Research by the Barna Group uncovered two surprising facts: (1) the majority of the nation’s non-churched are comprised of people, not who say they are not Christians, but who say they are, and (2) about 4 out of 10 of these stopped attending due to a “painful” or “negative” ordeal. Barna projected that at the current drop-out rate attendance nationally will be half of what it is today in 15 years.
Research shows that there is a direct correlation between conflict and attendance: the more conflict a church has the fewer people remain in attendance. To address this growing problem churches need an in-house system which conveys to its members that the church is able and willing to gracefully and effectively address disputes as they emerge, for the good of all. One such program based on a Biblical model is the Judeo-Christian Model of Peacemaking developed by Dr. Ken Newberger. Its application in local congregations is detailed in his book entitled, Hope in the Face of Conflict. This practical step-by-step process looks to the pattern God used to make peace with us. It is based on love as the first foundation, justice the second, with reconciliation the goal and mediation the means.
Here’s a question: According to the Judeo-Christian Model of Peacemaking (JCMP), when parties are in conflict, who is supposed to make the first move toward reconciliation, and what does that first move consist of?
Because the Judeo-Christian Model is based on the pattern that God used to make peace with us, the first question really is this: In God’s conflict with mankind (due to human sin), who made the first move toward reconciliation, the offended party or the offending party? The answer is, God, the offended party, did. More specifically, he created a mediatorial structure in both the Old and New Testaments by which peace with mankind could be established. Since the undergirding framework of the JCMP is “like Father, like Son,” if you are in conflict with another and are the offended party, you have the responsibility to make the first move toward resolution and reconciliation.
What is that move? Contacting a mediator. This is done with regularity in all types of organizational settings such as government, universities, and hospitals. The reason this is rare to find in churches, however, is because no in-house structure has been established which members can utilize. Making peace falls almost wholly on their shoulders even if there are factors that contribute to the problem that have nothing to do with them. This is why we take a “systems approach” to peacemaking. But the benefits of such an approach cannot occur until and unless the church leaders first put such a system in place. Even in this respect, if leaders want to be like God (“like Father, like Son”), they should ponder this question: “When did God establish his peace plan with mankind, before or after we entered into conflict with Him?” The answer is before. Churches should do the same by establishing a peace plan for their congregation before (the next) conflict emerges.
If you are a pastor or church leader, feel free to view a 6 minute PowerPoint overview presentation at: resolvechurchconflict.com
Mediation Practices for Families
For families devoted to a biblical process to resolve conflict but torn asunder by unresolved issues, family mediation is recommended using the 12-step process of reconciliation described in the book Hope in the Face of Conflict by Dr. Kenneth C. Newberger.