Orlando Grace Church called me to lead a church restart following its latest church-wide conflict in 2002. Through that experience (I served as worship leader prior to taking over as pastor), we got acquainted with Peacemaker Ministries. Their services helped us considerably in putting the OGC train back on the track.
With Peacemaker’s help, I embarked on a personal pastoral mission. So far as it depended on me, I would do everything I could with God’s help to see that our church never again sunk to such terrible depths of division and despair.
I couldn’t get enough of every training practicum designed to equip me for the challenge. I determined to master what the Bible says, not just about how to resolve conflict to the glory of God when it happens, but moreover about how to safeguard the unity which the God of peace gives His church through His Son, the Prince of Peace.
Over a decade down the road now on this journey, OGC enjoys, by God’s grace and a great deal of informed effort on our part, a culture of peace. We have managed thus far to stay out of any more major troubled waters of conflict. We have seen the Lord weave into our DNA a passion for peace and a warrior-like preserving of the unity that makes us now a healthier-than-ever ministry. We have moved recently from a Nehemiah-like “rebuilding the walls season” of recovery to a Jeremiah-like “blessing the city” one of outreach. Arguably in the fourth quarter of my pastoral ministry career, likely shepherding the last of my churches with its unique peacemaking history, I now feel prepared to tell that story for the good of Christ’s church elsewhere.
Quality resources by capable authors exist about peacemaking in the church as a corrective measure. As necessary and helpful biblical guides to conflict resolution are when the wheels come off in unfortunate, always regrettable church fights, another question begs asking. How can God’s people stay out of those messes in the first place? What can churches, their leaders, and people do proactively to cultivate a culture of peace within the community? How may they limit their need for corrective measures by adopting strategic countermeasures for safeguarding unity?
Under the publishing banner of Baker Books, my book will aim in that preventative direction. A church that intentionally works hard—indeed aims for a do-the-best-it-can preserving peace ethic—more likely will enjoy the rewards of ongoing unity than one that fails to embrace this biblically-mandated priority. Without a doubt, churches must possess the necessary tools for redeeming church conflict when it erupts; how much better to stock the kit with preventative measures that keep the corrective items tucked away in the box for as long as possible, maybe even never to get used at all?
The Peacemaking Church proposes to ask this vital question: What perspectives, commitments, and skills must a church prize and master in order to make an A+ grade in cultivating a culture of peace for maintaining unity as a corporate priority? This book will seek to answer that question by showing from the Scriptures and the experience of one pastor and his church that learned how to do it the hard way.
How many churches might the Lord spare a similar fate as a result? What church member, who hemorrhaged through something like a church split, wouldn’t give just about anything to avoid ever having to endure that kind of agony again, if he and his church could possibly do something about it? I hope my book (release date November 2018) will make a difference to that end for church leaders and their people alike, as they learn to excel in guarding their unity over the long haul.