Keeping God’s Word Primary re: Our Critical Needs

How grateful we are for two careful book reviews (and recommendations)!

Matt Smethurst, an assistant editor for The Gospel Coalition and a Master of Divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, commended us on the IX Marks website for “keeping God’s Word primary, the gospel central, humility necessary, God’s glory precious, and an eternal perspective as our one orientation.” You can read the entire review here.

And Pastor David Mundt (M.Div., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) wrote the following review for The CBA Retailers & Resources Magazine:

“Conflict is an unfortunate but normal part of every relationship and most group experiences. The church isn’t immune to conflict, but the stakes are often higher because the world is watching to see if our gospel of grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation really works in our lives. Thankfully, conflict can be redeemed so that God is glorified, relationships are restored, and God’s intended work in us is accomplished.

Conflict isn’t only about the presenting material issues, but it also reveals the sanctification that the Spirit is performing. Employing Acts 15 as their framework, Barthel and Edling describe a conflict-resolution process for groups, revealing our critical need for perspective, discernment, leadership, and biblical response.

This book is extremely well written with lots of Scripture and personal examples. As part of the Peacemakers ministry, Barthel and Edling are insightful and articulate. Recommend this book to every pastor and elder, and to fans of Ken Sande’s The Peacemaker.”

Thank you for your careful reading, gentlemen! We continue to pray that our efforts on this project will serve well our Lord and His Bride.

– Dave Edling & Tara Barthel

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Child Abuse in the Church: Justice Can Be Grace

Since I linked over to it in today’s post on my personal blog, I thought I would share this post with you too:

Child Abuse in the Church: Justice Can Be Grace

Not only is this an extraordinarily important topic because of our duty to protect our children to the best of our abilities, it is also one of the “most prone to destroy/divide a church” topics.

Oh. And if you think that your church doesn’t have men and boys (and increasingly women) habitually viewing p*rn and reading er*tica? If you think “that will never happen in MY church!” If you don’t think that abusers intentionally prey on churches? Then truly: it is particularly important that you read this article.

For the glory of God and the service of His Bride—

Your sister in Christ,
Tara B.

Posted in Abusive churches, Causes of Church Conflict, Conflicts involving church leaders, Conflicts with our youth pastor, Lawsuits and Church Conflict | Leave a comment

Making the Decision to Leave Your Church

A few weeks ago in response to my blog about church membership, member vows, and what might be a valid reason to leave one’s church, a reader wrote that she didn’t think I answered the question. She also expressed her opinion that when church leaders become abusive that a very good reason to leave one’s church exists. So, I thought I should write a bit more about what I believe about a church member feeling that circumstances may establish grounds for leaving one’s church.

First, I believe that this reader is correct in saying I didn’t answer the question, at least not in the way she thought I should. My purpose in writing here at Redeeming Church is not to provide specific answers to specific questions that a person would then use to make a final personal decision, but rather to help questioners think through for themselves what should be the way of asking the best questions, at the right time, in the best forum, for the right reasons, and with the application of biblical truth driving every aspect of that process. (Please see Tara’s and my “About Us” page and our “Disclaimer” statement on this site.) Not only that, please remember Proverbs 18:17: The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him. In this format we cannot be expected to have all of the information from both sides relevant to any story or comment.

In this instance, our reader’s comment concerning her belief that a valid reason for leaving a church was when church leaders become abusive indicates that she is seeking an answer to confirm or deny that that reason is valid and one based on, in her opinion, biblical principle. She cited Ezekiel 34 as an example of unfaithful shepherds and how that provided her argument that that reason was a valid one for leaving one’s church. But, in my opinion, there are so many other better questions that should, and must, be explored first before closing the door on this important issue.

Let me rephrase what seems to be our reader’s core question: “Is it biblically valid to break one’s church membership vows and leave the church when church leaders become abusive?” This question can be further subdivided into: (1) When is it biblically valid to break one’s church membership vows and leave the church?” and (2) When can a church leader’s behavior be labeled “abusive?” The second question may be one way to a potential reason or answer to the first so I am not going to go into the many potential forms of pastoral abuse here since the list would be very long (such as breach of a church member’s confidentiality, sexual abuse, counseling abuse, greed, failure to shepherd, intentional lying to protect self, not preaching the Gospel, etc., etc.). Those may all be valid reasons to label a leader’s behavior as “abusive,” but they may not all be valid reasons to leave one’s church. So, the first of our subdivided question becomes the key one on which to focus.

Breaking a vow, any vow, is a very serious matter. Breaking a vow of church membership is one of the most serious because it was one made as a promise to both God and God’s under-shepherds, and the people who inhabit the pews with you. Vows should never be taken lightly. My first question back to our reader may be something like: “When you became a member of your church did you know everything you possibly could about how the leaders of the church would undertake their shepherding responsibilities toward you and others?” I believe too many people make decisions too quickly about joining a particular church before knowing everything they can about it. That is why “potential new member’s classes” are so important. But, it also takes some time to see if what was taught in such a class is what is actually practiced in the church. A rash vow can be a dangerous thing (see the account of Jephthah and his daughter in Judges, chapter 11).

Because a church membership vow is so important it is also wise to think through, “what is the nature of this vow really?” That is, is it a unilateral vow where all responsibility for fulfillment is solely mine or is this a reciprocal situation where the church is also making a vow to me? If the church breaks its vow to me am I free to break my vow in return? What about my responsibility to quietly use my position as a member to seek to correct the breach? If a church leader is not living up to his responsibility should I not seek to help this leader see that and change? This is an aspect of accountability that many church members don’t embrace when things aren’t going as they should in the church based on a biblical standard and from a biblical perspective. What about those who have spiritual authority over church leaders? Can they hear your concerns and appropriately be brought into the situation so that errant leaders can have the benefit of correction? If you have joined a church where there is no meaningful accountability for leader behavior and practice you have likely not fulfilled your responsibility to take a vow wisely. Every church leader needs the benefit of being under meaningful accountability. That is a question of “polity” (church governance structure) and should be one of the most important subjects taught in a potential new member’s class and completely understood before a church membership vow is taken.

The question we are focusing on is a very difficult one to find a completely satisfactory answer to because God took his own vow one day long past that stands as a model for us of the severity of vow-taking. You can read about it in Genesis, chapter 15. Because God can make a binding promise on nothing higher than himself this vow is called a self-maledictory oath (it includes the punishment as part of the vow if broken). The best discussion of this vow that demonstrates how seriously God took his own vow is in Tim Lane’s and Paul Tripp’s book How People Change at pages 68 and 69:

What is going on in this strange encounter? Abram is struggling to believe God, so God helps him. He tells him to cut some animals in half. That night, a smoking firepot and a blazing torch pass between the animal halves. God was saying, “If I do not keep my promise to you, may what happened to these animals happen to me!” This is called a self-maledictory oath. God is saying, “If I don’t keep my end of the bargain, may I be ripped asunder!” Over two thousand years later, God the Son hung on a cross, crying out, “My God! My God! Why have we been ripped asunder?” God allowed what should have happened to us to happen to Jesus. We were the ones who failed, yet the triune God was torn asunder so that we might be united to him and to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. The perfect love, unity, and joy that existed between the Father, Son, and Spirit were demolished, for a time, for our sake.

This is the ground on which we build all relationships. Every time you are tempted to shun another believer [be that a church leader, pastor, or fellow member], remember that the Father, Son, and Spirit were torn asunder so that you might be united. When you sin or are sinned against, you are to move toward your sibling in Christ aware that Father, Son, and Spirit were torn asunder so that you might be reconciled! If we approached relationships in the body of Christ with that in view, it would transform our friendships. In Ephesians 4, Paul says that to the degree you do this, you will be “built up,” “become mature,” “ attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ,” and “grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”

I hope that all of our readers have a better understanding of vow-taking and vow-keeping in the church when they reflect on Genesis 15 and the words above.  To the reader who asked the direction question weeks ago: Yes, leaders may be abusive and you should leave if that is true and you have no avenue open to you for holding them accountable for their abuse, but first take responsibility for the fact the fault may have been yours for taking the church membership vow in the first place. Did you agree to be in submission to these leaders without knowledge? Did you know if they were men under meaningful ecclesiastical accountability? If not, acknowledge your sin for taking a vow perhaps a bit too rashly. Humbly acknowledge that the fault was yours and try your best not to fall into the same situation the next time you join a church.

-Dave Edling

Posted in Abusive churches, Conflicts involving church leaders, When is it valid to leave a church? | Leave a comment

Signs that a conflicted church is not ready to change …

Q. What would make you decline a church intervention? Are there certain signs that a church is not ready for a Christian conciliation intervention team to go in and work to help the church to redeem their conflicts?

A. In 1 Peter 3 at verse 15 we find these words: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have (emphasis added).”  These words come in the context of Peter’s teaching on suffering for doing good.  While we don’t necessarily enjoy suffering (even for doing good), how could we ever not be ready to help a church in conflict if they asked us to bring words of hope, reasons for our hope in the Gospel, all of God’s Word as necessary to redeem a conflict for His glory? That would seem impossible.

But on the other hand Scripture warns:

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces. Matthew 7:6

And …

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.   1 Corinthians 2:14

These two verses capture the two main reasons that we would decline an invitation to help a conflicted church.

First, Matthew 7:6:

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces. Matthew 7:6

Any church (or any person) not willing to accept the Holy Bible as the authoritative Word of God pertaining to all matters of faith and life is not ready to receive the life changing work of the Gospel  and redeem conflict in a manner that would be pleasing to God. If the church has placed its confidence in anything other than the revelation of Christ and his ethic as set forth in the Holy Scriptures then the effort to help would be fruitless.

I (Dave) learned this lesson the hard way. On one occasion, I accepted an intervention for a conflicted church that did not accept the Holy Bible as authoritative. The church was a large and fashionable establishment in a large and fashionable city. The members carried their Bibles and everyone used “god-speak.” But the bottom line was that leaders and members alike professed faith in faith and not faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible to them was an historical account of what two ancient societies thought about God , but it was just a book. The church leaders and members did not embrace the Bible as God’s actual Word to them. As a result, when exhorted to understand the way out of their conflicts via the Gospel, it fell on deaf ears. To them the text of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 did not mean anything of significance:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

They were polite people but they were frustrated that I wasn’t helping resolve their conflicts by helping them to apply modern principles of group dynamics and conflict management rooted in secular psychology.  I was unable to help these people because they weren’t committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures to answer their deepest needs. They valued the wisdom of man ahead of the wisdom of God (see James 3:13-18).

I learned my lesson. I no longer invest time, talent, or treasure to help conflicted churches that believe God’s Word is merely optional.

Second, and very related to the first point, we have the warning of 1 Corinthians 2:14:

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.   1 Corinthians 2:14

This point is a bit more difficult to express, but we hope you will bear with us because it is important.

When it comes to redeeming church conflicts (and really, all conflicts), it is absolutely imperative that the Holy Spirit softens hearts, opens blind eyes, and leads people to repentance. All of the teaching in the world on divisiveness, gossip, slander, and idolatry will never lead anyone to repent and confess. Only people with the Spirit of God at work in their hearts can begin to spiritually discern what is really happening at the root of their conflicts. Therefore, although we would never claim to sit in the seat of God and judge the hearts of people, we do believe that we have gained some discernment and wisdom from decades of church leadership experience (Dave) and the numerous conflicted church intervention teams we have served on or supervised. And thus, one gauge of spiritual maturity is how ready people are to feel and express that the status quo must change and thus, that they must change.

If church leaders and members are not substantially united on the need for something to change, then they are most probably not spiritually discerning important truths from Scripture. For example, without spiritual discernment, people will easily place a higher importance on getting their way, defending their perspective, and protecting their “rights,” rather than valuing and obeying God’s call to them as Christians “to make every effort to maintain the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3), and to “live in peace with each other” (1 Thessalonians 5:13b).

If people at a church do not value God’s priority for peace and unity, then they are bringing evidence against themselves that they are driven not by God’s Word and the implications of His priorities. They are not spiritually discerning as regards their conflicts. Therefore, as a general rule, we do not accept a conflicted church intervention case unless 75% or more of official church leaders and 60% or more of church members state that they are no longer content with the status quo; the state of their conflicted church must change. Until those benchmarks are met, the calling in of outside consultants is premature.

-Dave Edling and Tara Barthel

We have an Appendix in Redeeming Church Conflicts on Selecting an Outside Third-Party Church Conflict Consultant. You can read it soon—publication is scheduled for May 1, 2012.

Posted in Biblical peacemaking in the church, Hiring a consultant to help with your church conflict | Leave a comment

Inconsistency Reveals Deception–Especially in Church Conflicts

Q. Has there been one key similarity or common characteristic you have noticed about how Christians typically respond to conflicts in their churches?

A. While always difficult to name just one dynamic given the complexity of church conflict, yes, I have observed a common trend in situations and that has been a lack of consistency between a believer’s faith and life. Let me explain.

My motivation to be in ministry has always been tied to an interest in consistency. Being consistent—living in a manner that unites what you believe with what you then actually do—is, of course, not easy. It has always been a struggle for me. There are too many temptations, too many traps along the route, and too many idols to satisfy that are ready to derail the best of intentions in my pursuit of consistency. I know this all too well from 65 years of life, and, if honest, you, dear reader, know it well also. Even when it comes to a life of faith in Christ how easy it is to say something that is a compromise of what I believe and then allow behavior to wrongly follow. It seems that the human condition for inconsistency has been with us for a long time (Romans 7:15 and 19):

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do. (v. 15)

For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (v. 19)

The apostle Paul goes on to describe accurately what we all know:

For in my inner being [what I believe] I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body [what I do] waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? (Romans 7:22-24)

In church conflicts, I have seen this battle between belief and behavior, between faith and life, raging more violently than in almost any other arena. Caring Christians become deceitful schemers; brothers and sisters in Christ become engaged in doing harm rather than following what they say they believe: to “make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Evidence of inconsistency is everywhere but unseen, unappreciated. Many heart idols (those personal desires and agendas) that are revealed through harsh words and actions come to tower over Christ’s call for gentleness and “wholesome talk” (Ephesians 4:29).  The beliefs that form the core of one’s profession of Christ are quickly compromised in favor of winning an argument.

Paul asks the right (and best) question: Who will rescue me from this body of death?”  And that, too, is the question we must ask when engaged in church conflicts.

We must look for consistency. When there is a want of it we must suspect deception.
–Sherlock Holmes in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Problem of Thor Bridge”

Just as the fictional sleuth pursued the unraveling of crimes, we too are called by faith’s appeal for consistency to unravel the crime of church conflict. We are called to look for inconsistency in our own hearts and also help those of our eternal siblings in the church so that we may all put first things first. Inconsistency reveals deception—we must suspect it! And what is Satan’s prime work? Deception, of course! We have been called to “not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:27), and to “resist him, standing firm in the faith” (1 Peter 5:9). There is no more important task at hand when the church faces conflict.

Who will rescue us from this body of death? There is only one—The Prince of Peace who lives—the One has been consistently calling us to “be self-controlled and alert” (1 Peter 5:8). Only by turning and returning again and again to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and all of its implications for faith/life, belief/behavior consistency have I ever seen church conflicts redeemed and biblically resolved. Getting everyone back to the basics of our faith is the first step. Consistency of faith (what we believe) and consistency of life (what we say and do) answers the key application question of our faith: “So What and Now What?” How we answer that is the evidence, the only evidence, by which we demonstrate that we know He, The Prince of Peace, lives and reigns.

If you are presently involved in a church conflict search your heart for any inconsistency between what you believe and what you are doing in response to the conflicts. Are you making every effort to be a redemptive peacemaker? If not, repent and begin again by bringing forth the fruit of consistency.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)

-Dave Edling

Posted in Biblical peacemaking in the church, Causes of Church Conflict | Leave a comment

How do you respond when fellow Christians REFUSE to repent / “Get the Logs out of Their own Eyes”?

Q. What do you do when you confess to someone in your church, but the person is completely unwilling to see the logs in their own eyes and / or repent / confess to you? Especially when the other person is an ordained church leader?

A. I am going to respond to the second sentence, the second part of your question, first. While you are absolutely on solid biblical ground to have a higher expectation for a humble response from an ordained leader, the fact remains that church leaders are also sinners who need the moment by moment application of the regenerating power of the Gospel as much as any of us. Not only that, remember also that the Bible warns that there are false teachers, shepherds, and leaders in the church (see, for example, Matthew 5:19; John 10:12; 1 Timothy 1:7, 4:2, 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 4:3; and 2 Peter 2:1). So, in my opinion, the heart of your question lies in the intent of your first sentence: “How do you cope with a fellow believer who is spiritually blind to their contributions to the conflict between you?” I hope you would agree that that is a fair restatement of your first question.

First, I think it takes great wisdom, patience, and a heart overflowing with the love of Christ for a person who has been rebuffed in their attempts to reconcile to step back and say to themselves: “By their response (or lack thereof) I can see that that brother or sister is trapped in spiritual blindness and they are suffering. What can I do to gently lead them into sight so we can be reconciled?” Rather than seeing and interpreting the person’s lack of a humble response as “unwillingness” (hardness of heart) you have the opportunity to make a charitable judgment and approach the situation from an entirely different perspective. When I was serving on a church staff as a ruling elder, I had to learn to turn a personal attack or harsh rebuff into an opening to see the hurting hearts of the people speaking and acting in a way that was inconsistent with their own profession of Christ and their promise to follow his commands. When Christians refuse to do everything they can to be reconciled to other Christians, they are demonstrating rebellion to Christ and his commands to “be reconciled” (Matthew 5:24); “make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3); and, “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).

How do we help people stuck in rebellion to Christ? Especially when they don’t even appreciate the nature of their rebellion?

The answer lies in our consideration of the first question: the problem of spiritual blindness. Spiritual blindness is so complex that Tara and I devoted an entire chapter in Redeeming Church Conflicts to it. One of the things that makes spiritual blindness so hard to handle is that those who are suffering from this serious condition don’t realize they are afflicted. Thus, it takes a spiritually wise and patient friend to come alongside and be a gentle guide. A biblical word study of “blind” and “eyes” and “heart” will unpack the Scripture’s comprehensive teaching on this subject. Meditating and praying on what you will learn should give you many insights into what to do in the situation you ask about here. Of course, that will only happen if (and only if) your attitude has been transformed by the Gospel of Christ to be a heart of compassion, committed to helping your trapped sibling in Christ, ordained or otherwise.

 Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law (Psalm 119:18).

 -Dave Edling

Posted in Biblical peacemaking in the church, Causes of Church Conflict, Conflicts involving church leaders, Disappointment in the church | 1 Comment

“I Already Know That!”

In my years of serving as a Christian mediator, I have been privileged to assist extraordinarily gifted men and women of great faith and world-class formal educations. In one such situation, I was sitting between two (very angry) co-senior pastors of a large suburban church. Both loved the Lord and loved their church—but their years of subtle maneuvering for the position of greatest power and influence over their members had brought about a terrible result. Their relationship was nonexistent. It had been months since they had even prayed with one another. And the church was crumbling beneath even these “gifted,” “brilliant” men.

“I already know that!”

One pastor responded to the most recent point made in our four hour stretch of meditating on Holy Scripture.

“I already know that!”

He flung at me and his opponent. Not with gratitude (“Thank You, Lord, for allowing me to see You and Your Truth in Your Word”), but as a weapon to attack, a wall to hide behind, a way to proclaim his superior knowledge of God’s Word and put any hope of reasoned discussion to an end.

“I know that. I know all of God’s Word better than you. So what? Let’s move on!”

But we could not move on. To merely give intellectual assent to something with no personal engagement or response of obedience is the rhetorical equivalent of saying, “Your Mama wears combat boots!” Nothing productive is gained. No one is helped. This pastor could claim to believe anything he wanted to—as long as it didn’t have to change him. And these biblical truths did not change him. He was unmoved. Unimpressed—by me as his mediator, by God’s inerrant Word. Despite multiple graduate degrees and years of pastoral experience, this man was immature:

“Spiritual maturity results from practicing truth in everyday life, not from knowing truth in one’s mind.” Paul Tripp (see also Hebrews 5:11-14)

The fruit of his immaturity was the destruction of his church. This pastor walked away from the mediation and he walked away from his church all in a rage. Hundreds of people followed his lead and broke their membership vows, abandoning deep friendships in the process. The name of Christ in this community was tarnished. No unity. No reconciliation. No bearing with one another in love. Instead, just a bad ending to a bad situation because one pastor poured all of his passion and commitment into one statement:

“I already know that!”

“Knowledge puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8:10), “But love builds up.” There is a world of difference between mere head knowledge and the faith-filled, God-centered, application of that knowledge. True theological knowledge is defined by one word:


Love is the only thing that will apply knowledge so that truth becomes relevant to life:

“So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.” 1 Corinthians 8:12


“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” James 3:13

With wise and love-driven application of God’s truth to our everyday struggles and conflicts, we have the privilege and joy of loving our Father and his eternal children just as He has loved us:

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love …” John 15:9-10

May God give us grace to redeem every conflict for His glory as our wisdom—our love—is on display (not merely our knowledge).

In the Lamb,
-Dave Edling (with Tara Barthel)

Posted in Authentic Relationships in the Church, Causes of Church Conflict, Conflicts involving church leaders, Conflicts with our youth pastor | Leave a comment

Why is the rampant loss of hope a reality in most church conflicts?

One observation Tara and I make in Redeeming Church Conflicts concerns the loss of hope among believers who struggle with conflicts in the church. We spend a significant number of words on that sad dynamic and how to respond biblically. Scripture, of course, repeatedly and clearly points to God and his Word as the only true source of our hope. For example:

  • Psalm 42:5           put your hope in God…
  • Psalm 62:5           my hope comes from him…
  • Psalm 119:74      for I have put my hope in your word…
  • Psalm 146:5        whose hope is in the Lord his God…
  • Romans 15:13    may the God of hope fill you…
  • 1 Corinthians 15:19          for this life we hope in Christ…
  • Hebrews 6:19    we have this hope as an anchor…
  • Hebrews 11:1    faith is being sure of what we hope for…

We all know that hope is one of the most enduring aspects of the Christian faith: And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

With such clarity from Scripture, doesn’t it seem a bit incongruent that hope frequently becomes one of the first victims of church conflict? We profess hope as a core fixture of our faith along with faith and love but when conflicts poison the culture of the church hope seems the most vulnerable.

Why? Why the rampant loss of hope as a reality of church conflict?

I think it is because we frequently and too easily dilute biblical hope with worldly reality. That confusion is often fueled by prayers first (and ardently) for God to change “that other person” rather than for God to change me. We know God is perfectly trustworthy but that people aren’t. We know that God is perfectly faithful but that people aren’t. We know that God is perfectly consistent but that people aren’t.

So, when the people we have looked to to define our faith, shape our lives as believers, and form our experience of Christianity fail us, at that time of failure, frequently our hope in God withers too.

Loss and failure based on what we have experienced in God’s church at the hands of other believers is often confused with a failure of God. And in that confusion we then treat others not out of love but out of failed hope. Because we lose hope in the people of the church we can lose our hope in God. Further, we subsequently don’t allow the true source of hope to govern our relationships with others. Rather, we allow our shifting and misplaced hope in people, who like us, are ultimately not perfectly trustworthy, faithful, or consistent, drive our conduct and we fall further and further away from our real source of hope.

The object of our hope should never change even when we find ourselves shaken by conflict. If the object and ultimate source of our hope does not waiver should we not be able to maintain hope whatever comes? We are called to be free (and wise) in the Spirit to distinguish worldly disappointment so that it doesn’t lead to disappointment with God. Being grounded in God as our only source for hope means we can then choose to minister, serve, and have compassion and care for those who would even be the potential cause of our hope-confusion.

Rightly placed hope always remembers: And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given to us (Roman 5:5).

May you find joy in hope even in the midst of church conflict.

-Dave Edling

Posted in Disappointment in the church, HOPE in the midst of conflict | Leave a comment