Helpful Tidbits for Organic Church Life                                                 March 9, 2009
Working Through the False Realities of Church
My Reflections
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Dear ,
reality_checkRed flags go up when somebody tells me, "We never fight." Why? Because no one's perfect. So, if there's no conflict, that means there's something else going on, usually it's pent up anger due to unresolved issues. This isn't to say, of course, that brawls are necessary. It is to say, however, that conflict is natural and learning to deal with conflict is part of the maturing, and therefore, disciple making process.

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION/TOPIC: When church relationships are strained, what should I do?
Working Through the False Realities of Church
Excerpt from a case study write-up by Traver Dougherty 

Org_LeadDuring my investigation of case study 1 (CS1) I could not help but notice that almost all instances of human interaction were contrived; that is, programmed to some degree. Whether it be a small group gathering in a home or children being separated from their parents on a Sunday morning, I could find almost no examples of normal life lived together. At CS1 all acts of normal life were reserved exclusively for the nuclear family.

By "false" I do not mean unauthentic or not real, rather I mean those environments that are inherently laced with expectations. Examples of such expectations include: expecting to learn something about the Bible, expecting child care, expecting to be cognizant of and to make use of social graces, and so on.

Although it was not my intention, I once set off a firestorm of discussion during a small group time due to one apparently-explosive comment. While discussing what it meant to be "family" at CS1 I submitted the following in response to a direct request for input: "My guess is you're not even close to being family. Until you're close enough to offend, and forgive, one another, in my opinion you've not arrived. At this point, you're not even close to offending one another. So far all I've seen is cordiality. That doesn't seem like family to me."
My Reflections
When I do weddings I'm often asked to recite the Apostle Paul's description of what love is. Most are relatively familiar with the text; here's a shortened version. "Love is patient, kind, does not envy or boast, is not proud, rude, or self-seeking. It is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, trusts, hopes, and always perseveres (1 Cor 13:4-7)."
What is more, most who are familiar with this text know Paul wasn't addressing couples getting married, but those Christians who walk side-by-side with each other: the church.
Ever wonder why Paul penned those words? Because the church needed them. Ever wonder how Paul was able to write those words? To be sure, Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit, but I have to believe he was also inspired by his experience. Flat out, if the church is to function as it's supposed to, it needs a whole lotta love.
Recently, my own little house church experienced some challenges. And although I can't say it was painful, I can say I felt a pit in my stomach from time to time. I knew others felt it, too. As of today, I'm happy to report that love prevailed. I'm also happy to report that we dealt with the whole thing like a family, facing our differences, but also realizing that families stick together no matter what. For what it's worth, here are seven things I learned from the whole experience that might be of some benefit to you.
  1. Satan wants to tear down those things that threaten the advancement of his kingdom; therefore, we must not forget that spiritual warfare is a reality. Prayer is key.
  2. When someone or something makes you feel unsettled inside, go directly to that person and talk it through (if the conversation proves unfruitful, try again, but this time take a friend).
  3. As a church, don't ignore the difficulty. Work through it.
  4. Jesus said he'd never leave us or forsake us. If we're to be like Jesus, we must follow suit. Leaving is not an option.
  5. In all that you say and do, let love prevail. Give lots of hugs. Send a few encouraging emails. Whatever. Just proactively love.
  6. Expect a good outcome. I did, mostly because the people with whom I'm in fellowship know their Bibles and want to be like Jesus, too.
  7. Take an honest look inward. Generally, there's a plank hanging out of one of our eye sockets. If appropriate, confess to your church and ask for forgiveness (keep it short, not too much drama...the rest are probably already aware).

Remember, when the church is functioning properly conflicts will arise. It's quite natural. Equally natural is our propensity to follow our "sin" nature. Paul experienced this and we will, too (Rom 7). And when this happens, that "fight or flight" impulse will arise, beckoning us to take the easy way out. Just think for a moment how things would be different if Jesus took the easy way out. Praise be to God he didn't!

I want to be like Abba.

Hope this was of some benefit to you.

Traver Dougherty
The Banqueting Table