The Peacemaker Student Edition
New book for teens that provides a biblical framework for young people who want to handle conflict without fighting back or running away. $10.95 more info
|Upcoming Event Schedule:
• Aug 16 – Brooklyn, NY – Peacemaker Seminar
• Pre-Conference Events
** September 23-25, 2008 – Conflict Coaching & Mediation
** September 23-25, 2008 – Reconciling Church Conflict** September 23-25, 2008 – Certification Training
** September 23-25, 2008 – Teaching Peacemaking Cross-Culturally
** September 24-25, 2008 – Reconciling Marital Conflict• Oct 11- Woodville TX – Peacemaker Seminar • Oct 16-18- Cambridge, MA – Conflict Coaching and Mediation• Nov 2-4- Manhattan, KS – Peacemaker Seminar
• Nov 7-8- Billings, MT – Conflict Coaching
• Nov 15- Chatham, NJ – Conflict Coaching
• Jan 24, 2009- Sparta, WI – Peacemaker Seminar
• Mar 27-28, 2009- Akron, OH – Conflict Coaching
More information, registration, or complete listing of upcoming events
Deep and Wide: Building Relationships to Prevent Church Splits
By Thabiti Anyabwile, Featured Speaker at 2008 Peacemaker Conference
How many people do you know in your church? Of them, how many do you know well?
Even in small churches, the tendency often is to “count” the number of relationships one has by the number of people we “know,” that is, whose names we know or whose faces we recognize. We “know” them because we see them occasionally or we speak with them from time to time. We couldn’t tell you much about who their close friends are. We couldn’t tell you how they came to faith in Christ, what their home life was like growing up, or what their current spiritual victories or struggles are. If they serve in an obvious public way we could point that out, but we couldn’t talk intelligently about the ways that person needs to be served.
Okay… if you’re in this category of folks, and if there are others like this in your church, it’s time for you to start praying against a church split. A split may not be imminent but some of the conditions for one are present.
Every church split, by definition, involves people who are alienated in their affections toward one another. The splits occur when this alienation is hardened and seemingly intractable. But the roots of the split extend back to that time when everyone seemed to be getting along (meaning there were no obvious conflicts) but really didn’t know one another. That period is the calm before the storm. Introduce an offense, teach something that crosses someone’s pet sin or tender spot, and what appeared to be placid water begins to foam and roil until a major storm approaches the shores of the church.
As a pastor, I think it’s my duty to act while things are calm, to take a preventative step before these conditions for a split are aggravated. And, so far, I think one of the best antidotes to a split are wide, healthy, and spiritually encouraging relationships in the body.
We must relinquish our passive approach to friendships. That’s the bottom line. We’re too passive in cultivating meaningful affection for one another. We wait for the relationship to come to us. We don’t like the toil of getting to know others and opening ourselves up (much less prying into their lives) in a substantive, transparent way.
One correction to this is an active hospitality ministry. By hospitality, I mean the cultivation of a wide network of relationships in the church through any number of invitations, engagements, and entertainments. The emphasis here is on the wideness of the relationships, not the particular activity over which you build them. Some part of our people’s time must be given over to meeting as many fellow members as possible, especially members not like them (i.e., different age, social/economic class, family backgrounds, ethnicity).
We must teach our people to open up their lives by opening up their calendars and their homes. If our churches are going to be healthy enough to survive difficulties, then our people must have enough credit with one another—drawn from the tenderness of sharing meals and meaningful conversation—to trust and assume the best. And an active hospitality ministry in the body is one way of doing that.
Most churches I’ve belonged to have not had active discipleship efforts in place. Some people in “natural friendships” find time to encourage one another, pray together, or have regular accountability meetings. These tend to be some of the more mature members who find their way to each other. But the majority of people are not in that kind of relationship, at least not with members of their church. This makes it easy for us to “quit” on others because they’re not the source of nurture and love anyway. This is why some people can easily leave the church at the first sign of trouble and find a home in a church across town. Their hearts were already there with people that they loved more than their church family.
If hospitality builds wide relationships, then discipleship builds deeper ones. Is it too much to expect that every member of the church has at least two intentional, spiritually-focused relationships in the church: a relationship with someone more mature that is building into their lives and a relationship with someone as or less mature into whom they are building? And this, I would suggest, should be in addition to those relationships formed in small groups. So add two to the number of folks in your small group.
We will be healthier if we take some responsibility for one another’s spiritual lives. The membership is to be the frontline of spiritual care. If our affections lie with another country or just with our unit (i.e., small group) then our first line of defense against splits will be easily divided and run over. The enemy will establish key beach heads, take over key forts and bridges, and lay siege to the city.
Hospitality and discipleship require an active disposition to serve others by engaging them. It is being generous with your own self, giving yourself away to others. That tends to directly oppose the slow decay and passive approach to relationships in the church.
If we’re going to prevent church splits, we must be the kind of people who can take a hit without escalating the battle, who can diffuse issues in a godly way that actually strengthens relationships in the church. And we must all be models of what it means to actively, tenaciously, intentionally, and lovingly pursue deep and wide relationships in the body of Christ. At her core, the church is a mass of spiritual relationships—individuals to the Lord and to one another, forming something more than the sum of her parts, forming a body. Lose these relationships and we unravel the church.
Thabiti Anyabwile is a pastor and author with a contagious love for the church. (View his complete bio.) This article was adapted from a series on Thabiti’s blog, Pure Church, and is used by permission.
Today is Last Chance to Save on 2008 Conference Registration!
Did you appreciate Thabiti’s heart for the church in his article above? Then come to the 2008 Peacemaker Conference and hear more from him and the other featured speakers that share his love and passion for unity in the body of Christ.
The 2008 Conference centers on the theme, “The Power of a Peacemaking Church,” so mark your calendar and join us in Orlando, Florida on September 25-27 for the peacemaking event of the year! And bring a group to save even more—for every four people you bring, the fifth is free!
Prices go up for good on August 16, so register soon to get the best rate.
Early Registration Ending for Pre-Conference Training Events
Whether you are a seasoned conciliator or new to biblical peacemaking, there are a wide variety of events in the days just before the Peacemaker Conference that will give you the training you need. So come a little early (September 23-25) and maximize your conference experience by attending one of these pre-conference training events:
- Conflict Coaching Training (1.5 days)
- Conflict Coaching & Mediation Training (3 days)
- Reconciling Marital Conflict (2 days)
- Reconciling Church Conflict (3 days)
- Teaching Peacemaking Cross-Culturally (3 days)
- Certification Course (3 days)
For details, prices, prerequisites, and registration information for each event, please see the pre-conference web page at www.peacemaker.net/preconference. Early registration ends August 15.
Special “eNews” Discount on Small Group Study
There are many great reasons for your small group to go through the Peacemaker Ministries’ Small Group Study this fall, but here’s one more: save $10 on each set! The Small Group Study is an ideal means to help deepen relationships within your church and to learn and apply the practical principles of biblical peacemaking.
And now, for a limited time, we are offering a discount just for eNews readers—use the coupon code SGS10E and save $10 on each small group set you purchase. You may order the Small Group Study through our online bookstore or by calling 800-711-7118.
(Offer valid through 8/31/08)
Traffic Report on Route 5:9
Have you visited the Peacemaker Ministries blog—Route 5:9—recently? Route 5:9 seeks to reflect on the journey of peacemaking—what it means to live out Matthew 5:9—”Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” There are many conversations going on there, so be sure to stop by and check it out. Here are a couple of examples of recent topics: