How do you respond to the idea of ‘missional community’? Excitement? Idealism? Threat? Intrusive? Missional community sounds fine as an ideal. But does it bare any relation to reality? How can community work with real people?
I want to suggest four key elements to making community work.
- taking the initiative to resolve conflict
- taking the initiative to serve others
- the centrality of the cross
First, taking the initiative to resolve conflict.
Conflict is a normal part of life. So don’t suppress conflict. If you can forget about it then do so. But if it affect your attitudes then you need to take the initiative to it (Ephesians 4:26-27). Talk with the person and involve others if necessary (Matthew 18:16).
Conflict arises from the desires that battle within us – when we don’t get what we want (James 4:1). Most conflicts involve fault on both sides. Where you’re at fault, repent and ask for forgiveness (don’t just say ‘sorry’ as that requires no response so can leave the issue unresolved). Where others are at fault, don’t make the issue all about you, but about them and God – about how their desires matter more to them than God.
The sign of a true gospel community is not a community without conflict (whose message is ‘we’re nice people’), but a community that forgives (whose message is ‘God is gracious’). Forgiveness says: ‘This does matter to me, but I still forgive you’. This, in effect, is what God declared at the cross: ‘Your sin matters this much, but I still forgive you.’ It’s an act of will that may only be the beginning of the process of healing.
|Conflict Resolution Tips
Cool off. Allow time for your emotions to calm down and use this time to pray and search your own heart.
Talk direct. Don’t moan to other people; talk to the person concerned. You may want to talk over the issue with a third party, but chose someone who’ll challenge your behaviour and desires.
Understand their perspective. Make an effort to understand the other person’s perspective. Check you’ve understood by repeating it back in your own words. Try to understand how you’ve contributed to the situation. Don’t trivialise the way they feel.
Use ‘I’ statements instead of ‘you’ statements. For example, ‘I felt like I was being ignored’ rather than ‘You were ignoring me’.
Avoid saying ‘but’. In conflicts the word ‘but’ will cancel what you’ve just said. ‘I appreciate your efforts, but …’ = I don’t appreciate your efforts!
Do not bring up past issues. Remember: love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5).