Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's worth the conversation

Avoidance is not the best way to deal with conflict. I have learned this lesson again and again. Unfortunately, many times this is the way we deal with conflict in our personal lives and in our churches. I'm sure that uncertainty over the outcome, concern over job loss, and fear about "rocking the boat" are some of our motivations for going about business as usual. Sometimes, though, I think we just do not want to face reality.

What might happen in a church if the community admitted that we have gotten off course? that we are not really fulfilling our mission (and in some cases doing just the opposite!)? What might happen in the larger Church if we had to answer these same questions? As painful as it may be to express our struggles, experience and experts tell us that we would reap rewards. This week, I ran across the Eighth Letter, an approach to addressing the challenge we face in being church in our day. Twenty-five authors/leaders will be presenting letters written to the North American Church with what they perceive to be the most urgent message the Church needs to hear. Here is one example written by Rachel Held Evans. The organizers of this event have expressed that their intention is to "bring together people and ideas in the hopes of being a contributing catalyst for something beautifully kingdom." Judging by my limited interactions with a few of them, I believe they are seeking to bring healing and hope and not to simply foster further anti-church sentiment.

I am not sure if this is the best way to begin healing, but I do believe that expression of pain, hurt and disappointment are a necessary step in any type of healing process. We must first admit and address the problem. In The Prophetic Imagination, Walter Brueggemann writes,

"The task of prophetic imagination is to cut through the numbness, to penetrate the self-deception, so that the God of endings is confessed as Lord." (Brueggemann, 45)

What might happen if we engaged our prophetic imaginations? If as citizens, friends, Jesus-followers, employees and church members, we refused to pretend that problems do not exist? What if we gave speech to the injustices, fears, doubts and conflicts we faced...and allowed it to serve as a catlayst for something beautifully kingdom? It is my hope that whether it is through a letter-sharing exercise, a much needed one-on-one conversation, or a church business meeting, that we will risk ourselves to deal with conflict in a way that brings healing and leads us to a fuller confession of God as Lord.

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