Photos: Ken, Rick and Lapinsky in Baltimore

Staffers Ken and Rick joined Certified Christian Conciliator LaPinsky Phillips in Baltimore over the weekend for a Project Bridges conference on Saturday. The conference was called “Managing & Resolving Conflict: Biblical Strategies for Christian Leaders.” It included the following topics:

  • Session 1 – A Vision for Building a Culture of Peace (Ken Sande)
  • Session 2 – A Passion for the Gospel (Ken Sande)
  • Session 3 – Pastoral Leadership (LaPinsky Phillips)
  • Session 4 – Personal Peacemaking (LaPinsky Phillips)
  • Session 5 – The Blessings of a Peacemaking Team (Ken Sande)
  • Session 6 – Four Steps Toward Building a Culture of Peace (Ken Sande)
  • You can learn more about Project Bridges here.

    Two Deadlines This Week

    Just a quick reminder to take advantage of two discounts that end this week:

    1. The Peacemaker Conference (Sept 16-19, Washington, DC) – Conference rates go up on April 1,  so register soon to get the best price.
    2. The Leadership Opportunity – The special introductory price of $149 ends on March 31st, so act quickly to save $40 on our newest resource for church leaders.  

    Resolving Issues

    I was recently reminded of the importance of distinguising between personal and material issues, especially in the mediation setting, at one of Peacemaker Ministries’ Foundational Skills Training Events.  The Mediation Self Study Manual defines the two categories of issues, as follows:

    Personal issues are those things going on inside of or between persons, including our attitudes, feelings, motives, words, and how we treat each other.  For example, ‘How can the church leaders demonstrate genuine forgiveness to Pastor Steve?’  Material issues are the substantive matters that must be resolved to settle a disagreement, such as the payment of money, return of property, or rendering of services.  For example, ‘How much money, if any, does the church owe Pastor Steve under the terms of the contract?

    It’s important to realize that these two types of issues require very different solutions.  Personal issues, which are rooted in sin, must always be dealt with through repentance, confession, and forgiveness with Christ at the center.  Material issues are often rooted in misunderstandings or a difference in opinion and can be resolved through discussion and negotiation. 

    Often people will point to the material issue as being the primary sticking point in conflict.  However, in my experience it is the personal issues that are at the heart of most conflicts.  If personal sins and hurts can be resolved through confession and forgiveness, then the material issues are often quickly addressed.

    Problems often arise when personal (sin) issues are “resolved” through negotiation, or in some cases, through arbitration (where a decision is mandated).  An example of this would be a financial judgment that is made in the case of a murder, rape, or other criminal act.  The family of the victim may go away quite wealthy, but without the sin being confessed and forgiven the personal issues are never addressed. People go away more bitter and angry than when they started.   I am thankful that Peacemaker Ministries puts a premium on resolving personal issues and working toward reconciliation, not just negotiating surface-level material issues.

    A Prayer About Still Needing the Gospel

    Scotty Smith is now blogging for the Gospel Coalition; his posts are mostly prayers, many of which are great prayers for us as peacemakers.  I’d encourage you to check back regularly!

    Here’s one he posted today, “A Prayer About Still Needing the Gospel.”

    Dear Lord Jesus, one of the many things I cherish about the Bible is its unfiltered, no-hype, non-spin honesty. Who but God would write a book documenting the foibles and failures of his beloved sons and daughters? Who but God would chronicle the ways hischosen leaders limp along, and prove themselves to be in constant need of mercy and grace? This gives me great encouragement and hope. It also gives me freedom to acknowledge that I need the gospel today just as much as the first day I believed it.

    This will be just as true tomorrow, and the next day and the next. Please keep me convinced of this, Lord Jesus… because I’m so much like Peter. It’s one thing for me to stress, stew and stamp about the ways this generation is decrying and denying the theology of your cross. But it’s quite another to see the subtle and not-so-subtle ways I try to keep you from the cross. As you dealt with Peter, so deal with me. Give me all the life-giving rebukes I need to keep me living in gospel-sanity.

    When I mute my heart to the insult of grace, I deny your cross. When I think, even for one moment, that my obedience merits anything, I deny your cross. When I put others under the microscope and measure of performance-based living, I deny your cross. When I wallow in self-contempt and do more navel-gazing than repenting, I deny your cross. Though I hate the bumper-sticker, when I actually live like you’re my co-pilot, I deny the cross.

    Continue to free me, and my friends, from our “man-ish” thinking and living, Lord Jesus. Help us to mind the things of God as your cross gets bigger and bigger and biggerin our lives. So very Amen, I pray, in your patient and persistent name.

    The Church: Breaking Down Barriers

    Pastor Tullian Tchividjian posted the following statement on Twitter (@pastortullian) a few days ago:

    “God intends the church to be demonstrating for the world what community looks like when the reconciling power of the gospel is at work.”

    “Since the gospel reconciles us–not only to God but also to one another–the church should be breaking down barriers, not erecting them.”

    Both tweets go hand-in-hand, but the second one especially gave me pause. As a part of the church, what kinds of barriers do I erect that interfere with reconciling with my neighbors?

    The Faith that Forgiveness Requires

    From today’s PeaceMeal (perfectly on topic for the 2010 Peacemaker Conference):

    The Faith That Forgiveness Requires

    Above all else, remember that true forgiveness depends on God’s grace. If you try to forgive others on your own, you are in for a long and frustrating battle. But if you ask God to change your heart and you continually rely on his grace, you can forgive even the most painful offenses. God’s grace was powerfully displayed in the life of Corrie ten Boom, who had been imprisoned with her family by the Nazis for giving aid to Jews early in World War II. Her elderly father and beloved sister, Betsie, died as a result of the brutal treatment they received in prison. God sustained Corrie through her time in a concentration camp, and after the war she traveled throughout the world, testifying to God’s love. Here is what she wrote about a remarkable encounter in Germany:

    It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there–the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.

    He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,” he said. “To think that, as you say, he has washed my sins away!”
    His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendall about the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.

    Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? “Lord Jesus,” I prayed, “forgive me and help me to forgive him.”
    I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. “Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.”

    As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.

    So I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on him. When he tells us to love our enemies, he gives, along with the command, the love itself.

    Adapted from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict 
    by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 217-218.

    Food for Thought

    Why do we agonize over whether we ourselves will be able to forgive those who have sinned against us? Our forgiveness is a pale substitute of what is needed. Instead, what is necessary is just this: that we allow Christ’s forgiveness of us–the forgiveness that flows through us and brings life to us–to flow outward from us to reach the others in our lives who, like us, are equally undeserving of his mercy. For “[i]t does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” (Rom. 9:16).

    On Being Misunderstood

    From The Crossway Blog, an excerpt from A Sincere and Pure Devotion to Christ Vol 1 by Sam Storms:

    No one enjoys being misunderstood or having their motives questioned. By nature we’re defensive and seek ways to vindicate our reputation. All too often we react rather than respond. Sam Storms draws on Paul’s interaction with the church in 2 Corinthians 1:12-2:4 to provide some wisdom that we can apply as we seek to grow in godly communication:

    1. Don’t be quick to “read between the lines.” Unless past indiscretions or the preponderance of evidence indicate otherwise, trust your Christian friends. Give them the benefit of the doubt when they say they are sincere (vv. 13–14).

    2. Don’t always look for some ulterior and sinister motive in what others do simply because things did not turn out the way you wanted them to (vv. 15–16).

    3. If someone has proven himself faithful and devoted in the past, don’t be quick to believe accusations brought against him by an outsider. Be patient and give him an opportunity to explain himself. In other words, don’t jump to conclusions, for it just may be the case that you are the one at fault (vv. 17, 23).

    4. Don’t become frustrated or withdraw yourself from other Christians if they should prove fickle or unfaithful. Ultimately, your trust and dependence are not in them anyway, but in Christ who never fails (vv. 19–22).

    5. Finally, even if it means suffering unjustly and being slandered, avoid unnecessary confrontations. Don’t be too quick to vindicate yourself. Be willing to endure what you don’t deserve for the sake of peace in the body of Christ. The opportunity to clear your name will eventually come (v. 23).

    HT: Vitamin Z

    Another way to put it…

    A friend (an 83 year old one, at that) just sent me this “computerized” version of the Four Promises of Forgiveness. I thought they were worth passing along:

    I will not leave this on my screen or anywhere it can be seen.
    I will not put this in any folder where it can ever be retrieved.
    I will not forward this to anyone.
    I will delete this and any other reference to it from all my files and recycle bin.

    How often do we keep those wrongs done to us in the “Recycle Bin” of our heart? We say we’ve gotten rid of them, and perhaps that really was our intent at the time. But they are still there… lurking… ready to be pulled out again to dwell on or to use against someone.

    By God’s grace, friends, when we offer forgiveness, let’s “empty the recycle bin” and get rid of those wrongs for good!

    Testimony: Peacemaking in Action

    Below is a story we just received from a friend; he is an American who lives in another country and just completed our Conflict Coaching training. He is excited to see opportunities that God is giving him to practice what he learned.  We hope that his story will encourage you (names have been changed):

    I have another example of peacemaking in action for you:

    I don’t know if we told you about the young man who is living with us.  He’s from a local American run orphanage and needs a place to stay while he finishes his high school.  He’s a junior like our middle son. He’s been with us for about 6 months now.  Last Sunday evening, he and Beth got into a confrontation about his lack of involvement in household activities.  He was happy doing only the minimum as I had put on a “chore chart” for him and our two sons.  It went bad when Beth who was working to make dinner told him to set the table, and he responded that he wasn’t on the chore chart for Sunday evening.  Beth interpreted his resistance as ungratefulness and challenged him.  He responded that he did what was expected and that was enough.  By the time I entered, it had reached a point of no return as neither was trying to understand the other.  I tried to mediate, but in the end, the young man, Josh, left the kitchen and went to his room and Beth, rightly feeling I had been slow in getting involved, stormed out of the house to cool down.  No one felt like eating.

    I told the boys that we would have a family meeting to sort out the confusion when Beth returned.  When she hadn’t returned an hour later, the boys and I went out looking for her and Josh went to bed.  Our youngest son found Beth, and they went to a co-workers home to talk and have some hot chocolate.  They returned a couple of hours later.  She was doing better but still feeling very hurt.  She said she didn’t have the emotional energy to deal with Josh’s rebellious attitude and I would have to find another place for him to stay while I traveled in the next week.  We tried to talk through some issues, but she was too tired.  Needless to say, we all went to bed feeling very frazzled.

    I woke in the night praying for God to show me how to lead us through this confrontation.  As I prayed, I thought of the 4 principles of peacemaking and began to understand what I needed to do to be a peacemaker in this situation.   In the morning, I got up earlier to make tea for Beth as I felt she needed to sleep in.  I told the boys I was sad that we had had the confrontation, but I was glad that God was giving us the opportunity to see Him work in each of our lives through this.  I assured each of them, especially Josh, that they were not the problem.  I owned my part of the conflict and told them God wanted to do something in my life as well.  As I dropped them at school, I told them we would meet as a family after school to work through this.

    I decided to work from home so Beth and I could have time to make peace with each other.  I realized the first thing I needed to do was ask for her forgiveness for my slowness in getting involved the night before, which I did.  This opened the way for us to express other things we were dealing with that made the conflict even worse.  We began to try to see the conflict through Josh’s eyes.  Being relatively new to our home, I realized he needed further instruction in the expectations we have of each other, so I decided to put together a list of all the things that needed to be done to run a household.  I told Beth I believed God wanted to use this conflict in Josh’s life to show him the Biblical way to work through these situations since what he learned from the orphanage was anything but Biblical.  I also wanted all of us to understand how much Beth does that we don’t see so we could express our gratitude to her by working with her to help run the home.  I also put together a new and improved chore chart.

    When the boys arrived from school, we went over the list of 20 or so household responsibilities and talked about who was primarily responsible for each.  After they heard Beth’s name several times, our youngest said, “I’m beginning to see a pattern here.”  Then we went over the chore chart which I designed so they would be working together more in doing the chores.  The change in Josh was almost immediate.  He has been very cooperative and even worked with our middle son on a chore without being asked.  What a blessing to live in a home at peace again!  Even though I leave this evening for almost three weeks, Beth is now very content to have him remain in our home.

    Thank you again for allowing God to use you in our lives to show us how to seek His peace in our home.  Please feel free to share this story with others who might benefit from our experiences.