We Seek To Help Churches In Conflict
I have been asked to write a description
of how my wife, Ellen, and I minister to churches and Christian
organizations which are in internal conflict.
These comments must be general, for I have discovered that trying to detail every step for every situation gets me ahead of the Lord and away from the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit Who must be the One in control. Thus, I seek to only take matters one step at a time, but within some general concepts.
First, we do not come as negotiators, mediators, arbitrators, or investigators in the commonly known sense. [See What is/is not Godly Investigation and The Path to Reconciliation]
Instead, we come as "witnesses" in the manner of Matt. 18:16: "And if he will not listen to you, then take with you one or two as witnesses so that by the mouth of two or more witnesses the rhema (living word and truth of God, from the Bible, needed for the moment by each person involved) may be histemi (boldly proclaimed)." [See The Who, What and How of Matt. 18:16]
We come with hope and prayer that we can get two people who have something against one another to sit with us and talk about their conflict. If they desire to have others also present, that is quite acceptable. Once having listened to them, we then seek the Lord as to what He might like these people to hear relative to their expressed actions and attitudes. We then meet the parties individually to convey these thoughts, and wait for the Lord to take that truth and work it within their heart.
Often times people refuse to meet with the one they need to meet with, but will meet with us alone. It those cases it may appear that we are acting as investigators. While we will meet with people individually, we often require that they bring a friend with them. But in listening to what is said, we do not "receive" (appropriate, or accept as truth) what is said. And we take what is said and displayed by the person about themselves and attempt to place truth relative to those matters in front of them.
Sometimes, the teaching of God's Word is
used in dealing with the issues. Sermons, congregational meetings, question
and answer sessions can all result in sowing seeds that are accepted by
individuals and promptly acted upon.
In one instance we conducted our
"Learning To Live At Peace"
to educate a large number of the congregation to God's way for dealing with
conflict. Within one week, the annual business meeting — which was expected
to be a great war — turned into a time of much confession and forgiveness.
[See Why A "Learning To Live At
What we are seeking in this entire process is that those who need to see their own faults in fact see them, confess them to the Lord, and confess them before man as needed, as acts of repentance. These become steps toward reconciliation and ending of the conflict. Likewise, we hope that people will see what they need to forgive in others, do forgive, and then re enter relationship with them.
What we believe for — in faith — is that through such a process it is never necessary to truly mediate or arbitrate a dispute — although we are willing to do that if necessary after witness efforts have proved ineffective.
What we further believe for — in faith — is that when leaders choose to care enough to wrestle with the conflict — rather than look for a rebellious donkey to pin a tail upon or tell the pastor to pack — the Holy Spirit is freed up to begin working upon hearts (Judges 5:2). We are just vessels of His in the process.
And, we believe — in faith — that from
this wrestling over conflict will come revival in the lives of believers,
the church, and the community.
Finally, people ask about the cost and
duration of our service.
Because we do not know all that God may desire in any setting, we desire to come without time limit. We try to listen for the Lord telling us to leave, and the leadership may ask us to leave at any time. We generally travel by car so that this type of flexibility may exist. Yes, we will consider a fixed period of time, but that is not our preference.
Our charges are negotiable. However, we look to the church to provide all travel expenses. We prefer housing and meal arrangements to be provided through members during the time that we are present. All specific arrangements are open to a case by case discussion, evaluation, and determination prior to our arrival.
We thank you for your interest in this ministry of reconciliation.
William D. Bontrager,
J.D. and Ellen Bontrager
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