Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.
(This is the fifth in a series of posts from Philippians 4 on dealing with church conflict).
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
Do I need to come up with a poignant illustration to remind you that these are anxious times in our country and in the world? No, I didn’t think so. And for church leaders, it rarely gets more anxious than when there is divisive conflict going on in our church…particularly when it seems to be swirling around us personally and our leadership.
Indeed, I have been in many churches where worry and anxiety are the normal state…if they happen to stumble on a season with nothing to worry about, they somehow feel stagnant and they honestly do not know what to do. In our “I want it all and I want it now” culture, anxiety has become the new normal.
Here is what Paul understood about worry: it is a behavioral pattern. Like abusive conduct or overeating or road rage or fingernail biting, worry is simply a behavioral pattern…one which can be broken with the type of “renewing of the mind” of which scripture speaks. Changing a behavioral pattern just requires changing our perspective, i.e., how we see the thing. It also helps a great deal to replace the wrong behavior with a right behavior. In this case, it means replacing worry with prayer.
I have had “Gethsemane moments” in my prayer life, moments when I thought the anguish would overcome me and which required going back to the Lord over and over again through this agonizing process of finally trusting God’s will completely. That’s not worry, not when we are moving toward God with the problem (even if that movement is measured only in inches).
Worry is the expense of mental and emotional energy with no direction whatsoever. For a Christian, it is the biggest waste of time imaginable.
So as I see it, worry and prayer are mutually exclusive concepts. Either I am moving my concerns toward God (prayer) or I am not (worry). If I am worrying, I cannot be praying. If I am praying, I cannot be worrying.
In times of conflict, the church needs leaders to be praying and to be leading others to do the same thing. He needs leaders to be a non-anxious presence in the midst of difficult circumstances. That, according to Paul, is what good church leadership looks like…especially in the midst of conflict.
You have conflict swirling around you right now? In the words of Henry Blackaby: “What you do next will reveal what you believe about God.” Pray, and lead others to do the same.
© Blake Coffee
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