|True Stories: Why Stir up Old Issues?
Resolving Everyday Conflict
Small group Bible study that’s perfect for use in the church or workplace. Ideal for Sunday school classes, membership classes, mission teams, or neighborhood Bible studies—any group that wants to learn, discuss, and apply the principles of biblical peacemaking together.
Church Price: $199.00
Our family moved to this church planting situation ready for a new situation and ministry. The boys were ready for a larger high school, my wife was ready for a change, and I was ready for a challenge.The church had been meeting for two years. The congregation was still grieving their former pastor, who had gone to the mission field. I soon learned that this town played hardball when dealing with conflict and that culture affected the churches: the previous year, 25% of the churches had split.
And then I heard that the church I was pastoring had started from a church split.
Upon investigating, I found that a neighboring church had gone through a severe crisis two and a half years ago. Because of that crisis, four families withdrew and began meeting in a home. They eventually founded the church I was pastoring. Then five months before I came, our church had a split and three of the original four families left. Something in this situation was begging for healing, but where to start?
I don’t mind Christians leaving a church because God has led them to another church. But when Christians complain to the community about their former church, the enemy gets an easy victory. I decided this would be our starting point. I went to the new pastor of the neighboring church and asked if we could make an apology to his church for the divisive behavior of the past. He didn’t want to stir up old issues, but finally graciously gave us permission to speak to his people.
Then I went to the leaders of our church and presented the problem and opportunity. They didn’t want to stir up old issues either, but eventually agreed to write an apology that we could read at the other church. One of the leaders wrote the apology by consulting with each leader, and that document served as a point of agreement for all the leaders of our church.
For several weeks the other pastor and I communicated with our two churches, preparing them for what we would do. The Sunday finally arrived. Our leaders and I went to the neighboring church at the beginning of their service. The pastor acknowledged us and I went to the front. As I read the statement, several people in the church wiped tears away.
Then the pastor asked each of our leaders to say something. In humility they each spoke of their desire for working in unity and not bitterness. Then the pastor graciously praised us and what we wanted to accomplish. Five minutes later we were headed to our church rejoicing and feeling God’s smile on us.
The negotiating and communicating for the act of reading an apology took time and effort. But the prayer burden for this was bigger than I expected, and during those prayers, I had to confront some areas in my past. I was surprised that in order to lead our church in unity, I had to deal with an area of my childhood. Once dealt with, I could deal with leading the church.
The results? Several weeks later we celebrated with a picnic shared by our two churches. It was a wonderful time of fellowship with an atmosphere of peace and hope. And our church hasn’t had another split. Praise the Lord for the things He leads us to do.