|Bringing Peacemaking To Your Church
by Chip Zimmer, Director of International MinistriesThe local church is God’s primary vehicle for peacemaking. As someone once said, “The local church is God’s Plan A for peacemaking. There is no Plan B.”
Do you have difficulty believing this? Consider 1 Corinthians 6:1-8. In these verses, the Apostle Paul states that the church is the forum for resolving disputes between believers, adding that it would be better to be wronged or cheated than to take another Christian to court. Yet, sadly, the Church often fails to play its assigned role–sometimes through ignorance, sometimes because it is not sure how, and sometimes out of disobedience.
So, how do we help the local church assume its peacemaking role? Churches, like other organizations, can be slow to change and resistant to new ideas. Frequently, the critical element in helping the church is helping the pastor or other church leaders catch the peacemaking vision.
Sometimes, leaders just have not focused on what the Scriptures say about responding biblically to conflict. In such circumstances, humbly approaching a pastor or church leader and sharing such passages as 1 Corinthians 6 may be enough to get things moving. The Peacemaker Ministries website also is a good source of short, practical articles that can stimulate a leader’s thinking.
Many times, however, leaders know the Bible’s peacemaking commands, but have not given much thought regarding how they might be effectively implemented. Sharing an essay from our website, such as Transforming Your Church: Cultivating A Culture Of Peace, with a pastor or church leader can provide a road map that brings peacemaking to the center of what the church is all about.
You may encounter difficulties as you raise awareness regarding the church’s peacemaking opportunities and responsibilities. Don’t be discouraged. Church leaders are often overwhelmed with burdens and it may take some time before the call to peacemaking is heard.
Look for ways you might help with the burdens your leaders carry. You might offer to teach a class on biblical peacemaking, or prepare materials that a leader could use to teach such a class. Our website contains many resources that you can use at no charge. For example, you could download and share an article that is pertinent to circumstances in your church. If your church has a newsletter, you might seek permission to write a short article on peacemaking, or request permission from Peacemaker Ministries to adapt one of our articles for use.
Sometimes, the personal experience of conflict brings home the need for peacemaking. The church may experience internal divisions between members, or church leadership may find itself divided over an important question. Families in the congregation may struggle with unresolved conflicts that lead to separation or divorce. Whatever shape such problems take, God uses difficulties to remind us of our need to rely on him and obey his commands. A crisis can be a catalyst for beginning to think more biblically about how to respond to conflicts.
Your own life must be an example of what it means to live as a peacemaker. This does not mean that you are free of conflicts, but you should be committed to responding biblically to the conflicts that come your way. Above all, be in prayer as you seek opportunities to bring peacemaking to your church. Remember, it is the Holy Spirit who opens eyes and changes hearts.