The local church must be an outpost of Gospel-centered peace, Sande tells SBTS students

Communications Staff — September 18, 2008

Local churches that cultivate a culture of peace see healthy spiritual fruit born in its individual members, Ken Sande, president of Peacemakers Ministries, told students at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Sept. 9-10
during a series of lectures on handling church conflict.

Sande, a former attorney, founded Peacemakers Ministries in 1982 with a desire to apply the life-changing power of the Gospel and the wisdom of God’s peacemaking principles to the lives of believers and their churches. Sande is the author or co-author several books, including “The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict” and “Peacemaking for Families.”

“Developing a culture of peace is a crucial slice of the church,” Sande said. “Because we live and minister in a fallen world, we must create an environment in which Gospel peacemaking is always being taught.

“A healthy church has many elements [including] biblically faithful theology, leadership, vision, preaching, worship, relationships, memberships, discipleship, evangelism and the like. All of these are strengthened when a church cultivates a culture of peace, which is an environment where Christians are inspired, equipped, and assisted to live out the Gospel in the conflicts in daily life.”

Sande identified four key characteristics that compose a “peace culture:” a passion for the Gospel, shepherd-like pastoral leaders, a peacemaking theology of grace and a peacemaking team that shares and delegates teaching and other responsibilities related to peacemaking in the church.

Sande pointed out that nearly one-fourth of current pastors in America have been forced out of the pulpit during their ministries. Pastors need to learn the biblical principles of peacemaking because often, they make conflict worse with unbiblical approaches to handling battles in the church. The single largest cause of controversy in local churches is various types of character and moral failure in the pastor, he said.

“When it comes to facing the flames of conflict, many church leaders are not only poor firefighters; all too often they are actually arsonists,” he said. “Very often change is a large issue that causes controversy and a connected issue of control. Sometimes it is an issue of the heart in a pastor or just poor judgment.”

Pastors and other church leaders often fumble for a solution when conflict arises, Sande said; they typically have one of two responses, both of which merely fan the flames: escape through ignoring the situation or seeking to please people and attack by politicking to win allies or seeking to exert control over the warring factions.

Pastors and other church leaders must respond to conflict in a way that is consistent with the Gospel, Sande said, in a way that is taught in Scripture, through such means as overlooking an offense, reconciliation, negotiation, mediation, arbitration or accountability, as the situation demands.

Peacemaking is a lifelong endeavor and requires much hard work, diligence and patience, Sande pointed out. He identified seven assets of a peacemaking leader, which are:
· The Gospel, which serves as the foundation for peacemaking.
· The church, which serves as the base for peacemaking. Christians need to possess a strong biblical doctrine of the church, he said.
· A peacemaking theology grounded in Scripture. The Bible addresses conflict throughout, Sande said. For example, he noted that the apostle Paul wrote most of his letters to address doctrinal, moral and practical issues that were threatening to rend local congregations in the early church.
· Christ, the Great Shepherd as the peacemaking role model.
· Peacemaking character, particularly in the pastor, because much conflict arises from flaws in pastoral leadership, Sande said. “A church’s ability to resolve conflict will rarely rise above their leaders,” Sande said.
· Peacemaking skills through techniques and processes for handling conflict from the teaching of Scripture. This asset might include having leaders who are trained in biblical counseling or who have participated in extensive peacemaker training, he said.
· A peacemaking team that involves the entire body of Christ.

“The goal is to make peacemaking not only a tool but a habit, not only a habit, but a nature, not only a nature but a life,” Sande said.

For more information on Peacemakers Ministries, please see the organization’s website at http://www.peacemaker.net/site/c.aqKFLTOBIpH/b.958123/.

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