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Why Healthy Churches Engage in Conflict Resolution

Why Healthy Churches Engage in Conflict ResolutionIn his essay “The Pattern of Life in Thriving Communities,”   biblical scholar Kavin Rowe makes the observation that one particular (and perhaps unexpected) characteristic of a healthy church is its willingness to engage in a process of disagreement and reconciliation when conflict arises. He draws this conclusion from a careful reading of the Book of Acts, where time and again we see Spirit-led communities patiently and courageously resolving conflict with one another as a practice that is integral to their calling as faithful disciples of Jesus (for example Acts 6, Acts 10-12, Acts 15, Acts 20). This may seem counterintuitive at first. One might expect, for example, that Spirit-led communities would avoid conflict altogether. But this is not the case. Instead, what we see in the Book of Acts is also evident in the letters of Paul and Peter, and in the writings of James and John.  Conflict is inevitable, even within the church.It is i…

A Homily on Philippians 3.4-14: On The "Great Exchange" and Cutting Our Gains

On The “Great Exchange” and Cutting Our GainsPrayer of InvocationFather, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.Prayer of IlluminationFather, you know who we are; we are content and we are dissatisfied; we are confident and uncertain; clear-minded and confused;  we love and we hate, but not always in the proper order; we are filled with hope; we are filled with anxiety; we are Christians by conviction and Christians by convention; we believe, we half-believe, we disbelieve, we doubt; we are surrounded by friends and family; we are lonely, and despairing; we come from well-ordered families; and we come from…

Learning what it means to be human in a living world: Wendell Berry's vision for Higher Education

Our system of education has one major: Upward Mobility. This is the bold claim that Wendell Berry makes in a commencement address he gave in 2009 (in the midst of the Great Recession) to Northern Kentucky University graduates. His address, entitled "Major in  Homecoming", underscores the devastating effects that this form of education has had on people and the land they live on: for upward mobility also implies downward mobility; and it has proven to generate social instability, ecological oblivion, and economic insecurity. Education, Berry laments,  has been reduced to job training and preparation for serving corporations whose only concerns are efficiency and the maximizing of profit. Pointing to the crushing reality that most of the graduates attending the commencement were coming to terms with in the midst of the Great Recession, Berry charges that the failure of the economy and its subservient institutions has become so obvious that it cannot now be denied. (It only to…

What does Paul's letter to Titus teach us about ministry in the church?

For Paul, faithful pastoral leadership in the church is essential for the life of a community and its faithful witness to all that gospel allegiance entails. For this reason, he left Titus in Crete (presumably after they had engaged in proclaiming the gospel there) to appoint elders, who would be able to guide, teach,  and correct disciples in the way of Jesus (Titus 1.5-9; 2.1). 
But both Paul and Titus are faced with a daunting challenge. How will they find leaders among the Cretans who will be up for the task? A quick survey of the letter reveals that there is a culture in Crete that seems antithetical to the kind of culture Titus seeks to shape in the church. 'There are many," Paul says, "who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers (Titus 1.10)." He even quotes from a Cretan prophet and poet who remarked that "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons" to characterize the context in which Titus is called to minister (Titus 1.12). 
Appar…

Sermon Notes: What kind of culture is Jesus forming?

Romans 14.1-12; Matthew 18.21-35Exodus 14.19-31Psalm 114 What kind of culture is Jesus forming?Prayer of InvocationFather, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.Prayer of IlluminationFather, you have sent your Son Jesus to deliver us from our sin and to form a new way of living together. Give us ears to hear, and eyes to see the ways in which our attitudes, postures, and practices run contrary to the gospel. We ask this because we want to be a people that bears witness to Your goodness, truth, and beauty. In Jesus’ name, we pray. ProclamationAs we orient ourselves to the texts that we have read this morning, I want us to think about the word “culture”. Culture has been lurking behind and underneath all that we have been experiencing the past six months in the midst of the pan…

Sermon Notes: What to do when you find yourself in the imperative mood

Romans 13.8-14Matt 18.15-20Deuteronomy 5Psalm 119.33-40What to do when you find yourself in the imperative moodPrayer of InvocationGrant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, we know that you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength,  and that you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.Prayer of IlluminationTeach us your ways; give us understanding that we may keep your word; lead us in the paths of your commands; incline our hearts to your testimonies and not to selfish gain; turn our eyes from looking at worthless things; and give us life in your ways; and give us life as we seek to walk in your righteous ways. PROCLAMATIONYou may have noticed a particular tone or feel, perhaps we might even say a mood, that infused what we have read this morning. These Scriptures have drawn us into the weighty world of imperatives. An imp…