Keeping First Things First … Peacefully

Question from a Redeeming Church Conflicts Reader: We are a solid, Bible-believing church in a large, multi-racial, multi-ethnic community. I love the church but recently it seems like non-essential and tangential issues are being focused on and elevated over the church’s core doctrines and beliefs. For example, we have seemingly endless sermons on eschatology (end-times prophecy), differing apologetics approaches, and, most recently, considerations concerning political affiliation. What can I do to influence our pastor and other leaders to get back to those things most central to our Christian faith?

Answer: First, I am pleased to hear that you love your church and believe that, at its core, is committed to preaching and teaching God’s Word as found in the Holy Bible. Of course, being committed to the Bible means the church is first and foremost committed to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior because he is what the Bible is all about. That is why many churches and preachers ensure that every sermon and in every teaching forum (Sunday school class, Bible study group, youth and children’s ministry, etc.) bring every message back to Christ. Every topic you mention above labeled as non-essential or tangential can be related to Christ and his teachings in Scripture if there is that motivation, focus, and intentionality. That said I suspect your greatest concern may be that you are not seeing that kind or level of intentionality in the preaching and teaching about these various topics. In that case you should be and are rightly concerned.

Second, if what I have said above rings true to your situation I would suggest that one of the most practical and non-confrontational ways to tackle an issue like this is to ask yourself this question: “As a peacemaker in my church, how can I gently and respectfully, but persistently, engage my pastor, church leaders, and other members by asking questions that drive the discussion of any topic back to Christ and the implications of the Gospel?” As you ponder that question let me suggest why that may be a good approach for you.

  1. You avoid frontal accusation that would likely be met with defensive resistance.
  2. You model humility by being one making an honest inquiry.
  3. You demonstrate your commitment to your Christ-centered faith; a testimony to everyone who listens.
  4. You proactively influence by remembering your questions and attitude are to comport with the standard for Christian speech: Ephesians 4:29.
  5. You demonstrate respectful submission to your leaders who have, for whatever reason, decided that these topics are worthy of consideration in the church.

Your well-reasoned and timely questions can be the launching pad from which opportunities may arise to draw people (including your church leaders) back to the Bible’s core message and the reason you are a church.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:16-17).

 – Dave Edling


About David V. Edling

Dave Edling is an experienced Christian conciliator who has worked with many conflicted churches. During his decade of service on the senior staff of Peacemaker Ministries, he participated in over 200 mediation and arbitration cases and worked with nearly twenty thousand Christians engaged in conflicts affecting churches of almost every denomination. Dave holds several graduate degrees in addition to his Bachelor of Science degree from Oregon State University. They are: Master of Arts in Human Behavior, United States International University (now Alliant International University); Juris Doctor, California Western School of Law; Master of Arts in Religion, Westminster Seminary California; and Master of Arts in Biblical Conflict Resolution, Birmingham Theological Seminary. Dave has served as a trustee on the Board of Directors for Covenant College and Westminster Seminary California and has taught in the Doctor of Ministry programs for Reformed Theological Seminary, Mid-Western Baptist Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary. In addition, Dave has been a lecturer in practical theology for several other Christian colleges and seminaries.
This entry was posted in Biblical peacemaking in the church, Conflicts involving church leaders, Conflicts with our youth pastor, Disappointment in the church. Bookmark the permalink.

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