If you have been in church any length of time, then you have experienced it. Conflict. Sometimes it's a disagreement between church members over the songs chosen for Sunday morning worship. Sometimes it's the fruit of gossip that has poisoned all who have taken a bite. Sometimes it is differing opinions over a staff hire or the use of church funds. Just like a biological family, the church family is filled with broken, sinful people who often don't get along.
What does a church do when there is conflict?
When I read this book, I was in the middle of multiple conflicts occurring around me. They were heartbreaking conflicts, the kind that rip and tear and break unity. Reading the book helped me see the ways such conflicts start and gave me hope for how they can end. But the truth is, that wasn't the first conflict I had encountered in church and it won't be my last. Every church I have been a part of over the course of my life has had some kind of conflict. Some ended in church splits and others with lasting bitterness and broken hearts. Because of the fall, conflict in our churches is inevitable. We have to expect it. But as Redeeming Church Conflicts shows us, through Christ it can also be redeemed.
Redeeming Church Conflicts follows the Acts 15 model of addressing conflict: Perspective, Discernment, Leadership, and Biblical Response. It helps us see the reasons why we have conflict and the underlying issues behind it, because more often than not, the issue everyone is upset about isn't always the real problem. It helps us see the ways God is working on our holiness in and through the conflict. It reminds us that we all have a part to play in working through and resolving church conflicts. It open our eyes to have compassion for those with whom we are having conflict. And it walks us through a Biblical response to the conflicts we have in our churches. Ultimately this book is about the church, the Body of Christ, and our need to do the hard work to keep the bonds of unity.
"Leaders are not prepared for conflict (even though they should be). Followers are not prepared for conflict (even though they should be). Both leaders and followers are caught in worldliness and many have bought into a postmodern philosophy that says truth is relative and personal and emotive experiences are preeminent. We become passionate, defensive, and self-centered. Rather than studying Scripture and obeying it, we live as a law unto ourselves, motivated by what we want and demand. Rather than a blazing reality, heaven feels vague, so we lose our sense of the nearness of eternity and begin protecting our property, reputations, and comfort in the here and now. Rather than loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (and loving our neighbor as ourselves), we get tired and distracted and our immediate desires trump eternal realities. Failing to trust in God's sovereignty and living for temporary security, many of us make our church conflicts worse." (p.7).
This book is not only a necessary resource for every church but the principles are useful for individuals as well. Because after all, how often do church conflicts begin with a conflict between two people and spread out to the rest of the church? This is one of those books all believers need to own and read through regularly. As Christ followers, we are all united together by the blood of our Savior. We are a family. We will be with each other for all eternity. We must work hard to maintain unity and redeem conflicts when they arise. For the glory of God and his church.
"From an eternal perspective, we already are reconciled with and united to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore, during any church conflict, we simply strive to become who and what we already are: one in Christ. We may differ over issues and hold conflicting positions on important questions, but those temporary things pale in comparison to our unity in Christ." (p. 173).
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