For surely, if it is not with the Lord, you will go to where your heart is.

And I shall give them one heart, and shall put a new spirit within them. I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my ordinances, and do them.” Ezekiel 11:19-20.

Duty Without Beauty

Our staff has been working through Tim Keller’s book, The Prodigal God, during our weekly devotion time. It has been personally challenging as I relate closely to the elder brother from the parable of the Prodigal Son.  If your tent is set up in the campsite next to mine, then this book is for you!

Yesterday we listened to one of Keller’s sermons titled, “The True Elder Brother.”  The sermon outlines some of the symptoms of “elderbrotherishness,” as Keller puts it.  He lists an undercurrent of anger (at God and others for not rewarding us when we feel we are doing it all the right way, and at self for not being good enough when we do fail), and a feeling of superiority (racially, socially, etc.). 

The phrase that really hit me betweenthe eyes is what he calls “duty without beauty.”  This is when we see service to God as a means instead of an end – to gain favor (God’s or others) and to get something in return.  Often this is manifested in seeing service as a grind, instead of serving because we adore God and see him as beautiful.  I was particularly convicted when Keller explained that a good litmus test is to look at your prayer life.  Are your prayers focused mostly on the needs of yourself and others (not that these aren’t important), or is much of your prayer focused on adoring God and praising Him for who He is?  Wow. 

This all left me feeling a bit strung out and asking, “How do I get there from here?”  Thankfully, Keller bridged the gap from my heart to God’s with the Gospel of Jesus, reminding me that the sin of “elderbrotherishness” is also one that Christ came to redeem me from.  Whether you find yourself as the elder brother or the younger, He did it for you too.

Easier said than done

I received an email at the end of last week from someone seeking some advice about a conflict.  One comment really resonated with me, and I think it will with you, too: I always have great visions of how the conversation is going to go but it always falls way short of that, including on my end–I end up saying less than I wanted to say and being less gracious than I had imagined I would be.”

Anybody else have great visions of being gracious, getting the log out, being able to communicate clearly and confidently … and then real life crashes in and you walk out of a tough conversation thinking, “Could I have done that any worse?”

Here’s what I wrote back; I hope it encourages you in these moments, too:

I just wanted to let you know that I totally resonate with your comment that you envision tough conversations going really well and then they always fall short – that happens to me all the time, and I think it may be one of the biggest ways that I experience the struggle that Paul talks about in Romans 7 – knowing what he ought to do, and wanting to do it, but somehow finding himself doing the wrong thing nonetheless!

I take comfort in God’s promise in Philippians 1:6 that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” … even if you see just small changes in how you are responding or tiny increments of growth in being able to have tough conversations and do them in a way that points back to yourself and to God, I count those as small victories. Those small, incremental victories can add up to major progress over a lifetime, which is the time frame that God seems to intend to work with us, rather than the immediate change that we’d like to see as we shed our old nature.

(I also realize that my encouragement to you to talk face-to-face, etc makes it sound so easy, but I recognize that it’s anything but.  In my experience as a Christian, this is one of the most dramatic areas where God has changed my life, not necessarily making me do these conversations well – or even always having the courage to do them at all – but at least in the conviction that it is what God calls us to do and taking faltering steps in that direction.)

Praise God that his grace is sufficient, even when we are far-from-perfect in our peacemaking efforts!

Family & Marriage Conflicts Q&A

Many people aren’t aware that we have a great section on our website called Common Questions about Marriage/Family Conflicts.  The questions and answers touch on marriage, divorce, abuse, children, blended families and extended families.

While not comprehensive (there are 12 questions/answers), they do provide some great insights to common questions or issues that people deal with.

Here’s an example — the two questions related to marriage (and notice that you’ll have to click the links for the answers):

Question 1: I would like to talk more openly with my husband about things we disagree about, but he does all he can to avoid such conversations. And even when I find a way to share my concerns with him, he rarely says anything in response. How can we learn to talk to each other? Answer

Question 2: My wife and I do not handle conflict well. We become defensive, blurt out a few sharp words, and then clam up for a day or so. We are becoming more and more superficial with each other, and we’re setting a terrible example for our children. What should I do? Answer

If you haven’t already seen this, do take advantage of its available and familiarize yourself and/or others who may benefit!

Text me.

Did you know that a man can divorce his wife via text messaging in Malaysia?

“A sharia court declared that a text message sent by a man to his wife reading, ‘If you don’t leave your parents house, you’ll be divorced,’ had legal force.”–

Years ago, I remember sitting in a bible study where the leader discussed communication and conflict with an emphasis on emailing.  He pointed out the importance of meeting with someone if there was a need to confront, while emphasizing that emailing should only be used for facts and encouragement. 

Recently, God has been reminding me of this through my own communication failures with others.  Technology has increased its level of reaching; now instantaneously a person can text any message to another person.  Email seems instant, but now you can be in the grocery store and get a message from your sweetheart telling you to grab garbage bags.  The power and temptation behind instant communication can be something that is used to uplift, tear down, or frustrate.

Just like writing someone a nasty email can be much easier to do, after having one’s feelings hurt, so can text messaging.  It can be quite tempting to vent our frustrations, or write something that we wouldn’t say to a persons face because that is what we are thinking or feeling at that moment.  But it lacks what face to face communication has:  eye contact, body language, and intonation.  When I sit in front of someone and look in their eyes I am reminded that they have a heart and that I want to be careful to stray from hurting them.

Here are some tips to think about the next time you get irritated and you think of sending an email, text message, blog comment, or letter:

  • Keep your written communication encouraging.  Don’t threaten your wife with divorce.  Thankfully, the United States legal system does not recognize text messaging as a notice of divorce.  Tell her that she is beautiful instead and invite her to dinner or coffee.  “Encourage one another and build eachother up.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:11
  • Keep it factual.  Keep your emotions out of it, unless you are building up… “I love you honey.”
  • Save apologies and confrontation for face to face contact.  If that isn’t possible, the phone is okay.  A phone call at least allows a person to hear your intonation.
  • Pray before you say.  When you get upset, take a walk to talk to God about it.  If you need to vent with your pen go ahead but don’t send it to the other person.  You can use what you wrote as a guideline of what to talk about when you meet but don’t give them your written vomit.  “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”–  Ephesians 4:29
  • Pause and reflect on how God has shown you grace as well as others before you react.  “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”–Matthew 6:12

Remember that your words have power whether written or verbal.  Although this is something that I have been wrestling with, as I am not perfect at the art of communication or confronation, I am thankful for God’s grace on me as I learn to love others better with my words.