PEACEMAKING PERSPECTIVE AFTER 15 YEARS OF SHEPHERDING

Twelve Lessons for Cultivating a Culture of Peace in a Church

Farewell Cake

Only minutes remain on my watch as lead pastor of Orlando Grace Church. One learns a lot over the course of fifteen years in the ministry trenches.

It seemed fitting that my last blog post in this role would focus on some of the biggest takeaways I have gained about cultivating a culture of peace in the local church.

Here are twelve.

One, preserving unity must top the list of priorities for every member (Eph. 4:1-3).

Two, how we think about God determines much of how eager we are to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:4-6).

Three, overlooking offenses (Prov. 19:11) whenever possible manifests the love of Christ and serves the cause of charitable judgments (1 Cor. 13:7) among a deeply flawed people.

Four, the Four G’s are worth their weight in gold for equipping God’s people with a rubric for doing peacemaking (Matt. 7:1-6).

Five, unchecked anger (James 1:19-20) poses perhaps the most formidable obstacle in doing the work of peacemaking that earns the Lord’s blessing (Matt. 5:9). Deal with it.

Six, legalistic judging of others over matters of conscience poses yet another significant obstacle to doing peacemaking (Rom. 15:1-7). Stay off the throne and let God be the judge.

Seven, asking a question like “Can you help me understand?” or “What was going on there?” rather than making a judgment often reveals breakdowns in communication vs. malicious intentions (Prov. 20:5). Ask before drawing conclusions.

Eight, pastors must model the virtues of peacemaking trusting in God’s sovereignty and power alone to work in the hearts of those with whom he must engage in conflict (2 Tim. 2:24-26).

Nine, magnanimity as a character strength intercepts relational disasters before they ever happen by refusing to press rights and deferring to others trusting in God’s care (Gen. 13:1-18).

Ten, followers in the church have a serious responsibility to esteem and respect their leaders given the nature of the strategic pastoral care work they do in their lives (1 Thess. 5:12-13).

Eleven, prolonged unity within a church is such an extraordinary gift it is worth preaching and singing about when enjoyed by God’s people (Psalm 133).

Twelve, sometimes no matter how hard you try, every effort at peacemaking can fall short of restoration of ministry partnership even if it results in personal reconciliation (Acts 15:36-41).

On a personal note, this 12th reality constitutes some of my greatest regrets as a flawed pastor. I have failed some folks terribly. It grieves me so. God have mercy.

I could say more. I’m no expert. I’m just trying to get it right as I move on to the next phase of my journey.

I love the people of OGC. I will miss them. They are in GOOD HANDS–Jesus first and foremost–and Jim and our fellow elders (not perfect but good) second.

I am a happy man and signing off as lead pastor at OGC–but not done with my race just yet, Lord willing.

SDG–PCBO

(Cake artistry by the incredibly gifted Michele Richert!)

FROM PEACEBREAKING TO PEACEMAKING

Eight Ways to Reshape a Church’s DNA

Fourteen years ago our church melted down in our last great church fight. When the dust settled, both vocational pastors had resigned, all the lay elders did the same, and half the deacons withdrew from office as well. It was ugly.

Make a change is your life,career,relationship concept

Since then we’ve worked hard to cultivate a culture of peace at OGC. If we can help it, we don’t ever want to go again to such a devastating place of disunity. We’ve worked hard over the years to cultivate a culture of peace eager to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3).

We don’t do everything perfectly, but we have made strides in this department. Here are eight things a church can do in an ongoing campaign to make peacemaking a priority.

One, stress peacemaking as one of the core values. Different churches emphasize different biblical facets in their ecclesiology. Don’t leave peacemaking on the cutting room floor.

Two, pray often and eagerly for the peace and purity of the church. Don’t take unity for granted. Ask God to protect the shalom of the assembly and keep it from strife.

Three, write peacemaking into the church documents. Include it in the bylaws, membership covenant, and new member class training. Kick things up an extra notch by adopting a relational commitments philosophy.

Four, stock peacemaking books in the resource center and/or church library. Ken Sande’s The Peacemaker, among others, is an absolute must for reading that equips people for peacemaking.

Five, train people with relational gifts and skills in the arts of conflict coaching and mediation. Peacemaker Ministries offers excellent seminars in both. Build a reconciling relationship team so the burden of assisted peacemaking falls on more servants than just the pastors.

Six, recite The Peacemaker Pledge whenever new members enter the church. Hammer away at the Four Gs whenever possible. Drill them into engaged couples as part of pre-marital counseling so they learn to resolve conflict in a God-honoring way.

Seven, feature Resolving Everyday Conflict seminar offerings in the Christian Ed and/or small group ministries. We offer this at least every three years as part of our Sunday AM equipping class curriculum. Easy to do and highly effective in saturating folks with key biblical content in this crucial area.

Eight, cast vision for peacemaking excellence from the pulpit. I do this every year on the anniversary of our last church fight. I divert from the ongoing sermon series for that one Sunday and preach a peacemaking passage. Tomorrow I’ll take the congregation to Philemon with a look at Paul’s masterful mediation efforts to help reconcile a slave and his master.

The writer of Hebrews exhorts: Strive for peace with everyone (Heb. 12:14). The verb gets translated a variety of ways–make every effort, pursue, work at, follow after.

No matter how you cut it, shaping a church from peacebreaking to peacemaking requires intentional, strategic, and whatever-it-takes change over time. Remember. Change nothing and nothing will change.

What additional things does your church do to cultivate a culture of peace? I invite your comment below!