Peacemaking in the Church and Beyond - Lesson 2

The Gospel of Sin Management

In this lesson, you will explore the growth and crisis in the global church, particularly focusing on the church's rapid expansion in Africa and the accompanying problems such as tribal wars, ethnic clashes, and gender oppression. You will learn about the tragic story of Rwanda, where the church grew at an incredible rate but also faced an appalling genocide. The lesson delves into the historical background of the Rwandan crisis, discussing the role of missionaries and the church's failure to address seeds of unrest and ethnic tensions. You will examine various church crises around the world and consider the need for a better understanding of the gospel, moving beyond the Gospel of sin management. By studying Paul's view of redemption in Colossians and embracing the four-chapter gospel of creation, fall, redemption, and reconciliation, you will discover the church's role as a community of reconciled people, embodying and representing God's reconciling work in the world.

Rick Sessoms
Peacemaking in the Church and Beyond
Lesson 2
Watching Now
The Gospel of Sin Management

Lesson: The Gospel of Sin Management

I. The Growing Church and Its Problems

A. Church growth in Africa and the global shift

B. Tribal wars, ethnic clashes, and gender oppression

C. The tragic story of Rwanda

II. Historical Background of the Rwandan Crisis

A. Missionaries and the Christian kingdom in Africa

B. Seeds of unrest and the church's role

C. Ethnic tensions and the 1994 genocide

III. The Church in Crisis and the Gospel

A. Examples of church crises around the world

B. The need for a better understanding of the gospel

C. The Gospel of sin management

IV. The Four-Chapter Gospel and Reconciliation

A. Paul's view of redemption in Colossians

B. The four chapters: creation, fall, redemption, and reconciliation

C. The church as a community of reconciled people

Class Resources
  • Learn about the crucial role of leadership in conflict resolution, explore the various types of conflicts in the church, and understand the importance of building a peacemaking culture to prevent and address conflicts effectively.
  • In this lesson, you gain insights into the growth and crisis of the global church, with a focus on Africa, and learn about the tragic Rwandan genocide. You will examine the historical background of these crises, the church's role in addressing them, and the need to move beyond the Gospel of sin management. Embracing the four-chapter gospel, you will understand the church's responsibility as a community of reconciled people, embodying God's reconciling work in the world.
  • You will gain insights into the gospel and its applicability to everyday life, as well as its impact on society, including bringing reconciliation and creating heaven on Earth. The discussion acknowledges the difficulties of living out the gospel in society and the tension between living in the world and living for the gospel.
  • In this lesson, you'll gain insight into the sparks that ignite conflict in the church, understand how conflicts can escalate, and discover the importance of developing peacemaking skills and fully embracing the gospel to foster unity and resolve conflicts.
  • You will learn about conflict culture in the church, which is an inherited culture for resolving conflict shaped by visible and invisible elements and assumptions and values that drive conditioned responses, and how recognizing and addressing it can lead to healthy conflict resolution.
  • This lesson explores how pastors and church leaders address people-pleasing cultures, examining the attitudes and actions of laissez-faire, controlling, and peacemaking leaders, and discussing the role of the church in promoting peacemaking, involving others, and establishing support systems.
  • Crafting a culture of peace requires three building blocks: having a passion for the gospel, unified leadership that exhibits a shepherd's heart to protect and guide, and embracing a peacemaking theology. By focusing on these building blocks, we can create a harmonious society that avoids the slippery slope towards violence.
  • This lesson highlights the significance of unified leadership within the church, demonstrating how effective leadership can help overcome crises and conflicts. By examining factors that contribute to unity and disunity among leaders, you will gain insight into the importance of addressing issues such as control, communication, differing gifts, competition, and qualifications in order to maintain a cohesive and gospel-centered leadership team.
  • You will gain insight into the importance of preparation and certain characteristics that need to be in place before conflict in order to build a united leadership team, using an analogy of running a marathon.
  • This lesson provides insights on understanding conflict and developing a peacemaking theology, teaching you how to respond biblically and create an approach that honors God and benefits those involved in the conflict.
  • You will learn practical steps to overcome conflict by reflecting the glory of God, responding with humility and grace, prioritizing unity over self-interest, speaking the truth in love, and pursuing forgiveness and reconciliation.
  • By learning practical peacemaking tools and focusing on communication, you'll enhance your ability to resolve conflicts by mastering responsible listening and speaking, enabling you to better understand others and communicate your message more effectively.
  • You will learn about the importance of listening as a spiritual practice to connect with God and others, and how being open and attentive to God's voice through listening can lead to greater awareness of His presence and deeper relationships with Him and others.
  • Gain insights into the barriers to good listening, the 600 word gap between listening capacity and speaking rate, and the objectives of responsible listening to improve communication and build trust in relationships.
  • In this lesson, you learn about the vital role of responsible speaking and listening in conflict resolution and how taking responsibility for understanding others and being understood can improve the chances of successful outcomes, along with strategies to enhance communication.
  • Learn to manage the Grapevine, an informal communication network, and understand the roles of Centrals and Peripherals in sharing information, as well as conflict mediation techniques and the importance of acknowledging and accommodating uneven tables in disputes.
  • This lesson highlights the crucial role of peacemaking beyond the church, touching on the history of American evangelicalism, race relations, and the inspiring story of Koinonia Farm, which exemplifies the importance of fostering reconciliation in a divided world.

How conflict and leadership intersect..

Dr. Rick Sessoms
Peacemaking in the Church and Beyond
The Gospel of Sin Management
Lesson Transcript

[00:00:01] I guess the question is, where have we gone wrong? Where is the church going wrong? And I want to propose to you that we begin our search a little further from home. The church today is growing at historic rates. You probably know this in Africa. Church is growing like wildfire. Tim spent many years in Africa. He could talk about that in detail for us as he was in three countries there for 20 years almost. This growth in Africa is part of a larger shift in the global epicenter of global Christianity. It's in other words, it's shifting from the north to the south, from the western world to the majority world, as we call it in in society. But the question is, how do we explain this phenomenal growth of the church? When in those same areas of the world there are tribal wars, there are ethnic clashes, there is gender oppression and even genocide among Christians and between Christians in these regions of the world. When God has called his new creation to be reconciled us to be agents of reconciliation, how is it that followers of Jesus were the church is growing the fastest today, are also acting out with such hatred? And anger toward one another. One of the well-known stories in From Africa is the tragic story of Rwanda. I probably don't have to repeat that story for any of you, but just as a background, a population census in 1991. Showed that Rwanda was 89%. Christian 89%. Three years later, in 1994, more than 1 million people were brutally massacred in that nation. Often inside church buildings and in many cases with the willing participation of pastors. Now, what is less well known is the back story. And so I want to share that with you.

[00:02:23] More specifically, the history of Christian mission that contributed to the horrible unfolding of events in Rwanda. The first white missionaries in Rwanda arrived in 1901. They came with a specific mission of creating, quote, a Christian kingdom in the heart of Africa. Unquote, in the next 40 years, the missionaries made enormous progress. By 1941, 40 years, the King of Rwanda, the king was baptized. Shortly thereafter, all the chiefs and influential leaders followed suit, making Rwanda the image of a fulfilled dream. In 1930s, revival broke out, setting a setting other surrounding African countries on fire with the gospel. Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi still celebrate the fruit of that mighty revival that began in Rwanda and in the 1930s. But trouble was brewing. When the missionaries first arrived in Rwanda, they found a nation with three groups of people. The Hutus, the Tutsis and the tois. Power at that point was in the hands of the Tutsi monarchy. Even from these early beginnings of the church in Rwanda, there were already seeds of unrest in relationships among the three groups. Abuse of power, negative stereotypes neglect the poor. But rather than confronting these injustices, the missionaries largely ignored them. And even built upon the existing power structures when it was to their advantage. They favored the ruling Tutsis over the other two groups. The gospel they presented did not address the abuses and the injustice, and with few exceptions, their mission focus was exclusively on the need for personal salvation from individual sin. Following this Now, over the next decade, bitterness festered among the Hutus and the wars against the ruling Tutsis. Eventually anger heated to a boil. Between 1959 and 1963, the region was rocked by a bloody ethnic cleansing that forced many of the Tutsis into exile.

[00:04:57] And those very same roads that had been trek by the first missionary 60 years before that were now trodden with Tutsis fleeing for their lives. In the years that followed, the church kept growing. But now she was working hand in hand with the government. Discriminatory policies were put in place and even supported by the churches. Ethnic tensions continued to grow, eventually culminating in the 1994 genocide in which a million Rwandans lost their lives. After the 94 genocide, the church in Rwanda was covered in shame. Many ask how could such a thing in this country happen that was almost 90% Christian. One amazing fact is that despite the horrible realities, Christianity is still growing in Rwanda. Just a few years after the genocide. A new census has showed that the Christian population now stands at 94%. So the question is, has anything changed? One Rwandan church leader, Antwan Ruud of your Serie in the Lausanne movement, recently said the answer is both yes and no. Yes, he said, because we now know the message that we should preach to heal the wounds of our nation. And no, because not many people are preaching it. Similar expressions of the church in crisis can be seen today in the mistreatment of Dalit believers in India. Sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The post-apartheid turmoil in west South Africa's Western Cape. Followers of Christ. Followers of Christ who harbor contempt. For each other. So the compelling question is, is something fundamental missing? And our communication of discipleship and Christ centered leadership. What can we do to recover our calling as ambassadors of reconciliation? Well, I believe that a critical, critical starting point in this discussion is to understand the problem, is to revisit the question, what is the gospel? What is it? Engineers at Nasser.

[00:07:33] Tell us that a one degree error in setting the trajectory of a spacecraft. For example, when aiming for the moon. A one degree error will cause the space vehicle to veer hundreds of miles off target. Small differences in degrees at the beginning of flight. Make for significantly different landing points in the end. Trajectory is all important. Now. I grew up in a church tradition that thought of and taught the message of reconciliation primarily as a way for human beings to get right with God. It was a vertical relationship. Now, clearly the emphasis of reconciliation was on my relationship with God between God and people. And my church, I think, is pretty typical. If you were to poll the members of a Bible believing church to describe the essential message of the gospel, what would they say? Most would describe the love of God. They would talk about the sinfulness of humankind. They would talk about the death and resurrection of Christ. And the offer of redemption. Does that sound familiar? Sounds pretty good. And that would be a correct answer. Almost. Only through digit. The trajectory is slightly off. But with potentially massive implications. Some years ago, a common evangelical understanding of the gospel was explained by Dallas Willard, and he said it has two main ideas the fall of humankind, the conventional way of explaining it. There are two main ideas the fall of humankind and the redemption of humankind. And Dallas Willard has coined this the Gospel of sin management. The fall of redemption and fall and redemption are essential aspects of the gospel, to be sure, we agree about that. But is this the whole gospel? Wolf, for certain, the Puritans, the reformers and Augustine himself said absolutely not. Unfortunately, though, this was essentially the message propagated and modeled by the Western missionaries in Rwanda that eventually led to Christians slaughtering each other.

[00:10:11] How then does our rockets trajectory, our message and our mission need to be adjusted? To have a better chance of landing where God intends. If the Gospel of Sin management gets us close. But is critically, critically off target. What needs to be adjusted? Let me propose to you that Paul writes to believers in Class A, what is perhaps the most incredible statement about Christ in all of Scripture? He points back to creation, and this is Colossians chapter one. He points back to creation by declaring that Jesus was there from the beginning. Before all things he says Christ was. Then he points to the future by declaring that Christ was the first to be of many to be resurrected in the air to come. In other words, the first born from among the dead. And because he was first born, he has supremacy over everything. That's what the text says. Then Paul wrote these incredible words through Christ. God has reconciled to himself. All things in heaven and on earth. What things? All things. The Hebrew idea of redemption from the beginning included all creation. More than simply the individual salvation of men and women. In the Book of Genesis, we read that God created everything good, all creation. When Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit sin introduced to the world and creation suffered its deadly effects, all creation suffered. In a New Testament when the LAMB of God comes and and to give life. Paul's view of redemption, explained in Colossians, led him back to Christ's Lordship over all creation there in Colossians Chapter one. And moreover, someday all things will be reconciled to God through Christ the coming king. Now, that's an exciting message. But. But what? So what difference does it make? See, this explanation highlights the fact that the story of redemption has not just two chapters The Fall of man, the individual salvation of man.

[00:12:33] But the good news actually has four chapters. And this is important in the discussion of reconciliation. In the four chapters of the creation, the fall redemption, and eventually the reconciliation of everything that belongs to God. This four chapter view corrects a trajectory that is focused solely on sin management. It adjusts that correct trajectory to recognize that the gospel is inclusive in scope. It corrects the notion that evangelism is primary and everything else is secondary. It may help to know that in the Greek culture of New Testament times, reconciliation was not even a religious term. At all. It didn't refer to appeasing God, nor did it have anything to do with receiving the divine pardon for sins. Rather, it was a word that was drawn from the world of politics. It referred to dispute resolution. One would normally speak of the reconciliation of warring nations or in the sphere of personal relationships, the reconciliation of an estranged husband and wife, as Paul did in first Corinthians seven. So when Paul used that word, reconcile with God is the subject. That God was reconciling the world to himself. He is declaring that God has launched a dramatic new initiative to overcome human alienation and to establish new and peaceful relationships. God has unexpectedly taken the initiative to overcome our nation to Him and to restore peace people to peaceful relationships, not only with himself. But with one another. This is the corrected trajectory that really matters. This means then, that the church is now the community of reconciled people. Who are entrusted with the work of embodying and representing God's reconciling work in the world. This is this is the gospel of Christ. Now, the need for this hard work is painfully evident in our time. In the public sphere, the political process has become very ugly, as you know, especially in an election year.

[00:15:12] The media of our day feed on resentment and anger and the polarization of opinions. We are losing the art of civil discourse in our society. As opposing factions draw to their corners and hurl angry slogans at one another, especially this year. Unfortunately, this same tendency affects our church culture. For example, Christian believers in America in recent weeks have unfriended each other on Facebook. Due to the rising political tension in our nation. In this current atmosphere, it is crucial for the church to recover our role as reconciler. This reconciliation, mind you, is not silly tolerance. That's not what I'm talking about. It is not unprincipled compromise. It is not grounded in slick skills or in sociology. But rather the roots of reconciliation are in our story. The short version goes like this from now on. Therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view. So if anyone is in crisis there, there is a new creation. Everything old has passed away. See, everything has become new. All this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given you and me. The Ministry of Reconciliation. That is in Christ. God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors of Christ. Be reconciled to God. Second Corinthians Chapter five verses 16 to 20. True and abiding reconciliation comes from what we believe. And who we worship. Our common identity as God's people who participate in God's new creation. So when Paul described the Corinthians as ambassadors of reconciliation, he was referring not to an argument of the gospel, not as a supplement to the gospel, but he was referring to the essence of the gospel that redemption includes a return to the mandate that God gave at the very beginning, a right relationship with God and with each other.

[00:17:48] This view of the gospel reframes our role as followers of Christ. And so I have belabored this point in the beginning because it's so critical to catch because otherwise. Reconciliation is nice, but this is the core of our identity and our belonging to Jesus is we're not just simply getting people into heaven and pursuing personal holiness, but our calling is for the redemption of conscience, for the redemption of family, for the redemption of marriage, for help, for work, the redemption of leisure, of imagination, of ecology, of fashion, of worship, of language, of relationships. For God has created all of it. And He desires that all creation, again, more fully reflect who he is. And the practical implications of this are absolutely astounding. It implies that sexuality should not be avoided by Christians, but sanctified. Emotions should not be repressed, but purified. Politics should not be declared off limits, but reformed. Peacemaking cannot be forfeited only to those in power. But redeemed by Christ reconciling agents. We can see the negative impact and negative implications of living and proclaiming merely the gospel of sin management in Chinese problem in Indonesia. We follow that the Australian dilemma with Aborigines in their country, hostility toward Gypsies in Serbia. The race problems that plague the church in America, which will touch on toward the end of this course. The church has got a problem. And the most powerful solution to our problem. Is the gospel. Jesus shed his blood to bring peace. And you and I are his appointed agents. A reconciliation.


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