Daffy Duck rehearses his fencing moves in a classic Warner Brothers cartoon: "Ho! Haha! Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! Thrust!" His forward thrust is followed by a "thwack!" as the foil bounces back in his face and bends his beak upward. Daffy folds his beak back into place and tries again. "Dodge! Spin! Thrust!" Thwack!
Every time, thwack!
Why is it that in ministry, as with Daffy, many a forward thrust snaps back and something, or somebody, gets bent out of shape? And if conflict is to be expected, how can we reconcile ruptured relationships, restore a Christ-like ethic, and recover our forward momentum?
The participants in this forum have seen the worst of the worst, and they have fenced in some challenging matches themselvesâ€”but amazingly, with grace.
They shared some of their stories on Leadership's recent TV seminar, one of a series produced by Church Communication Network for satellite downlink at local church sites (http://ccn.tv).
In this roundtable discussion prior to our broadcast, these experts reflected deep love for the church and respect for each person in the body. Church conflicts have not defeated them or scarred them or bent their beaks back.
We wanted to know how they managed that. At the table:
Peacemaker Ministries, Billings, Montana (www.hispeace.org)
Trained as an engineer and lawyer, Ken puts those skills to work in reconciling relationships in churches and families. For 23 years, he has mediated lawsuits and church splits, and helped to reconcile hundreds of couples headed for divorce.
Twin Lakes Church, Aptos, California (www.tlc.org)
First a Top-40 radio DJ, Rene has served as senior pastor of Twin Lakes Church for 11 years. In that time, Rene navigated turbulent change as the church transitioned from a traditional Baptist style to a contemporary congregation effectively reaching people in the Monterey Bay area of California.
Jim Van Yperen
Metanoia Ministries, Washington, New Hampshire (www.changeyourmind.net)
Over a span of ten years, Jim and his organization have aided almost 60 deeply divided churches in conflict resolution. He serves as interim pastor, conference speaker, and is author of Making Peace: A Guide to Overcoming Church Conflict (Moody Press, 2002).
All churches have conflict. No one really wants it. Is it possible for churches to be in conflict and to be healthy?
Van Yperen: Health is not the absence of conflict. A healthy church has learned a way of thinking and seeing and behaving that's redemptive, so that when the inevitable conflict comes, they're able to handle it. They've learned that God is sovereign over all things, so that conflict is not necessarily a threat.
Sande: Conflict is actually an opportunity. First Corinthians is a long conflict resolution letter. At the end of chapter 10, Paul sums up by saying, " whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God, not for your own good but for others. Follow my example."
Paul says to look at conflict as God looks at it. In every conflict, he has given you an opportunity to exalt him. He wants you to behave so differently that people take notice and are impressed. It's an opportunity to grow in Christ-likeness. If we embrace conflict as a primary means of sanctificationâ€”it's not something we go looking for, but when it comesâ€”we slow down and say, "Lord, if nothing else in this situation, refine me."