Review of a Peacemaking Resource for Preserving Church Unity
Leslie B. Flynn’s book, Great Church Fights: What the Bible Says about Controversy and How to Resolve It, has been on the bookshelf for some time now–Victor Books, 1976, 118 pages.
A short read, profitable for group study as well as individual reflection, its aim gets stated early on:
All conflict in ecclesiastical life is not healthy per se. Disagreements, with their accompanying misunderstanding, hurt feelings, and competitiveness do carry the potential of destructive bitterness, but if they are properly handled through peaceable wisdom from above, they can be a constructive force for uniting the body of Christ (James 3:13-18).
The chapters following will deal with significant conflicts in the New Testament, generally in the order in which they appear in the sacred record. Consideration of the principles should help our 20th-century churches. Out of friction can arise new love and strength in the family of God (11).
Each chapter which follows deals with in turn:
- The Acts 6 growing church dilemma where the Grecian widows went unfed.
- The Acts 15 Jerusalem council regarding salvation by grace.
- The Acts 15 sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas over John Mark.
- The Romans 14 instruction about disagreement over matters of conscience.
- The 1 Corinthians 1 rebuke concerning the building of factions around personalities.
- The 1 Corinthians 5 (other texts as well) teaching about church discipline.
- The Galatians 2 clash between Paul and Peter about Jew/Gentile relationships.
- The Matthew 5:23-24 call to be our brother’s keeper for peace even if it interrupts corporate worship.
- The Philippians 4 mediation between two at odds women in the church.
- The 3 John 9-10 counsel for dealing with leaders who think far too much of themselves.
The book rightly closes on a positive note to act as more than conquerors when conflict erupts. The way to win those inevitable church fights is to give in–to the Holy Spirit, and watch Him restore unity and power to the Church (118).
Flynn writes in a most readable style. The book contains considerable biblical references as well some illustrative content which made me laugh and wince at the same time.
Given the brevity of the book, the chapters don’t go all that deep in their analysis of such important content. Why the author chose to ignore entirely Old Testament accounts of conflict–Abram and Lot (Gen. 13) or Abigail and David (1 Sam. 25)–I suppose will have to remain a secret.
Still, Flynn has given a gift to Jesus’s church. It’s worth adding to your church library or personal bookshelf. I got my used but in perfectly good shape copy for just $4 plus shipping off Amazon.
Question: What text of Scripture has helped you in the area of conflict resolution? You can leave your comment here.