Refereeing in the Kingdom

By Joell Haugan

Thoughts spawned from David Fitch’s book Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines That Shape The Church For Mission.

David will be joining us in Banff in November, so we at Church Planting thought it would be a good idea to read something of his in advance.

Here is my reflection on the chapter regarding reconciliation.

What strikes me most about Fitch’s approach to reconciliation is the stress he places on presence (yah, I know, it’s in the title to the book). We in church ministry often get called on to help mediate situations and, more often than not, we end up being an arbitrator or judge. And, more often than not, we end up rendering a decision that offends one party or the other….or both!

Instead, Fitch shares, being faithfully present in the situation means coming together in the conflict not so as to render a verdict but to be present with the ones in conflict, and to be Spirit-led into finding the heart of Jesus in the matter.

That sounds like a lot of work. And it goes against the roll-up-our-sleeves-and-fix-it mentality that many of us have as pastors. But, actually, it sounds Biblical.

When I reflect on how Jesus managed his little church of 12, I see an amazing commitment to long term faithful presence. And, I wonder, how many times Jesus mediated conflicts with them (I’m sure they were many)? His faithful, long-term presence with them was what turned them into a band of brothers that set the world on fire. Mark 10 recounts the time there was jockeying for positions in the coming kingdom. A huge conflict arises and Jesus’ management style kicks in, as exemplified by the phrase “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” Conflict was defused. Disciples were left pondering and realizing that they needed to get their priorities sorted for the kingdom’s sake.

It also sounds like something that will not be possible when people in conflict walk in off the street. There needs to be relationship. There needs to be trust. There needs to be mutual submission between all the parties. And, actually, that mutual submission needs to start not with the conflicting parties, but with the leadership… the “referee” in this case.

Aside: wouldn’t it be nice if when an NHL fight breaks out the referee would sit with the two players in a private room (the “quiet room” for concussion protocols will probably be available) and have them enter into being present and attentive with each other and having the ref demonstrate mutual submission as they listen for discernment… oh, wait. Nevermind.

hockey-1470571_640

It won’t work in the NHL, but it is the right way to approach conflict in the Christian Church League (CCL). Yes, sometimes folks aren’t going to allow for this kind of laborious process to bear fruit… but fruit we will bear if we bear with it. As we plant new churches and grow/refresh existing ones, learning to lean on God’s direction while we practice this faithful presence is going to bring about Kingdom relationships and Kingdom change.

It’s going to be cool. I may not like it because it cuts down on my ability to just walk in, speak from my own wisdom, and walk out to head back to my office and write blog posts. But, I think it’s the right thing….er….way to do.

Joell

PS. Here’s the 7 disciplines Fitch lists:

  • The Discipline of the Lord’s Table
  • The Discipline of Reconciliation
  • The Discipline of Proclaiming the Gospel
  • The Discipline of Being with the ‘Least of These’
  • The Discipline of Being with Children
  • The Discipline of the Fivefold Gifting
  • The Discipline of Kingdom Prayer

1 thought on “Refereeing in the Kingdom

  1. Pingback: Opening Space for the Proclamation of the Gospel | CBWC Church Planting

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