Rejoicing Over Conflict

16 02 2010

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

(This is the third in a series of posts from Philippians 4 on dealing with church conflict).

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Phil. 4:4

So be honest.  How many times did you use that verse before you realized that its context is church conflict?

This verse begins Paul’s prescription for dealing with conflict.  In the case of the Philippians, it was the conflict between Euodia and Syntyche.  In my church it would be a different issue.  In your church, a different one yet.  But in any case, Paul’s first word of advice is “rejoice!”

How is it that Paul can say that about a church fight?  What is it that he understood about church conflict that we are inclined to miss?

wavesFirst, Paul understood that conflict is inevitable in church.  If there are people in your church, there will be conflict.  It is a part of the human condition.  Issues are to the church what waves are to the seashore.  No matter what issue we are dealing with today, there will be another one tomorrow, and another one after that.  How naive would it be to be standing in the surf, get knocked over by a wave, and then stand up and say, “Well, I’m glad that’s over…we won’t have to worry about that happening again.”  Paul understood this.

Second, Paul understood that there will never be a church conflict that sneaks up on God.  Whatever conflict your church may be facing right now, God saw it coming a long, long time ago.  He could have prevented it.  He did not.  He permitted it to come.  How you deal with it will either bring Him glory or shame.  How you respond to the conflict will either make it a very good thing for your church or a very bad thing.  When I work with a conflicted congregation, I often have young families come to me to say they will be moving their membership to another church, because they don’t want their teenagers exposed to the bad behavior in the church.  I always think to myself: so you’re teaching them to run from conflict... what do you suppose will happen when they get married and have their first big conflict?  That’s right, they will run from it and from the marriage.  And when they come to you wanting to get a divorce and you need a lawyer, please don’t call me…I didn’t teach them how to run from conflict.  You did. We don’t want to teach our children “fight” responses to conflict, but we don’t want to teach them “flight” responses either.  What we want our children to learn is how to work through conflict in a God-honoring way.

Third, Paul understood that, with every conflict God permits to visit a church, there is a new opportunity to bring glory to God.  There is a new opportunity to show a watching community that God’s Word really does have answers to life’s problems, including conflict.  Paul understood that and says, “rejoice!”  Paul says, “I’ve heard about your conflict.  Isn’t it awesome!”

So, if you have conflict right now in your church, rejoice!  And if you don’t, rejoice!  But in the future, when you do, rejoice!  Gotta love Paul…

© Blake Coffee

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com





I Am Syzygus

9 02 2010

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

(This is the second in a series of posts from Philippians 4 about church conflict)

Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. Philippians 4:3

Have you ever thought about your name and wondered how it has shaped you or influenced you as a person?  I have…

syzygusMy name is Syzygus.  It is Greek.  There really isn’t a good English translation of it, but “yokefellow” comes pretty close.  It’s a bit of an embarrassing name, actually, because it is a reference to oxen in a yoke.  I have no idea what my parents were thinking.  But today, looking back on my life, I’m glad they named me Syzygus.  When I think of how God worked in my life, it fits.  I suppose it refers to a co-laborer wearing the same yoke as you, pulling along with you.  If there is any truth to the old adage that names do reflect something about us, then I am a true friend who has walked along with you during good times and bad times, never leaving your side.  I am a person who has been coupled with you through difficult service together.  I have grown to trust you and you have grown to trust me.  I am your “yokefellow”.

I suppose I was not surprised, then, when Paul called me out in his letter to my church in Philippi.  I had been yoked with him in ministry and had been yoked with Euodia and Syntyche as well.  I knew them well and they knew me and trusted me.  As much as I did not want this assignment, I was exactly the right person to confront them about their disagreement.  In his wisdom, Paul knew that.

I suspect Paul also knew that all of us in the church were a bit perplexed about what to do with these two sisters.  We knew their broken relationship had gotten out of hand, and we knew someone needed to love them enough to confront them about it, but none of us wanted to do it.  I suppose we were all hoping someone else would step up, or maybe by some miracle Paul himself would be released from prison and he would come and do it.  Hey, don’t laugh, it’s happened before.

But there would be no miraculous prison break this time.  One of us (or perhaps a few of us) in the church would have to step up and deal with this conflict.  Personally, I usually run from it.  I really hate conflict.  I don’t like getting up in other people’s business, I don’t like being perceived as judgmental, and I don’t like sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong.  Frankly, I can probably think of at least a dozen other excuses if you give me a little time.  Bottom line: none of us in the church wanted to do this, but we all knew it needed to be done.  Some argued it was the pastor’s job.  Others argued it was the elders’ job.  I was neither.  I was just someone who cared deeply for these two women, which is why Paul knew I was the right person to do this.  After all, if it were me who needed confronting, I would want it to be someone whom I trusted and who I knew loved me.  Why shouldn’t Euodia and Syntyche have the same benefit?

I pray that, when you need someone to tell you the truth about yourself, you will have a “Syzygus” in your life.  And I pray that, when someone you love needs a “Syzygus” in his/her life who will help him/her see the truth, you will step up and be that yokefellow for him/her.  I pray that, when God touches you on the shoulder with that assignment like Paul touched me, you will kneel down and pray and then go.  And I pray that God will use that experience to change your life the way He changed mine.

I am Syzygus.  And I am so very glad for that.

© Blake Coffee

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com

 





A Legacy of Conflict

2 02 2010

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

(This is the first in a series of posts from Philippians 4 on dealing with church conflict).

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Phil. 4:2

Have you ever noticed that people don’t tend to name their daughters after these two particular New Testament church members?  I mean you’ll find plenty of Peters, James’, Stephens, Philips, Lidias, Priscillas, and even a few Dorcas’ and Cornelius’, but you’ll have a hard time finding a child named after Euodia or Syntyche.  That is because parents tend to name their children something that is positive or that has a strong legacy behind it.  Most parents do not name their children after people with a bad legacy.  And that is exactly the kind of people Euodia and Syntyche were.

euodia-and-syntyche

Euodia and Syntyche as children

We know practically nothing else about these two women except for the fact that they apparently could not get along.  They may have been critically important founding members of the Philippian church.  They may have had sons who went on to become wonderful pastors or teachers.  Who knows, they may have been teachers themselves.  They may have been wealthy contributors to the work of the church or key figures in the women’s ministry there.  They may have been beloved prayer warriors or wise members of the personnel committee.  They may have been any or all of these things, or perhaps none of them at all.  We simply do not know.  But forever and ever, as long as the kingdom of God is around, everyone will remember Euodia and Syntyche for one thing and one thing only: they could not get along with each other.

How’s that for a legacy?

In my work as a church mediator, I have had occasion to work with all kinds of churches, big & small, city & country, and every imaginable evangelical denomination.  Unfortunately, the ones that often stick out in my memory are the “repeat offender” churches.  You know them.  They are the ones who have fired their last several pastors and continue to live in a state of denial about it.  They are like the friend who has been married and divorced 4 or 5 times and continues to say about it, “Can you believe my bad luck?”  They are churches who, more than any other thing, are leaving a legacy of conflict.  Like our friends Euodia and Syntyche, all that will be remembered about them is this horrible legacy.

So what is my point?  I suppose it is simply to encourage you to leave a better legacy than this.  Don’t let your testimony be remembered as the guy (or girl) who was hard to get along with.  But even more importantly, don’t let that be your church’s testimony either.  If your church is a “repeat offender” church, do something to help them see that and get on a healthy track.  Change the culture, before your name goes down in God’s big book right next to Euodia and Syntyche.

© Blake Coffee

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,809 other followers