We can learn valuable lessons about dealing with unresolved conflict from the example of Nehemiah in 5:1-13. To truly lead restoration work we have to be willing to deal with unresolved conflict. There is probably no greater need in rural restoration work than to become proficient in the skill of conflict resolution. In the rural setting, after a time of evaluation, it will often become obvious that unresolved conflict is a major cause for decline.
You can’t ignore conflict, because it will not simply “go away.” For a while the tension in a situation or relationship may subside, but unless the root issue is understood and worked through, it’s only a matter of time before the conflict will rear its ugly head again and this time with much more intensity. Unresolved conflict severely impacts the testimony of a church in the rural setting, so be willing to rely on the One who breaks down walls. Fulfill your calling as a peacemaker.
Republished from Voice, Jan/Feb 2018.
One of my favorite pastimes is driving across rural America and looking at old country churches. It pains me when I see those time-worn yet beautiful church buildings being neglected while nature and the elements take over and lead to their eventual ruin. My passion for old church buildings led me to purchase one particular church building in rural Western Nebraska five years ago. The little church had closed a year earlier. My grandfather John Miles had been the last pastor of the church until he passed away at age 92 and the church eventually closed. The building has nostalgic value to me.
Since purchasing the old church building, my wife and I and some talented friends of ours have been restoring it so that it could become our home. This summer we finally completed this five year process of patiently restoring a church building that was in decline and we moved in.
I have a similar passion for restoration when a local body of believers find themselves in a state of decline. It is difficult to see a local church that is in various stages of decaying or dying. I’ve had the tremendous privilege of pastoring in rural settings and being a part of what I like to call “restoration ministry.” I’ve had a front-row seat as I watched God infuse life into His people in these localities.
Though we may understand the characteristics of the small church, ministry is not static, but dynamic. It is not conducted in a sterile test tube isolated from the winds of culture. Instead, we find that the culture in which we live intertwines with the programs we conduct. As a result, the trends that blow across the cultural landscape infiltrate the cracks of the church and affect the ministry and flow of the congregation. Some of these trends are positive, resulting in new opportunities to reach people for Christ. Others undermine the foundation of the church and, if not confronted with a biblical response, assault the stability of the ministry. Still others are neutral, having in themselves no moral or spiritual implications, but radically affect the manner in which the church conducts its ministry.