BE PEACEMAKER STRONG

A Book Review Amazon Declined

Rating and reputation online, feedback, user writing review.

You learn all kinds of things publishing a book.

Whenever anybody tells me they have read The Peacemaking Church, I’m so very grateful and appreciative for their investment of time and effort.

Additionally I request that they post a fair and honest review at online sales giant Amazon. Everything Baker Publishing tells me about getting my book out into the world depends upon a strong showing in these evaluations.

Twice now folks willing to do that have reported back to me getting shut out of Amazon due to their lack of purchases over the past twelve months. Go figure.

I asked one of those readers if he would grant permission for me to post his review on my blog. He graciously consented.

Pastor Heffelfinger offers valuable perspectives for the pursuit of unity among the saints. He puts before us the challenge to endeavor to be the kind of people who treasure a unified Church; who are vigilant in turning the spotlight inward to identify corrosive idols so that, as he proposes, “[T]he best fight your congregation ever experiences is the one you never get into in the first place.” The truths presented in The Peacemaking Church are weapons in a believer’s arsenal that will awaken (or perhaps reawaken) beautiful, powerful insights unique to the function of this Body to which we belong. Pastor Heffelfinger has lived out these insights, and the case he presents will only help to strengthen your own peacemaking quotient.

I wrote this book in the hopes of making readers peacemaking strong. Jan and I continue to pray that the Lord will use it to that end with whomever he will.

Thanks, Jeff, for the kindness of your favorable review and especially for ending on the word quotient!

Question: What will you do in 2019 to help strengthen your peacemaking quotient?

LEADING WITH LOVE

An Excellent Resource for Peacemaking Leaders of All Kinds

Nazareth Shepherd

In a recent conversation with church leaders, we wrestled with some of the challenges associated with shepherding the people in our churches.

I suggested that this year we might read and discuss A Christian Leader’s Guide to Leading with Love by Alexander Strauch.

Of all the books on leadership I’ve worked through in my years as a peacemaking pastor, few have made a greater impact on me than this one. The publisher bills the text this way:

This book provides leaders and teachers a clear understanding of what the Bible teaches about love. This understanding is essential to you as an individual leader and to the church as a whole. It will significantly improve your relational skills, enhance your effectiveness in ministry, diminish senseless conflict and division, build a healthier church, and promote evangelism. If you lead or teach people in any capacity in the body of Christ, this book will help you become a more loving leader or teacher.

Strauch accomplishes those aims by working through the details of the Bible’s great love chapter–1 Corinthians 13–in parts one and two. Part three focuses on The Works of a Loving Leader.

These include practices like Caring for People’s Needs, Laboring in Prayer, Protecting and Reproving Loved Ones, Disciplining and Restoring the Wayward, Managing Conflict a “More Excellent Way,” and Practicing Hospitality.

Regarding hospitality for example, Strauch argues from Romans 12:10–“Love one another with brotherly affection”–that leaders must create loving community by bringing others into our homes.

Brotherly love entails knowing one another and sharing life together. Unless we open the doors of our homes to one another, the reality of the local church as a close-knit family of loving brothers and sisters is just one more empty religious theory. It is impossible to know or grow close to our brothers and sisters by meeting for an hour a week with a large group in a church sanctuary. It is through the ministry of hospitality that we provide the fellowship and care that nurtures true brotherly and sisterly love (100).

For an illustration of the effect produced by practicing hospitality, Strauch cites research conducted by a news reporter measuring church friendliness.

Each visit resulted in a rating based upon a point system. Greeters at the door–two points. Welcome form letter from the pastor–three points. Coffee hour–five points. Warm greeting from individuals–ten points. Personal invitations to dinner?” SIXTY POINTS!

Such is the power of hospitality.

If you lead others in your church in any capacity–but especially as a pastor–I urge you to include Leading with Love on your 2019 reading list.

Question: When have you been loved well by a leader practicing hospitality?

RARE RESOLUTIONS WORTH CONSIDERING

Biblical Peacemaking Resolutions to Make in the New Year

Hands Holding a Coffee Mug With Text New Year Fresh Start

At this time of year when many of us make New Year resolutions, consider adding to the usual drop-some-weight-exercise-more kinds one of these not-so-common peacemaking types to your 2019 list:

1. I resolve with the Lord’s help to pursue the happiness of a peacemaker and be rightly called a child of God (Matt. 5:9).

2. I resolve with the Lord’s help to celebrate the good and pleasant gift of unity within my church and to pray for its ongoing reality (Psalm 133).

3. I resolve with the Lord’s help to do my best to help maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace within my church (Eph. 4:1-6).

4. I resolve with the Lord’s help if possible, so far as it depends upon me, to live peaceably with all (Rom. 12:18).

5. I resolve with the Lord’s help to do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but in humility of mind to consider others more important than myself (Phil. 2:3).

6. I resolve with the Lord’s help to look out not only for my own interests but also for the interests of others and thus have the same attitude as that of the Lord Jesus (Phil. 2:4-5).

7. I resolve with the Lord’s help to put to death sinful anger by promptly initiating peacemaking conversations whenever they become necessary (Matt. 5:21-26).

8. I resolve with the Lord’s help to enlist help from within my church for assisted peacemaking mediation when efforts to do personal peacemaking fail to achieve reconciliation (Matt. 18:15-20).

9. I resolve with the Lord’s help to cultivate a welcoming spirit toward others who differ with me about preferences and choices of conscience and refuse to judge them when God can make them stand (Rom. 14:1-12).

10. I resolve with the Lord’s help to intercept relational disruptions wherever possible by deferring my rights to others (Genesis 13).

11. I resolve with the Lord’s help to honor and respect my church leaders for their hard work in the Lord and will endeavor to maintain truth-in-love communication with them at all times (1 Thess. 5:12-13).

12. I resolve with the Lord’s help to be kind and to forgive others for their offenses as God in Christ has forgiven me (Eph. 4:32).

13. I resolve with the Lord’s help whenever possible to overlook the offenses of others (Prov. 19:11) knowing that love covers a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8).

14. I resolve with the Lord’s help to avoid gossiping about others and sowing discord within the body of Christ (Prov. 6:16-19).

15. I resolve with the Lord’s help to use my tongue only to speak what is good for the building up of others for giving grace to those who hear (Eph. 4:29).

16. I resolve with the Lord’s help in conflict to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31), love others (1 Cor. 13:4-8), and grow in Christ’s likeness (2 Pet. 1:3-8).

Question: Which of these resolutions do you sense matters most for you in 2019?

THE TEACHING TONGUE

How to Speak about Others Who Offend You

angry young woman with megaphone shouting at stressed scared man blown away by wave of alphabet letters

It is said of the virtuous woman that “the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (Prov. 31:26).

We are always giving instruction to others by the words we use–especially in the training of our children. A unique challenge occurs when we’ve been offended by someone.

How we talk about that person speaks volumes to others–especially the kiddos.

The apostle Paul gives us the ultimate standard for a tongue of kindness:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such is as good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Eph. 4:29).

I came across a powerful example of this in D. A. Carson’s book about his Dad–Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson.

It seems that at one point in his ministry, Pastor Tom Carson experienced a painful conflict with another pastor who treated him quite poorly.

As son Don relates the story, he only learned of the conflict years later. When he eventually brought the matter up, he quizzed his dad about why he never told the kids about any of it.

Tom explained that both he and his wife, Marge, wanted to protect their own souls from bitterness. So they took a vow that neither would ever say an unkind thing about the other pastor–and they kept that vow!

Daughter Joyce commented:

As I look back on life with Mom and Dad, perhaps the one thing I recall most vividly is the memory I don’t have. Try as I might, I cannot recollect one time when either of them spoke negatively about another person. Although Mom was an extremely astute judge of character, her analyses were well seasoned with grace and the latent potential for redemption (60).

What kind of talk comes out of your mouth in a conflict? Is it corrupt or kind? Does it tear down or build up? Does it give grief or grace to those who hear–especially the most impressionable?

The next time you are tempted to speak critically of someone else, choose the teaching of kindness on your tongue–void of bitterness, well seasoned with grace, and born of the latent potential for redemption.

Question: How would your children or friends describe your speech about others with which you are at odds?

‘TIS THE SEASON TO BE FRANTIC

Three Strategies for Staying Sane for the Holidays

young girl shout because of christmas stress

Christmas may well be the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be the most stressful. Some research even suggests it can cause a heart attack!

Many variables contribute to the craziness—including the tensions produced by the dynamics at family gatherings.

Luke 10:38-42 gives an account of a household meltdown that can help us navigate the challenges which threaten a peaceful holiday.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Here are three takeaways for staying peaceful and calm the rest of December from this tale of two sisters.

One, monitor personal desires. Kudos to Martha for showing hospitality to Jesus and his followers.

But her desire to pull out all the stops (a common temptation for serving types) got Martha a loving but firm rebuke from Jesus. “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things.”

Luke says she was “distracted”—literally pulled in a zillion directions—”with much serving.”

Her desire, not bad in and of itself, went south when it deteriorated into a demand leading to an outburst. That’s precisely how idols work, if we don’t watch over our hearts and control their passions with the Lord’s help.

Two, resist critical judgments. Ken Sande has blogged about the progression of idols from desire, to demand, to judging, and punishing. Martha makes for a textbook case.

What puts her version of this slippery slope into a whole other category is her criticism/demand not just of Mary but of Jesus! “Lord, do you not care? Tell her to help me.”

Good grief, talk about an awkward moment around the living room. David Powlison writes:

We judge others—criticize, nit-pick, nag, attack, condemn— because we literally play God. This is heinous. . . . Who are you when you judge? None other than a God wannabe. . . . When you and I fight, our minds become filled with accusations: your wrongs and my rights preoccupy me. We play the self-righteous judge in the mini-kingdoms we establish.

Three, guard spiritual priorities. Jesus defends Mary for choosing “the good portion,” not to be taken away from her.

Much serving at the expense of much worshipping leads to much worrying.

Regularly choose the one thing necessary this Christmas for keeping your idols in check and your peace in place.

Question: How do you choose the good part during the busy holiday season?

WHO’S ON THE HOOK?

Two Priority Reasons for Timely Transferring of Church Membership

Crane hook

Last Sunday Jan and I joined our new church home in Idaho.

After years of partnership and ownership of the mission, community, and family at Orlando Grace, we now have covenanted for the same with Trinity Reformed Baptist.

And it mattered greatly to us for the transfer from one treasured fellowship to another to be intentional, official, and public.

I say that for numerous reasons, but will cite only a single biblical one—perhaps the most important—for the purposes of this post. Consider Hebrews 13:17.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

The first reason Jan and I made a priority of a timely—not too fast but not too slow—transition in church membership was for our own souls’ sake.

The writer of Hebrews commands a recognition of and submission to the servant authority entrusted to a local church’s leadership so that earthly shepherds know just whom they are responsible for in keeping watch over their spiritual condition. More on that in a moment.

As for me and my house, I know my heart. As the hymn writer put it, I am “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.”

I require spiritual care. I need loving accountability. I want someone fighting for my soul by praying, teaching, exhorting, and confronting me when necessary to guard against the ever-present threat of spiritual drift (Heb. 2:1).

Failure to so identify and grant informed consent to a specific and particular body of shepherds in a local church of some kind puts you and me as sheep at risk. Have none of it!

The second reason Jan and I made a priority of a timely transition was for our churches’ sake—both of them.

This is true for their congregations and leaders alike, but this post concerns the leaderships’ demands first and foremost. Back to Hebrews 13:17.

Elders of a local church “keep watch over souls.” As such, they will give an account to the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4) one day for how well they executed their charge.

Our transfer of membership now takes the elders of OGC off the hook for the Heffelfinger household’s spiritual care AND puts the elders of TRBC on the hook for that care.

Love demands that we serve both churches this way. Alfred Poirer notes:

The New Testament writers assume that Christians can identify their leaders to whom they have voluntarily submitted themselves. . . . And conversely, they expect the leaders of a church to be able to identify those members for whom they must give an account. . . . Yet God will not hold a pastor liable for failing to discharge his duties as shepherd over sheep that he cannot determine are his own.

Membership matters for both the sheep and the shepherd. Who’s on the hook for your soul?

Question: What other reasons can you cite for the importance of a timely transfer of church membership?

BREAD, BATH, & BEYOND

How Prayer Meets Our Needs in Navigating Peacemaking Challenges

Hospital building sign closeup, with sky reflecting in the glass.

At the beginning and end of each day, Jan and I pause for spiritual reflection with the help of C. H. Spurgeon’s classic devotional Morning and Evening.

Commenting on Matthew 7:7— “Ask, and it shall be given you.” —every believer’s grand privilege to pray, he writes:

We know of a place in England still existing, where a dole of bread is served to every passerby who chooses to ask for it. Whoever the traveller may be, he has but to knock at the door of St. Cross Hospital, and there is the dole of bread for him. Jesus Christ so loveth sinners that he has built a St. Cross Hospital, so that whenever a sinner is hungry, he has but to knock and have his wants supplied. Nay, he has done better; he has attached to this Hospital of the Cross a bath; and whenever a soul is . . . filthy, it has but to go there and be washed. . . . As if this were not enough, there is attached to this Hospital of the Cross a wardrobe, and a sinner making application simply as a sinner, may be clothed from head to foot; and if he wishes to be a soldier, he may not merely have a garment for ordinary wear, but armour which shall cover him from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. If he asks for a sword, he shall have that given to him, and a shield too. Nothing that is good for him shall be denied him.

Allow me to add one more “beyond” from the preceding context to Matthew 7:7.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you (Matt. 7:1-6).

Please don’t miss the connection between paragraphs.

Matthew follows a classic peacemaking passage about judgments and conflicts with a classic spiritual life passage about prayers and intercession.

Do you need insight and wisdom for navigating some interpersonal conflict?

Ask, seek, and knock at St. Cross Hospital and you will receive, find, and have the door opened to you!

Question: What other provisions are promised in God’s word for meeting our needs through prayer?

 

BOOK LAUNCH BLAST

Giving Thanks for Results Far Beyond My Expectations

book signing

On Sunday evening, November 25, I experienced my first-ever book signing event. I had no idea what to expect. Talk about new territory for this rookie author!

I wondered how many folks would possibly venture out on a holiday weekend for such a reason. We didn’t count heads, but the numbers and the outcome far exceeded my expectations.

My successor at OGC, Pastor Jim, texted me the next day saying he was blown away—and I quote: “Book signings in the 21st century are almost extinct. You officially had more people than Hillary Clinton’s last book signing!”

I seriously doubt that, but I appreciated the comment as his way of congratulating me on a surprising success. Back now at home in Idaho, I just had to post my thanksgiving for the following things:

One, the gracious hospitality of Orlando Grace Church in opening the fellowship hall for the evening and for making the atmosphere so utterly attractive and warm.

Two, for Kathy H. and a host of other servants who bent over backwards to make Jan and me feel welcomed and to serve our guests with top-shelf refreshments and care.

Three, for family, OGC folks, previous church folks, La Floresta neighbors, and even people I’d never met before waiting patiently in the long line for signing and pictures.

Four, for my neuropathy-impaired right hand holding up through two-plus hours of signing and contributing reasonably legible notes and signatures.

Five, for how many folks purchased multiple copies informing me of their intention to gift their pastors with one. Jan and I repeatedly pray that the Lord will put The Peacemaking Church in the hands of whomever He will for the good of their souls and the peace of their churches.

Six, for getting out nearly every single copy of the six cases we had Baker ship to Orlando. I took only three copies back home in my carry on.

Seven, for a deacon who took twenty-five copies to give to family and friends as Christmas gifts. Thankfully he required me to sign just the one for him!

Eight, for everyone who supported the launch with a purchase of the book.

And nine—if I may be so bold to give thanks in advance for this praise—for everyone who will read the book they bought and post a fair and honest review on Amazon as soon as possible.

The presence of numerous reviews makes a big difference in getting a book out into the world and Amazon is the place to do it. You can post your review here.

Again, my thanks to all who contributed to a book launch beyond my wildest dreams. Please pray with me that the Lord will use The Peacemaking Church to His glory and the church’s good!

Question: What quote or idea from the book thus far has impacted you?

ESSENTIAL EVIDENCE OF FAMILY RESEMBLANCE

How to Know You Belong to the “Many Brethren”

Collage Of A Smiling People

The apostle Paul calls Jesus “the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). How many? That’s a number no man can count (Rev.7:9).

Octavius Winslow poses a far more important question related to our familial resemblance to Jesus in his classic devotional Morning Thoughts.

Be sure to read through to his practical illustration (bold below):

The one family of God is composed of “many brethren.” They are not all of the same judgment in all matters, but they are all of the same spirit. The unity of the family of God is not ecclesiastical nor geographical, it is spiritual and essential. It is the “unity of the Spirit.” Begotten of one Father, in the nature of the Elder Brother, and through the regenerating grace of the one Spirit, all the saints of God constitute one church, one family, one brotherhood—essentially and indivisibly one. Nor is this relationship difficult to recognize. Take an illustration. Two brethren in the Lord of widely different sections of the Church, and of much dissonance of sentiment on some points of truth, meet and converse together. Each wonders that, with the Word of God in his hand, the other should not read it as he reads it, and interpret it as he interprets it. But they drop the points of difference, and take up the points of agreement. They speak of Christ—the Christ who loves them both, and whom they both love. They talk of the one Master whom they serve; of their common labors and infirmities, trials and temptations, discouragements, failures, and success; they talk of the heaven where they are journeying; of their Father’s house, in which they will dwell together for ever; they kneel in prayer; they cast themselves before the cross; the oil of gladness anoints them; their hearts are broken, their spirits are humbled, their souls are blended; they rise, and feel more deeply and more strongly than ever, that they both belong to the same family, are both of the “many brethren,” of whom the Son of God is the “Firstborn,” the Elder Brother. Oh, blessed unity! What perfect harmony of creed, what strict conformity of ritual, what sameness of denominational relation, is for a moment to be compared with this? Have you, my reader, this evidence that you belong to the “many brethren”?

Be eager to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3).

That’s how you know you belong to the many brethren who treasure our Elder Brother.

WHY ANOTHER BOOK

Three Reasons I Wrote “The Peacemaking Church”

Bookstore. Public Old Library. Creativity Concept

The wisdom writer warns: “Of making many books there is no end” (Ecc. 12:12). As it was in Solomon’s day, so it remains today.

According to one source, publishers around the globe have produced nearly 2.3 million books this year. On November 20 my book will join the collection. Why add to this endless making?

I wrote The Peacemaking Church for three primary reasons.

One, there is a story to tell. Not just mine, though I describe my share of personal examples–mostly a number of painful blunders along the way. This is an entire church’s journey.

I explain in the introduction that Orlando Grace Church suffered traumatic conflict twice in its history. The painful details bear no repeating. No need to reopen old wounds.

Our story begins with a fierce campaign to cultivate a culture of peace to prevent a third meltdown—if we could possibly help it.

Thus far, hiccups notwithstanding, we have managed to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3). That story needs telling.

Two, there is a need to meet. In his foreword to the book, Ken Sande opens with a redacted version of Matthew 18:20. “Where two or three come together in Jesus’s name . . . there will soon be conflict.”

The New Testament reflects that reality. Just observe the sheer volume of texts which address some form of conflict therein! 

Anyone hanging around church for any length of time will likely confirm the same. It doesn’t matter where you go.

It was true in metro Orlando for me. I saw it on a recent trip overseas. It exists right here in my new home in rural Idaho.

And it doesn’t take much to set off a firestorm of trouble. In the introduction to my book, I cite Twenty-Five Silly Things Church Members Fight Over to make the point–like the length of the worship leader’s beard!

I wrote The Peacemaking Church to add a proactive, stay-out-of-trouble resource to the Baker suite of books currently addressing reactive strategies for dealing with conflict.

I ask this question right up front: What if the best fight your church ever has is the one it never gets into in the first place? This approach needed addressing in a book like this.

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Three, there is now a tool to help. I appreciated every endorsement commending The Peacemaking Church, but Pastor Alfred Poirier, author of The Peacemaking Pastor, well distilled what I hoped would come across in the pages.

Out of the pain of church conflict comes a refreshingly biblical and practical guide for building peace, resolving conflict, and preserving unity in the body of Christ. 

Biblical and practical sum up my hopes for The Peacemaking Church. I wrote it to root church leaders and followers alike in the Scriptures and to equip them with tools which will help make them heavyweight champions of peace and unity in their churches.

Copies are available for preorder here and for bulk discounts for ministries here. Thanks for helping me get the word out by sharing with others as led!