Peacemaking in the Church and Beyond - Lesson 1

Introduction to Peacemaking in the Church and Beyond

Introduction to the Course

Rick Sessoms
Peacemaking in the Church and Beyond
Lesson 1
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Introduction to Peacemaking in the Church and Beyond

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How conflict and leadership intersect.

Dr. Rick Sessoms
Peacemaking in the Church and Beyond
Introduction to Peacemaking in the Church and Beyond
Lesson Transcript

[00:00:00] On behalf of Freedom to Lead, our teaching team, and Biblical Training Board I want to welcome you to this course on leadership and peacemaking, entitled Peacemaking in the Church and Beyond. Every leader that I know has had to deal with conflict. Most of most of us face issues related to conflict regularly, even daily. And leadership matters when we deal with conflict, especially in the midst of conflict. When a church is faced with conflict, its very survival often depends on the quality of its leadership. If we lead well, our people can mature in faith and our ministries can grow. If we lead poorly, our people will suffer and our ministries can die. To put it simply, when it comes to conflict, as goes the leadership. So often goes the church. So in this course, we're going to deal about how conflict and leadership intersect. And that's a bit unusual in discussions about conflict resolution. Usually conflict resolution discussions are about how to deal with interpersonal conflict, and we're going to be dealing with that in general terms. But we want to go beyond that discussion and address what it means to be a peacemaking leader and what it means to build a peacemaking church culture. We want to equip you to lead your people well, not only in conflict, but to lead in ways that allow you to prevent many unnecessary conflicts in the church, to get upstream from conflict, if you will. Also to lead in the way that you equip your own leaders to be peacemakers so that so that they can avoid unnecessary conflicts in their lives. And when conflicts do arise, your people will be equipped to resolve most of them personally and privately, without having to involve the leadership in every occasion.

[00:02:16] Let me start with an image that is on the campus of Duke University and being here in the chapel here at Harold Hill Territory. I know that's a four letter word, but on the campus of Duke Divinity School stands this bronze rendition of the Luke 15 parable, and it's entitled Reconciliation. The sculptor Margaret Adams. Parker has brilliantly depicted the younger son kneeling next to his father. He's worn out. He's exhausted, but he's relieved. The gift of reconciliation with his father has been achieved. And good news of the good news of the gospel is evident. The hope for new life. And yet the frail father's attention is not focused on the younger son in the sculpture. But on the older son, a tall, strapping young man in boots and jeans, his arms crossed his face looking away. The father's arm is outstretched on the arms of the older brother. The older brother's body is tense. It's taut. It's not at all clear what will happen next. The day I visited Duke Divinity School, I was there for a series of days, a number of days, as we discussed global reconciliation together in their center for Reconciliation there. As you moved around this sculpture and as you move around the sculpture, you get the distinct perspectives of all three. But it's in these interrelations, it's in the relationship of one character to another that you can see both the gift of good news. And the task of brokenness that is not yet healed. So even as Jesus told this stories 21 centuries ago, this brokenness in the world and in the church still exists. There is reconciling work to be done. There's a faithful witness to the gospel to be lived. The church in the world, beyond the church are groaning today for reconciliation.

[00:04:32] If you've been in ministry for even for a while, you know that the church is regularly burned with conflict. Sometimes these conflicts smolder underneath the surface for years in the form of complaining and gossip. Backbiting, resentments, unforgiveness. We sort of smell the smoke. But we don't take the time to figure out what's really going on, what's burning. And so this underground fire can go on for a long time while burning like a fire, eating it at the roots of a tree, if you will. And then something comes along, some controversy, maybe even seemingly rather insignificant and small, but the tree topples over. These underground conflicts, these subtle things that oftentimes we don't take the time to get at the root of them can often damage a church deeply. The other kind of conflict that we see may start with a small spark, just a small little spark that seems to trigger it. But those small sparks can sabotage vital ministries and can even ship where at risk entire congregations. For example, one ministry church that supported my wife and me way back in 1978 when we were in seminary, they sent us a check every month. There was our rent check at the time. They went through a major split during our seminary days, and it all started with a water spigot. At the parsonage. This church parsonage was just across the street from the church, and the pastor or one of his children let the outside water spigot run. Just dribble. And it was affecting the church's water bill over time. And one of the deacons complained. The pastor didn't respond well to the deacons complaint, and feeling that the deacons complaint was an intrusion into his and his family's personal life. Pastor's response didn't sit well with some of the church members, and so others began to complain as well.

[00:06:51] This led to the pastor preaching regularly from the texts in Psalm 105 that says Touch not thine anointed. He publicly used the water spigot as an illustration. That God would judge those who criticize the pastor. Eventually factions formed into the controversy, Two months later erupted. One Sunday morning, the pastor on an out started the morning service by calling the church right then and there for a vote on his ministry. And not a vote by ballot. The church had three sections of pews. There was one on his left, one in the middle and one on the right. My wife and I were actually married in that church. He demanded that those four for him sit on the left or move to the left. Those against him to the right. And those neutral in the middle. The people reluctantly moved to signal their wishes. The pastor won by the slimmest of margins. As a result, hundreds of people left the church. We lost. Needless to say, our support, our rent check. And the pastor ended up resigning from the ministry, left the ministry altogether a few months later. Needless to say, this happened 34 years ago. And several weeks ago, my wife and I were back in that church. And sadly, the church has never recovered from that time. A water spigot. A small spark that left a scarred and scorched landscape. But this is unfortunately not unusual. We see in the church today that every month 1500 pastors in the U.S. quit due to conflict burnout or moral failure. Every day in the United States, 50 churches plummet and a major conflict. A study of Christianity and study that Christianity Today reported that 34% of all congregations have forced a pastor to resign due to conflict in our nation.

[00:09:09] That same study showed that 41% of the churches that forced out their pastors have done this to at least two previous pastors. And then finally, the seven major reasons for forced pastoral exits. In America. All seven, all seven involves some sort of conflict. Conflict kills. It kills. So the question is, why is this happening? And I just don't like to throw that open to the group tonight. Uh, after setting this sort of dismal stage, why is it happening? What's going on in the church that's causing this kind of, uh, devastation? And conflict.


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