GREAT CHURCH FIGHTS

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 Ithas been on the bookshelf for some time now–Victor Books, 1976, 118 pages.

conflictelk

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 Spiritand 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

Christmas Uncut

CU Cover.inddWhile surfing the web recently in search of Advent resources to use for our church, I stumbled across a little book with a provocative title. Christmas Uncut: What Really Happened and Why it Really Matters, by Carl Laferton (The Good Book Company, 2012, 64 pages), offers an unusual take on the Christmas story that engages, informs, and convicts on several levels.

Laferton cleverly and humorously launches the book and each chapter from a playful reminiscing of church-goers’ nativity pageant experiences to take the reader into an study of the gospels and a look at the real Christmas story, uncut as it were. His aim is to rescue the heart of the season’s message from what it has become. He explains:

When children act out the nativity, it doesn’t have much in common with the historical Christmas. Over time, we’ve cut huge, crucial bits out. We’ve added nice but completely made-up details. We’ve made it into a tale for children, and forgotten the real events. (Did you know that there were no kings or donkey?!)

We’ve turned Christmas history into a nativity play.

I don’t want to be a spoilsport. Nativity plays are part of the whole Christmas experience, along with desperate last-minute shopping and sending cards to people who you didn’t make the effort to see last year, and won’t make the effort to see next year. . . . It’s just that the real Christmas is much more interesting than what we’ve turned it into. It’s worth rescuing and re-telling. . . . What there was at the first Christmas was scandal. Controversy. Massacres. Mystery (p. 6).

In the brief chapters that follow, the author seeks to accomplish three things. First, correct misconceptions. By taking the reader through the biblical texts, he tells the real uncut story and sets the record straight. Second, make application. He skillfully spans the horizons between the first century and the 21st showing how the uncut details of the Christmas story can and should make a difference in our daily lives. Third, answer objections. Realizing that his book may well fall into the hands of skeptics and hoping, I suspect, that believers will put copies there, Laferton offers some “Yes, but” chapters at the end addressing answers to questions as to the authenticity of the gospels, the identity of Jesus, and the historicity of the resurrection.

I can see this resource serving multiple purposes in the Advent season. First, if you feel the need for a fresh look at the story of Christ’s incarnation to jump start your joy in God this Advent season, I believe this will help. Camp out in these pages throughout December, maybe a chapter every couple of days, and ask the Lord to revive your enthusiasm in Him as you read its pages.

Second, if you are the head of your household and want a tool you can use for family worship for you and your children, I think you will find this just the ticket. Kids will resonate with the artwork as well as the nativity play humor. Additionally, Lafteron writes in a straight forward, easy-to-understand style, that will communicate with just about everybody.

Third, if you have been building a relationship with someone who doesn’t know Jesus, you could give them this as a Christmas gift. Ask them to read it and discuss it with you. This may be Lafteron’s biggest contribution in writing Christmas Uncut. While the apologetic details of the final chapter only provide a minimum of ammunition for answering the skeptic’s questions, it will give you a starting place.

I read this little book in one sitting and found my heart all the more grateful for the tidings of great joy that lie at the heart of the Christmas story uncut. I trust you will too.

Resource Center Upgrade

I’ve been putting our summer intern, Jacob Yarborough, (What a HUGE blessing he has been to us!) through a variety of paces so he can experience the range of responsibilities that come with pastoral ministry.

Today I challenged him to write a blog post on our new facility’s version of the resource center, something I’ve wanted to blog about for a while now. I post it here today with a few tweaks of my own.

With the new building comes change in many ways.

One of the things that underwent a change was the Resource Center. Before it consisted of a small bookrack on a table in the hallway of the SDA, now we have four great shelving units with many titles on display smack dab in the middle of our gathering space/entry way.

The purpose of the Recourse Center is to be just that, a resource for the spiritual life and well being of the flock at OGC. Our staff selected these titles specifically with the our congregation in mind. This collection of books and booklets is meant to educate, encourage, and equip the people of OGC by giving them a reliable source for quality reads without the trouble of researching authors or titles. Many of these books will help to establish a Christ-centered worldview that will serve to shape our everyday lives.

Please make the effort to stop by the Resource Center Book area in the main lobby sometime soon. There are over 30 different titles on display from authors like: John Piper, J.I. Packer, Ted Tripp, Francis Chan, and Mark Dever. There is a price chart on one of the shelves to let you know what the cost of the books is as well as a collection box to place payment in for any book that you might want. The money made from book sales will go back into restocking the shelves with more great books.

Some new titles just added to the shelves are: Welcome to a Reformed Church by Daniel Hyde and What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? by Richard Phillips. Both of these books are especially helpful to members and regular attendees of OGC, not to say newcomers unfamiliar with our tradition, who might want to expand their understanding of what it means to be reformed.

In the future we will be featuring a resource of the month to draw attention to strategic books that change people’s lives. Watch the announcement slides and blog posts in the future for more information.

Reading quality spiritual books makes a difference in our lives. Why not pick up one of these excellent titles this Sunday and dive in at your first available reading opportunity?