Are the lines straight or angled?
The number one thing that I have been asked to do in my twenty-seven years as a Director of Missions has been to step in and help a church in a time of conflict. As I have listened, I have heard brothers and sisters in Christ describe what had happened in a deeply divided narrative. Their stories are so different that I wonder, “Can they really be talking about the same incident, on the same planet, in the same universe, in the same time-space continuum?” A statement I always make is “Although your perception IS your reality; your reality is not always TRUTH.” As I say it and then explain it briefly, I try to do it with a little bit of humor knowing that what I have just said carries a little bite with it.
Today we live in an entire nation that is deeply divided. If you listen to a variety of news sources, you will hear a very different perspective on current events. I have found it has become more challenging to have a good conversation with someone who has a very different perspective. All of us have become entrenched in our positions, and to one degree or another have been blinded by our perceptions to the absolute truth of any given situation.
In His trial before Pilate, Jesus stated, “I came into the world, to testify to the TRUTH. Everyone who belongs to the TRUTH listens to my voice” (John 18:37). Unfortunately too often we are like Pilate whose response to Jesus was, “What is truth?” (John 18:38)
When I have encountered conflict in churches and in my own life, I have found that a huge contributor has always been a clouding of TRUTH by each individual’s perceptions. Stop and ask yourself, “What informs my perceptions?” Stay tuned for more to come, but let me suggest two biggies:
My counsel is to approach every challenging situation with a huge dose of humility, an abundance of prayer, and a desire to seek TRUTH from the Lord. Conflicts are a natural part of life, but we can learn to handle them in an unnatural way. A truly Godly way.
Retiring in April 2022, Mark R. Elliott served as a Director of Missions (Associational Mission Strategist) in Western Iowa and Eastern Nebraska for almost three decades. He is a strong advocate for obedience and Biblically based disciple making. As such, he knows that making healthy disciples requires Christian leaders to be constantly pursuing spiritual maturity—be lifelong learners. Because of the time constraints of ministry, most pastors focus their reading list on resources that assist them in teaching and preaching the Word of God. As such, books focusing on church health, leadership development, and church growth tend to find their way to the bottom of the stack. With that reality in mind, Mark has written discussion summaries on several books that have helped him to personally grow in Christ and that tend to find themselves on the bottom of most pastor’s stack. Many pastors have found them helpful as they are able to more quickly process great insights from other pastors and authors.