|(Wellspring Lutheran Home, Monroe)|
(I am writing this for a pastor friend who feels shame that his church is having problems.)
Thirty years ago a church in the Detroit area took out a large advertisement in the local paper. The advertisement had these words: "________ Church: The Friendliest Church in America!" When I read it I felt like jockeying for position. I could advertise my church as "We're #2!" Within three years, this church had massive internal conflict, many people left, and the church imploded.
At this stage in my life as a pastor one thing I have concluded is: no church is problem free.
I can prove this. My church is not without problems, because I am in it.
We all are troubled people, growing (hopefully) into Christlikeness.
Misunderstandings and arguments and conflicts are inevitable, even among the righteous. What if God shows you someone else's problems? Francis Frangipane, in The Three Battlegrounds, says, if God shows you someone else's mess, it is only so you can pray for them, not talk to other brothers and sisters about how horrible they are.
If you are part of the mess, do not leave others with the mess. Be part of cleaning it up. Be the solution, not the voice of the problem.
As a follower of Jesus you are called to do far more than just love peace. You are to make peace. (One of the best books I've read on this is Making Peace: A Guide to Overcoming Church Conflict, by James van Yperen. See also Henri Nouwen's beautiful The Road to Peace.)
Any fool can wage war. Followers of Jesus are called to wage peace. As a pastor, I have found this to be ongoing in marriages, families, and churches. Waging peace never stops this side of the Age to Come!
"But the new church I am going to doesn't have problems." It does; certainly it will. This is important, because it is within conflict that peacemakers and reconcilers are built. These are people who run towards the battle, not away from it.
I know people like this. They say things like,
"Come, let us reason together."
I have seen people do this in my church family. When I hear of this, I cannot tell you how thankful I am and how blessed I feel!
Blessed are those who put things together,
rather than tear things apart.
Blessed are those who, more than loving peace,
Blessed are those who stay when the going gets tough,
rather than leave because the going is tough.
Blessed are those who go to the other person,
rather than tell others about the other person.
Blessed are those who deal lovingly with their anger,
rather than sleep on their anger.
Blessed are the problem-solvers,
rather than the complainers.
Blessed are the understanders,
rather than the judgers.
Blessed are the participants,
rather than the observers.
Blessed are the doers,
rather than the talkers.
Blessed are those who wage peace,
My two books are: