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Setting Standards for Church/Ecclesia. Point # 1. The ministry of reconciliation?

I am part of a group that is exploring what it actually means to be the ‘body of Christ.’  You would think, with all the churches around, this would be common knowledge:  how to be the body of Christ.  

Well, it’s not.   How do we know?   Taking a look at 1 Peter  1:3 we see

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

It doesn’t take much more than a passing glance around us to see that even though HE has given us everything for a godly life, we are not seeing much of that godly life lived out.   There is a lack of holiness and commitment in the church and a lack of the resulting fruitfulness that comes from living Christ.

Our group, that I am part of, is exploring how to live Christ in our primary relationships…

  • How to be disciples: disciple building starting with ourselves
  • How to be the married to Christ: demonstrating that reality with marriage building starting with ourselves
  • How to be the family of God: demonstrating family building in our natural and families in Christ

Learning these things is not easy.   But, we are committed.

We haven’t explored building the body of Christ corporately, yet.   That is a bit advanced for where we are now.

I have been thinking a lot about the primary principles of building the body.   Of course, we have lots ‘going on’ right now regarding the body, also called ‘the church’ – teaching, worship, etc.   To build beyond where we are now there need to be more and deeper connections.  And, when connection occur – you have problems.  Whenever you get more than one person together, you have problems.   Connect a bunch of people and, unless you have clearly defined roles and responsibilities as they exist in ‘local churches’, you are going to have messes.

So, I would say, POINT 1 in connecting the body is how to handle ‘people problems’.   This is the ministry of reconciliation, a skill that I think is sadly missing from our 'skill toolboxes'.  Perhaps that IS our biggest challenge - learning how to handle people problems.   We know lots about services, but when it comes to serving with each other and handling the ‘residue’ that arises from that; maybe not so much.

Anyone out there have skill in people problems?   What is your ‘secret sauce’ for getting them resolved?  Anyone ever explore using Matt. 18..   first addressing issues with the other person, then if they won’t listen, taking someone else to help get things resolved, then if that doesn’t work  - taking it to the whole body of believers?   Like ‘wow’ what unusual concept these are!  Personally, I have never seen it done this way.

I am involved with a conflict right now.   A big one with lots of people involved.  Lots is being said behind closed doors, on the phone and on computer screens.   At this point, it seems to me that people take Matt 18 as a nice ‘suggestion’, or maybe an ‘ideal’ that doesn’t apply to ‘us’…   I am not seeing this:  people taking JESUS seriously about what he told us to do to set things in order when there is conflict.  

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

It seems to me that the knowledge and instructions Jesus gives us should be acted on.   I know it is ‘not the way we do it.’   But…  maybe you have seen it done the way he said to do it.   Can you share?

 

 

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Let me be the first to say I totally agree with this...I am willing to put myself through the stress, the turmoil, the mess of settling disputes and facing conflict because i recognize that the body will never EVER come together in Godly intentional purpose if it doesn't learn to face disputes and conflict in love, redemption, and truth

Concerning the church - Its hard to sin against others that you call your friends or brothers and sisters in Christ. And it is easy to offend and sin against those you do not consider a member of the body whom you don't worship with. Sometimes it is as simple as this -out of sight out of mind. A desire not to reconcile differences with other christians or at least ask for forgiveness for wrong doings is at times glossed over in the church or neglected in the scriptures because some would say it will only cause more conflict if we do it the biblical way. How far from the truth this worldly thinking is. Jesus tells us that offenses must come. Can you say that you follow a biblical model do deal with conflicts when they arise amongst you with others that are not in your inner circle of influence? Do you hold each other accountable when their behaviors are ungodly? We can say we love our brother or sister all day long but they are mere words if love is not put into action. If you love your brother, you correct him because you love him. Love is rooted in action not in words...You can tell me you love me all day long but if you mistreat me all the time I will doubt your sincerity. Jesus told the adulterous woman..'I don't condemn you' but then he adds.." Go and sin no more." 1st - His words validated the woman's worth then he gave her the solution to end the conflict she had with her community because of her sin.Then Jesus tells her to take action (end the conflict) and do not sin again. According to Mathew 18, this is the action outlined we should take when the body is in conflict with another. God has established these things for our benefit to guide us and keep us in peace and unity as a community of believers. We don't get to pick and choose to follow God's word or only use it when it suits us but rather we ought to take the whole counsel of God and apply it to christian living not just to ourselves but to the whole body as well.
I was a pastor many years and before that, an evangelist. This is my 51st year in ministry. I agree with you that most churches have no policy for pastoral correction, congregational discipline, and etc. I am the only one that I'm aware of who has led a church through the entire public disciplinary process, which resulted in a positive outcome for both the church and the offender. Oddly perhaps, three families joined the church the night the public discipline was administered and the offender was beautifully restored the same night. One family that joined that night, when asked why, replied: "Until tonight, I've never seen the church BE the church." A church that experiences this feels secure, knowing that their leadership IS leading. FREEDOMIST, I'd gladly share more via phone, if that would help. Email me if you'd care to discuss this further. usprayercenter@cs.com. www.EddieAndAlice.com

     The person that I might come off on the internet as being, is probably a lot different then the person that I am in person.  I try to avoid conflict at all costs and really don't like being confrontational.  However, like any other negative thing in a fallen world I accept the fact that I can't avoid all conflict and I have to be confrontational with people at times.  As far as Matt. 18, I can't say I have ever been involved in a church that has come close to the New Testament standard where Matt. 18 has come into play.   If I were to have a conflict with a person in a church, I can't say that the level of spirituality of other members would be at a level where I would want to get them involved in my conflict.  Maybe I am looking at this in the wrong way, but that is the way I see it.     

True biblical unity can withstand life's tests. The trouble is that many Christians relate at such a surface level that unless they can have their way, they leave. Some leaders feel that to stand in the pulpit and repent for a wrong decision, or unChristlike reponse, would communicate weakness. The truth is, many churches are built on facades, image control, and manufactured perceptions rather than true, genuine, transparent, gracious relationships.

I'm having a hard time relating - is it a conflict of doctrine or personalities?  Is it something pretty usual in your denomination (everything's a denomination - even "Non Denominational") or unusual?  Can you give more specifics because the solution is usually different depending on what the circumstances are.  As they say "the devil's in the details". :/

SueW,

I think conflict is conflict. The Bible says that when we have issues with our brother or sister we:

1. go to them

if that doesn't work we

2. bring 2-3 witnesses

if that doesn't work

3. we bring it before the assembly (ekklesia/church)

we can see in 1 Corinthians 6 that this could involve a panel of "judges" but ultimately involves ALL believers.

By ALL there is no notion that only one single congregation, but ALL Believers in the locality. This is especially true of conflicts that might involve Believers from different congregations or fellowships.

Whatever the apparent source of conflict, the Biblical process is designed, it seems, to ferret that out. It's no different in basic form regardless of the cause of conflict, I perceive, although in details it may vary based on the nature of the conflict.

The prevailing practice seems to be to do nothing, especially when the conflict doesn't involve Christians from the same congregational body.

Hi all,

I do think that there is some difference between dealing with doctrinal type issues and relational issues. I guess I would like to post about the relational issues that we as Christians have.

What is it that unifies us as Christians? Christ

It has been my experience that you cannot drag someone through the Matthew 18 conflict resolution process if they are not willing.

I have, however, seen this process work wonderfully... when Christ was at the center of it.

In one memorable case in my own church, a very proud individual set aside his pride and took on a mantle of meekness seeking reconciliation and asked for forgiveness for something wrong that he did. The other party, in a likewise manner of humility, ACCEPTED his apology and forgave him and never brought the issue up again. Conflict resolved. Relationship strengthened.

In many other cases, I have seen Matthew 18 fail. It failed not because scripture was faulty... but because people are. I strongly believe that in order for conflict to be resolved, one side must admit and accept their error.

But remember, proving guilt or error should not be the end to Matthew 18, reconciliation is. While accepting guilt is necessary for the offending party, it is but the means to the end, which is  reconciliation.

And in most instances, "it takes two to tango." In other words, there is usually enough blame and guilt to go around. Too often we don't follow Paul's exhortation in Ephesians 4:26 about dealing with Christian brothers and sisters: you can be angry with them, just don't sin in your anger.

Many times, even the offended party, once offended, responds in kind. In that instance, the party that is offended must also admit some wrongdoing and ask forgiveness for their part.

Again, what is it that unites us as Believers? Christ. Things fall apart when our own pride gets in the way. Things fall apart when our only goal is to prove someone else's guilt. We all have beams in our eyes of one sort or another.

For the Matthew 18 model to work most easily, both parties must have their love of Jesus Christ in the forefront of their thoughts.

In that first instance that I mentioned, the one where Matthew 18 worked, both the offended and offending parties had a desire to reach a reconciliation for the sake of the church and for the sake of Jesus Christ who is the head of that church.

In many of these other instances where Matthew 18 did not work, no one wanted to admit error or blame and in those cases, everything blew up. KABLOOEY! Both sides drifted farther apart.

A scriptural example of this sort of "kablooey moment" would be Paul and Barnabas parting ways when they were arguing about John Mark. Neither one of those great Christian men would admit any personal error. Neither one could come to a mutual agreement as to how to proceed. (However, it does appear that they found some sort of reconciliation later on that is not recorded.  And obviously, God in His sovereign power, worked great things even in that situation.)

I'll share Paul's own words for us from Ephesians 4. We need to remember these as we deal with Christian brothers and sisters in conflict: 

1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you[a] all.

 

We need to remember Paul's words in both personal conflict (when wronged) and also in our everyday personal dealings with fellow Christians.

Bearing with one another and longsuffering is a process... sometimes we may not personally like someone and may have some personality conflicts, but in essence Paul is telling us: "Deal with it. You may not 'like' your Christian brother or sister but you need suck it up and love them and display that affection for them."

There is lots more to say... but to close my post... Go and check out Philippians 4:2 about the two women, Euodia and Syntyche, in the Philippian church who were arguing. Pretty neat story and some pretty clear direction.

 

i would like to talk to you more about this Joe

15  ¶And if your brother does wrong to you, go, make clear to him his error between you and him in private: if he gives ear to you, you have got your brother back again.
16  But if he will not give ear to you, take with you one or two more, that by the lips of two or three witnesses every word may be made certain.
17  And if he will not give ear to them, let it come to the hearing of the church: and if he will not give ear to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-farmer.

Eddie and Joe  

Thanks for weighing in.   Eddie, I really agree with what you wrote, biblical unity that is based in Christ living his life out through us can withstand life's tests.   However, I think that our unity in the body, for the most part isn't based on that, it is more of a 'feel good' way of relating.   That starts from our primary relationships and goes outward; if we don't 'feel good' about our spouse, they get the boot; if we don't 'feel good' about our family, we don't talk to them/put them on 'ice', if we don't 'feel good' about people in our church, we get a new church.  

I think scripture gives us real ways to resolve conflict - taking it first to the person, then appealing to others for resolution.    If people get 'ticked off' with others in their church, often they just move on to the next one; often bad mouthing or being bad mouthed in the process.   Since the church is divided - just 'moving on' provides a nice way to solve problem.  

But, if the church was joined and the standard was this:

 "Resolving conflict is not something you do because you 'want to do it', we do it because Christ told us to do it."

Ya know, people like to sleep around/lie/steal/etc. because the like to do it.   As Christ-followers, we don't do these things because Christ said not to/ it is destructive to relationships and damages the people doing it.    I think leaving conflict unresolved as a way of life OR making it a 'feel good' thing - Let's resolve it if you feel like resolving it is probably, on a practical side one of the worst practices we have in 'the church.'

We need to be honest, often conflict resolution can result in blow-ups. Conflict resolution is not a common skill that believers have.  But, when Johnny and I went to Peacemakers to resolve one of the biggest 'sticky wicket' conflict situations you can imagine, we saw what can happen with skilled conflict resolution.  With skill - you get the best chance for resolution.  Think of the beauty of this - by 'escalating' conflict to the church AND by looking at the church as the body across the community - taking it 'up' allows more people to become involved - allowing people to connect to those members who can ACTUALLY help resolve conflict.

I believe the body, joined to Christ -empowered by the Holy Spirit - living disciplined lives for Christ and connected to each other is self correcting and ABLE to handle all of our issues..

1 Peter 1  3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.... 

 

Eddie Smith said:

True biblical unity can withstand life's tests. The trouble is that many Christians relate at such a surface level that unless they can have their way, they leave. Some leaders feel that to stand in the pulpit and repent for a wrong decision, or unChristlike reponse, would communicate weakness. The truth is, many churches are built on facades, image control, and manufactured perceptions rather than true, genuine, transparent, gracious relationships.

I Absolutely agree

Freedomist said:

15  ¶And if your brother does wrong to you, go, make clear to him his error between you and him in private: if he gives ear to you, you have got your brother back again.
16  But if he will not give ear to you, take with you one or two more, that by the lips of two or three witnesses every word may be made certain.
17  And if he will not give ear to them, let it come to the hearing of the church: and if he will not give ear to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-farmer.

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