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?

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?

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.

315091_PeacemakingChurchHeffelfinger_posts4

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!

HOW TO STOP DISCORD IN ITS TRACKS

Three Steps for Preserving Peace When Your Feelings Get Hurt

beauty girl cry

They inevitably do, don’t they? We all stumble in many ways (James 3:2) and quite often we and people we care about in the body of Christ get hurt in the process.

Anticipating this challenge for His church, Jesus prescribed just what to do when offenses threaten unity between brothers and sisters.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (Matt. 18:15).

In the rest of the context (Matt. 18:16-20), the Lord explains how to proceed if your brother fails to listen, but that’s another post or two for another time.

In this post I want to camp out on the all-important starting place for stopping discord in its tracks as spelled out in v. 15. I see three simple steps in this one verse.

First, go to the person. If your brother sins against you, go. Take initiative. If you can’t overlook the offense (Prov. 19:11), assume responsibility for your feelings and reach out.

Too often we stuff or brood over hurt feelings to our own emotional detriment and the detriment of relationships. Paul fleshed out the law of love in such cases this way: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Rom. 12:18).

Two, speak with the person. Tell him his fault. Sit down (face-to-face is best) and get honest about what has happened–or what you think has happened.

More times than not offenses boil down to misunderstandings. Never underestimate the possibility for communication to break down.

I try to always lead with questions at the outset of a peacemaking confrontation. They will sound something like this: “You know that situation/conversation/email/etc. a while back? What was going on there? I might be missing something–can you help me understand?”

Just before I stepped down from my church last summer, a misunderstanding with one of our elders reinforced for me the wisdom of this kind of approach. I took offense at him hijacking the leadership of my last Sunday AM prayer meeting with our intercessory team.

Turns out he didn’t hijack anything. After I cooled off and remembered the importance of practicing what I preach, I went to him after the service in just the manner described above.

He explained that he had done what he thought that week’s office email requested of him. It made perfect sense! I laughed and we went away reconciled. But I could have made a nightmare mess of our relationship had I failed to engage him for clarification or confronted him in anger.

Three, care for the person. Between you and him alone. Guard confidentiality. Refuse gossip. Blabbing about your pain from another’s words or actions may likely slander them and sow discord among brothers–an abomination among the things God hates (Prov. 6:16-19).

Deidra Riggs, in her book One: Unity in a Divided World, calls confrontation a gift God extends to us:

God desires oneness and unity for us. When we hold grudges and add people to our unappealing short lists, we invite division and disunity. One way to stop discord in its tracks is to bring it out into the open, set it down on the table between you and the other person, and talk about it face-to-face. … We can take courses, read books, and listen to podcasts, which give us specific techniques for dealing with confrontation, but I’ve found the very best instruction right in the pages of God’s word” (14).

Well said, sister, and thanks for the insight and exhortation.

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!)

PEACE IN MARRIAGE

How Two Made One Stay One
Anniversary
Jan and I recently observed our first anniversary. We celebrated the many ways God has been good to us—not the least of which is the unity we enjoy as husband and wife.

How does a couple made one in marriage stay one over time? Consider these keys for maintaining marital harmony.

One, make oneness a priority (Eph. 4:3). Gospel-shaped people do their best to preserve unity in relationships.

Before Jan and I make any significant decision, we ask one another how it will impact our relationship’s oneness. We decide together.

Two, count oneness a gift (Psalm 133). Don’t take it for granted. Recognize it as a blessing from God. Thank him often for it!

Three, consider oneness a stewardship (1 Cor. 4:2). I use the term “stewardship” often. As a concept, it helps orient me to my various responsibilities. A steward protects and manages the affairs and possessions of another.

In marriage, that involves several things.

First, I pray for our oneness. Jesus modeled this in the way he interceded for his people (John 17:21).

Second, I work for our oneness. Nothing matters more here than watching out for Jan’s interests, not just my own. Philippians 2:3-4 constrains me:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Let me tell a story on myself (with my wife’s permission of course).

Last Christmas Jan shared with me her desire to have two of her kids and their children over to decorate our tree. It happened to fall on a Saturday—down time for me.

Rather than welcoming the idea, I pushed back. Given the sometimes-exhausting demands of pastoral ministry, I described even extended family involvement as “debit time,” not “credit time.”

In the middle of the conversation, my dear wife suddenly burst into tears, her hand-clasped head collapsing into her lap.

Please understand—Jan gets my need to back off periodically from people-time to refuel. She is dialed in to my interests and needs.

But at that moment last December, God convicted me of a dismal lack of concern for her interests.

She cares deeply about stewarding effectively her relationships with extended family. God has used her to show me some of my deficiencies in this area.

I pledged to regard any further opportunities with both sides of the family as credit-time only. In fact, we plan on coloring eggs this Saturday with one of our grandsons.

How does change like this happen? How can an inherently selfish man like me pray and work for oneness in marriage?

I believe for our oneness.

Believe what? Knowing that only God can transform my patterns in marriage, I trust anew in his power working in me through the gospel of Jesus (Phil. 2:5-11).

The gospel alone empowers two made one to remain one, anniversary after anniversary.

Question: What means do you employ to promote marital oneness?

THE PEACEMAKING CHURCH

An Update on a Book Long in Coming

Heffelfinger_ThePeacemakingChurch.indd

I submitted to Baker Publishing Group a proposal for writing a book way back at the end of 2014.

Much to my delight they accepted and fixed a date for submission.

Then the wheels came off with Nancy’s cancer fight and my jaw surgeries.

My editor graciously granted one delay after another.

In September of last year, I finally turned in a draft manuscript.

After Baker ran me through the editorial meat grinder (thankfully), I labored over a revision. It passed muster with the publisher in December 2017.

Today I learned from the marketing department that Baker posted a page on their website about the book with links to Amazon and other vendors. You can access it here.

I love the cover they designed. Ken Sande of RW360 wrote me a more-favorable-than-I-dared-imagine foreword. Thank you, brother!

The subtitle differs from my suggested version: The Best Fight Is the One Your Church Never Has. But what do I know? When you’re a rookie, you gladly defer to the pros.

The process begins now for seeking endorsements. That’s a big deal, since I’m a small potatoes pastor in Florida. But God knows how He may use the effort.

Baker tells me they plan to publish this November. Watch for further updates, if you are at all interested. I’ll keep you posted.

I am so grateful for God’s grace to get this done. Thanks to so many who have cheered me along the road to publication.

WHEN A KISS ISN’T JUST A KISS

How Greeting with a Holy Kiss Promotes Unity in the Church

holy kiss

I love how the apostle Paul closes out his second letter to the Corinthians. “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (2 Cor. 13:12).

My aim in this post and others to follow is to show how taking this command seriously can serve to guard oneness in your church.

What is a holy kiss? The adjective tips us off that he means nothing sensual at all. Yet it still involves physical contact. This gesture promotes spiritual purposes, not amorous ones.

In the ancient world, among the Jews and other cultures, even in parts of the world today, people greeted each other, normally males with males and females with females, by a light touch of the lips, first on one cheek and then on the other.

The early church adopted the same, often after baptisms as a way of welcoming new converts into the church and during communion to welcome repentant folks who returned to the table.

We find this same exhortation in several other places in the New Testament (see Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 1 Thess. 5:26; and 1 Pet. 5:14 where Peter calls it the kiss of love).

This mattered.Why does Paul close his letter on this note, other than the familiar benediction in 2 Cor. 13:14? What would possess him to direct them to make sure they engage in such an intimate, personal expression of love toward one another as a holy kiss at the close of things?

It has everything to do with the kinds of issues he addresses in this most personal letter he has just written to them. The Corinthian church experienced trouble on multiple fronts. They suffered division in their ranks (2 Cor. 12:20), corrupt teaching from false apostles (2 Cor. 11:4), grave sin that needed discipline and restoration (2 Cor. 2:5-8), among other things.

So writing both to address these things and to defend his apostleship which had come into question, Paul now wraps up the letter to put a summary recap on everything he has said.

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

He reveals his pastoral heart in love. Notice he calls them brothers (all inclusive, men and women). That’s important, as a term of endearment, because the immediate context, shows Paul delivering a scorching rebuke, threatening apostolic severity (2 Cor. 13:10) when he comes, if they don’t shape up.

He doesn’t want to leave that kind of sour taste in their mouths. Note well, reproof delivered with hard words may well have longer lasting effects when followed by strong assurances of love and affection.

Never lower the boom on anyone, especially in the body of Christ, without strong reminders of your affection and commitment to that someone.

I think Paul calls for the kiss of love in the end result of his letter so that they won’t peace-fake. I suppose you can come up to somebody you would really rather not have anything to do with and fake such a thing, but don’t call it holy. And it’s really hard to do!

To engage somebody on that level of intimacy where you will go cheek to cheek, normally means you’ve got no impediments blocking your relationship. Having to do this kind of thing in a fellowship of believers can help ensure that peacemaking, not peace-faking or peace-breaking, actually does go on.

In my next post I will head into v. 11 to help us embrace the practice of greeting one another with a holy kiss in ways culturally appropriate in our day and age.

GUARDIANS OF UNITY SET A GUARD WHERE IT COUNTS MOST

Five Guidelines for Controlling the Tongue to Safeguard Church Unity

Few things stand to jeopardize our churches’ treasured oneness than our own runaway tongues. Thus the poet of sacred text prays, Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips (Psalm 141:3)!

words

They most certainly do. Anyone aspiring to a do-your-best standard of peacemaking in his church will embrace these five principles from Scripture which can effectively set a guard over our tongues and govern our words:

One, respect them accordingly. Since Prov. 18:21 is true–Death and life are in the power of the tongue, treat your words with enormous respect. They can do great good. They can do enormous harm. At our Idaho place, I keep a variety of weapons–largely for hunting purposes. For obvious reasons, they command my complete respect every time I handle them. Treat your words with the same reverence.

Two, suspect them ruthlessly. James 3:8 warns, No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. Read the rest of the chapter for more plain talk about the Mission Impossible that is controlling our words. That reality should sober us. Assume the worst about your speech right out of the gate. It will help check your words constructively before you let them fly.

Three, limit them considerably. The wisdom writer helps us again. When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent (Prov. 10:19). Remember this rule of thumb–or should I say tongue?: the greater the number of words we speak, the greater the potential for sins we commit. James gets this too. Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger (James 1:19). Perhaps overused but nonetheless true: God gave us two ears and just one mouth for a reason.

Four, choose them strategically. This can mean a lot of things. At the very least consider these guidelines. Always speak the truth, but do it in love (Eph. 4:15). Ask yourself before you speak, Will this build up and give grace or corrupt and tear down (Eph. 4:29). While never lacking graciousness in your word choices, recognize that love at times dictates sanctified sternness. We see this all over Paul’s letters. While reading one of them recently, I was struck by his counsel to a pastor on Crete to rebuke them sharply (Titus 1:13). Their nasty habits required tough love for their own salvation good.

Five, keep them confidentially. Among the seven things God hates (Prov. 6:16-19), Solomon lists last, one who sows discord among brothers. Alexander Strauch does not overstate the case when he writes:

Gossip, or talebearing, is one of the common sins of discord. . . . Like a dreadful, contagious disease, it poisons people’s minds and creates chaos and misinformation. it is an ugly vice that drives people apart and destroys peace (If You Bite & Devour One Another, 71).

Keep confidences religiously!

The Psalmist sets us the example. Pray often for the Lord to act as guardian of your tongue and watchman over your words. Pray the same for the rest of the people in your congregation. Set a guard where it matters most, my dear fellow guardian of your church’s  peace.

Question: What other texts have helped you in your attempts to tame your tongue? You can leave your comment here.

WHY NOT A UNITY CHARTER?

A Proposed Document for Churches Serious about Preserving Peace

Ephesians 4:3 remains the anchor verse for my blog site–eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Nothing short of our very best efforts in safeguarding unity in our congregations will suffice, if we seriously embrace the thrust behind that word eager. I plan on devoting an entire chapter to the idea in my book, The Peacemaking Church.

woman is filling document on glass table, shallow depth of field
The thought occurred to me recently, Why not fashion a church charter to foster unity’s preservation? Plenty of organizations use charters of one kind or another to shape a desired culture. Surely the church can do the same on something this crucial to her well being.

I crafted mine by making an acronym out of the word unity. Imagine posting something like this around your facility, incorporating its content in your bylaws, and/or teaching through it as part of the membership class.

OUR CHURCH’S UNITY CHARTER

We Use Means Big and Small to Maintain Unity–from potentially hosting a RW360 weekend conference to simply stocking our resource center with copies of Resolving Everyday Conflict, we put into play multiple options designed to help us keep our congregation’s culture of peace strong.

We Need Love First and Last to Maintain Unity–of all the virtues generated by the gospel’s power in our lives, we acknowledge none matters more than what Paul calls in 1 Cor. 13 the greatest–love. We measure every value, word, and action in terms of its conformity or lack thereof to the question: Is it loving?

We Imitate Models Divine and Human to Maintain Unity–as Paul appealed to the selfless example of Jesus in Phil. 2:5-11 for a mindset that looks out not only for our own interests, but also for the interest of others, we meditate often on our Lord’s incarnation for motivation in safeguarding unity. We resist objecting to such a standard as impossibly high realizing that Phil. 2:19-30 present two other “normal” individuals–Timothy and Epaphroditus–who excelled at meeting the challenge.

We Train Servants Clergy and Lay to Maintain Unity–so as to equip the saints for peacemaking excellence, we arrange for offering regular teaching on the subject using the various models provided by Peacemakers Ministries. Every pastor undergoes conflict coaching and mediation training to provide the necessary tools for handling disturbances which threaten unity in the church.

We Yield Preferences Left and Right to Maintain Unity–whether pertaining to styles of worship music or matters of conscience over which only Jesus should judge (Rom. 14:1-12) and everything in between, we rely on the gospel’s power to defer to others wherever and whenever  we possibly can. It is our joy to lay down rights with the Spirit’s help in the name of safeguarding our treasured unity.

Now I ask you: what difference might it make if your church and mine adopted such a charter for preserving unity? Your church might word things differently. Who cares?

As long as our commitments come from the Scriptures and ultimately serve the endgame–eagerly preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace–spelling out our high value of unity and the ends to which we will go to protect it can only enhance our prospects for heading off conflict before it ever happens.

Question: How might you tweak a charter of unity for your church, if you had opportunity to participate in such a stewardship? You can leave a comment here.