Category Archives: Communication

The Peacemaker’s Pledge

To be human is to have conflict. To shepherd a church is to have conflict among them and with others. How we handle conflict is important! Our church needs to be trained in handling conflict. Our church members are watching us and learning to obey the Lord even as they watch us.

The definitive book is The Peacemaker by Ken Sande. The following is a helpful summary from this book. I believe I saw this summary with a speech organization I am affiliated with.


A Commitment to Biblical Conflict Resolution

As people reconciled to God by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we believe that we are called to respond to conflict in a way that is remarkably different from the way the world deals with conflict (Luke 6:27-36; Gal 5:19-26; Matt 5:9).

We also believe that conflict provides opportunities to glorify God, serve other people, and grow to be like Christ (1Cor 10:31-11:1; Rom 8:28-29; James 1:2-4).  Therefore, in response to God’s love and in reliance on His grace, we commit ourselves to   respond to conflict according to the following principles:


a. Instead of focusing on our own desires or dwelling on what others may do, we will seek to please and honor God-
b. by depending on His wisdom, power, and love;
c. by faithfully obeying His commands;
d. and by seeking to maintain a loving, merciful and forgiving attitude
(1Cor 10:31; James 4:1-3; Psa 37:1-6i; Phil 4:2-9; Col 3:1-4; 1Pet 2:12; Jn 14:15; James 3:17-18; Rom 12:17-21; Mk 11:25).


a. Instead of attacking others or dwelling on their wrongs,
b. we will take responsibility for our own contribution to conflicts-confessing our sins, asking God to help us change any attitudes and habits that lead to conflict,
c. and seeking to repair any harm we have caused
(Mt 7:3-5; 1Jn 1:8-9; Prov 28:13; Col 3:5-14; Lk19:8).


a. Instead of pretending that conflict doesn’t exist or talking about others behind their backs,
b. we will choose to overlook minor offenses, Proverbs 19:11
c. or we will talk directly and graciously with those whose offenses seem too serious to overlook.
d. When a conflict with another Christian cannot be resolved in private, we will ask others in the body of Christ to help us settle the matter in a biblical manner
(Mt 18:15-20; James 5:9; Gal 6:1-2; Eph 4:29; 2Tim 2:24-26; 1 Cor 6:1-8).


a. Instead of accepting premature compromise or allowing relationships to wither,
b.  we will actively pursue genuine peace and reconciliation-forgiving others as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven us, and seeking just and mutually beneficial solutions to our differences
(Mt 5:23-24; Mt 6:12; Eph 4:1-3, 32; Mt 7:12; Phil 2:3-4).

By God’s grace, we will apply these principles as a matter of stewardship, realizing that conflict is an opportunity, not an accident.

We will remember that success, in God’s eyes, is not a matter of specific results but of faithful, dependent obedience.

And we will pray that our service as peacemakers bring praise to our Lord and leads others to know His infinite love (Mt 25:14-21; 1Pet 2:19, 4:19; Rom 12:18; Jn 13:34-35).

Having Hard Conversations

One skill a shepherd needs is knowing how to have hard conversations.

In Necessary Endings, Henry Cloud articulates a number of points that I have learned the hard way over the years. (See p. 199ff) I will integrate my thoughts with his.

1. Don’t put off the conversation because you dread the difficulty of it. But don’t rush in. Pray through it and have a plan. What should be in that plan?

2. Begin with the end in mind. Where will the conversation end? “I want to leave the conversation with the person knowing…..” My conversations have often called for repentance – a change of mind resulting in a change of direction. What will happen if there is no change of direction? Be ready for that.

3. Combine care and truth. Have a balance of both. Care about the person and care about the truth. Know your tendency. Do you tend to be too squishy? Do you tend to be too harsh? Be honest, clear, caring, authoritative.

4. Write out the wording. Cloud suggests role-playing. Though I have never done that, I have written out what the facts were or what I wanted to say. Saying something like, (his wording), “I have a list of things I wanted to make sure we covered,” is not strange.

5. Get the tone right. Have a gentle, caring, calm tone can keep the conflict at the lowest necessary point. Moving into a stressed, argumentative, louder, overbearing tone starts to heat the conversation up. It is not only what we say, but how we say it that counts.

6. Be ready for evasion and defensiveness. If we begin with the end in mind, then we will need to prepare for a lack of receptiveness. That often involves listening to the person well, and staying on track with the point of the conversation. “I understand….. but I want to make sure you understand what I am saying…”

7. Express your care for the other person. See #3.  God cares for him or her. You should also. Let him know that. Let him know how this sin is dishonoring God but that you are still committed to loving him biblically.

8. Call for repentance. If you are speaking as spiritual authority and sin is involved, then it is good and right to call for a decision. “In Christ’s name, I am calling on you to repent of….. Will you repent of this sin?

9. Bottom line: cultivate the fear of God, not the fear of man. Having hard conversations will not make you popular. But God will see, and bless it. Others will hear and respect you for it.

Hard conversations have to happen. They are a form of correction. The questions is do we have the courage to have those hard conversations. And when we do have them, are we speaking skillfully?

Killing Church Gossip


He does not differentiate between the mature person who falls into this sin in your presence. And the person who is characterized by this sin. This list seems abrupt and more for the latter.

I especially like #4 and 5 and have used them.

Good and Bad Gossip

Quick Post on “Good” and Bad Gossip

Bad gossip –  talking to someone who is not part of the problem or solution about an issue or a person. Not even to “pray” about it. Gossip is saying things in private you would not say in public. Flattery is saying things in public you would not say in private. – (Not original with me, can’t remember where I saw it.)

“Good” gossip – I am using the term loosely to describe the Biblical command to talk to spiritual authorities about issues in the body. In 1 Corinthians 1:11 Paul says that some from Chloe’s household have, in addition to delivering a letter asking questions, have also reported problems in the church. They reported real spiritual problems to real spiritual authorities.

Church members need to be encouraged to talk with those in authority when they have a concern. We cannot operate on a Dont Ask Dont Tell policy.

Biblical Confidentiality – In addition, the church needs to be instructed about biblical confidentiality. Some have sought to manipulate others by saying, “I am going to tell you something but you have to promise not to tell.”

The biblical response is “I cannot make that promise. I can promise you biblical confidentiality. I am not going to run out and tell others. But I cannot not nor should not promise absolute confidentiality.” (Seem Matthew 18:15ff, 1 Corinthians 5:1ff). If this is a manipulative situation, you might even need to add, “And you should not ever ask this of anyone. It is wrong.”

Our people need to be clear that we do not needlessly pass on information. BUT we do bring in spiritual authorities as warranted. Pastors are not just church event coordinators. They are real shepherds of God’s flock.

What Should Be Shared with Our Wives – Part 2

Another post on this subject here at the blog Sunday Women.

Megan’s observations:

NEVER share your negative speculations. There are people in ministry who are tough to love, but it’s destructive to share assumptions about their motives.

RARELY share information particularly disturbing to your spouse. Me? I can’t stomach details of substance abuse, so my husband loves me by keeping silent.

RARELY share hurtful information that has no solution. If it can’t be fixed, don’t bother sharing.

SOMETIMES share hurtful information that has a solution. These things can be fixed or, at least, helped.

SOMETIMES share hurtful information because its burden is too great. Some secrets need the additional comfort, wisdom, or prayer that only your spouse can give.

OFTEN share information that will soon be public knowledge. This gives your spouse a chance to mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepare.

ALWAYS share encouragement. Spiritual fruit, progress in holiness, and success in gospel labor are things every spouse needs to hear.

Good thoughts for us as elders/shepherds. Read the whole thing.

Good News in Writing; Bad News in Person

If your brother sins against you, go to him. Matthew 18:15

I mentioned a few Sundays ago the principle I have tried to follow throughout my ministering to other people. I would commend it to our church as a standard. It is captured in this phrase, Good news in writing; Bad news in person.

Following this axiom has more profound implications that we can know.

I know of one pastor who would regularly write 4 -7 page-long criticisms and corrections of others. Rather than speaking in person, he would pour out his corrective and critical thoughts on paper and then mail it away. Needless to say, he wounded many in his congregation by handling conflict this way.

Likewise, I also know many pastors who tell of the painful letters they receive and how those criticisms pierce them deeply. These letters, sometimes anonymous, go into detail about what is wrong in the church or with the leader’s ministry. Today’s email makes this form of criticism even more available. Anonymous letters are particularly painful. Charles Spurgeon had this to say, “An anonymous letter-writer is a sort of assassin, who wears a mask, and stabs in the dark. Such a man is a fiend with a pen. If discovered, the wretch will be steeped in the blackest infamy.”

The problem with handling conflict in writing is that it is not biblical. A writer specifically disobeys Matthew 18:15 which says if your brother sins against you, go to him. We are to go in person, not in writing. Going in person allows there to be give and take, the reading of facial expressions and clarifying questions. Face-to-face communication also tends to soften harsh words. The written letter brings its news and inflicts pain over and over and over again.

We cannot hide behind a keyboard, instead we are commanded to communicate face to face. Because of this principle. I have made it my rule not to read critical letters or emails. Instead, it prompts a phone call to talk about the issue. As a church we are not perfect. We will have our conflicts. But Jesus commands that those conflicts be talked about, not written about.

As you deal with disagreements in the workplace, in your family and in the church, I commend this biblical standard to you.

The Power of Words

Part 1 – God and Words

Part 2 – Jesus the Word and Words

Part 3 – The Gospel and Words

Part 4 – The Christian Life and Word

Handling Opposition from 2 Tim 2:24ff

The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26

This passage provides some helpful guidelines for us as we go about our task of shepherding and especially as we face opposition.  First, it is helpful to remind ourselves that ultimately we are the Lord’s bond-servant. Our first and highest priority is to serve Him.  We express our love to him by serving his people.  If the question were one of being our congregation’s servant we would balk.  Their problems would drive us out of the job.  But our allegiance and service is to our Lord.  At times we may have to take unpopular stands and actions.  At other times we will be fatigued by conflict.  Through all this our focus must be up.  We are his servant.

As we go handle opposition, we are not to go about in a quarrelsome manner.  One of the characteristics of an elder is that he is not quarrelsome.  We are not to be inclined toward heated disagreements.  Some of us may be more tempted toward heated disagreements than others. Others may be tempted to avoid the conflict altogether, hoping it goes away.  It never does.

Instead, we are to handle opposition three ways.

First we handle opposition by being kind.  By having a sympathetic, generous response to opposition we show our control of ourselves and calm the situation.

Second, we handle opposition by being able to teach.  Our only authority is the Scripture and our role as elders is to teach the Scriptures.  To teach correctly we must understand what the person is saying AND we must know the Scriptures well enough to respond.  Our battle is a battle for the mind and the thinking of the other person.  To understand his mind, we must listen and probe.

Third, we handle opposition by being patient when wronged.  We will be wronged as shepherds.  We should not think shepherding will be fair or easy.  Our being wronged is guarenteed.  How we respond is up to us.  We need to prepare our response for that situation now.  We are not to lash out but to patiently bear up under the opposition that God is allowing in our lives.

But lest we lose our way by concentrating on these virtues, we must address the opposition. With gentleness correcting those who are in opposition. We combine the virtues of kindness and patience into addressing the situation.  We must seek to correct the wrong thinking of the one opposes us.  Though we may hope that conflict will leave by itself, it will not.  We must take the offensive and address it.

Our attitude in dealing with the person is laid out in the next phrase, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth. Our motive is not to be proven right, it is to correct and instruct so that God may work.  Our attitude is one of hoping that God will grant them a change of mind that will lead them to the truth.  We cannot accomplish that change of mind, only God can.  But we must do our part by presenting the truth.

Ultimately, our desire is that they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. What we will find is that most of those who dramatically oppose us have given the devil a foothold is some other area of life.  Perhaps it is bitterness or anger or rebellion.  Usually, the more dramatic the opposition the more dramatic the foothold. Some will come to their senses.  Others will not.

Opposition will come. When it does, let us be prepared in our hearts and in our minds.

Asking Questions to Shepherd – Observation and Open-ended

Often when we shepherd people, we will feel like the Lord has given us something to say but we will not know how to bring it up. Those conversations  in the back of the church building, at the end of a shepherding group meeting, or in the midst of a conversation can be extremely valuable if we are skilled. How are we to handle this situation? To not bring it up is to ignore the person. To barge in is to speak tactlessly and perhaps damage the relationship.  What to do? May I suggest the following, two step pattern that the Lord has taught me through much trial and error?

1. Start with a true observation (s).

2. Follow with an open-ended question.

For example, you might say,

“John, I noticed that last Sunday and this Wednesday you seemed down. “(True observation) “What has been happening lately?” (Open ended question).

“Bob, I was praying through the church list the other week and realized that your name is not on the covenant.” (True Observation) “Are you not a member? What is your thinking on that?”  (Open-ended question).

“Sarah, in shepherding group tonight you said, ‘God never wants us to suffer.'” (True Observation). “What verses do you base that belief on? Help me understand your thinking. ” (Open-ended question).

“Barb, last week you said to me that ‘I am having trouble with my sister-in-law.'”  (True Observation). I have been thinking about that all week. What did you mean by that? ” (Open-ended questions).

“Mary, last year you were wrestling with the issue of baptism.” (Observations). “How did that ever resolve itself? What is your current thinking on that issue?” (Open-ended question).

This type format give you an opportunity to express very real thoughts that the Holy Spirit has put on your heart AND still inquire as to what the other person is thinking. Once you ask the first open-ended question, you can follow up with more questions also.

As we seek to help different ones progress in their faith, may I commend this method to you?

Thoughts on Gossip

Gossip can destroy a church. It is in fact an act of the flesh. Gal 5: leading to divisions and factions.

A gossip betrays a confidence (Prov 11:13) and separates close friends (16:28) and causes quarrels to continue (26:20). Proverbs also denotes that there is a certain pleasure in gossiping (18:8, 26:2). It is a fruit of sinful man (Romans 1:29) and goes along with a whole fruit of other sins like quarreling, jealousy, anger, factions, and slander (2 Cor 12:20). While not limited to women, it seems a special area of temptation for women (1 Tim 5:13).

What is gossip? Gossip in short is talking about a person to another person who is neither part of the problem nor part of the solution. Talking about others in a disapproving or malicious way. Gossip can destroy a church. The planting of evil thoughts is the exact of opposite of biblical peacemaking. Rather than going to the one with whom there is the conflict or accepting shortcomings in another, a person talks about these issues with another person. Thus, by gossiping they become faultfinders and grumblers (Jude 16) rather than building up the body or building up the person.

How is a church to handle gossip?

1. By giving clear definitions. Talking to a person who is not part of the problem or part of the solution.

2. By refusing to participate.

3. By exposing it. That is by stating that, if we hear gossip, then we know we are hearing a problem. If we are hearing a problem then the person speaking needs to go to the person they are talking about. If they refuse, then the third party needs to take this seriously enough to talk to a spiritual authority. That brings us back to our definition. Talking with someone who is not part of the problem or part of the solution. Spiritual authorities are given to be part of the solution. But they cannot be part of the solution if they do not know of the issues.

Certain ones are able to operate in their sin by flying under the radar and invoking an angry response to any revelation of their activities. The sensitive ones will give into the secretive one for fear of gossipping. Thus the secretive one is able to control the situation.

But biblical confidentiality is never absolute confidentiality. In fact there are certain times we are commanded to go and tell a third party of the sin we know about. Modern Christians might be surprised to learn that Jesus commands us to “gossip.”

But that must bring us to a biblical definition of gossip. Sinful gossip is talking to person B about person A’s problem when person B has no authority to deal or training to handle the problem. But it is NOT sinful gossip to talk with a person who has authority to help with a problem. In other words, absolute secrecy is never promised. There are people who have the spiritual authority to help out. And it is wrong to let the person with secret sin control the situation.

Bottom line. If you know of sin and the person will not listen to you, you can go and tell it to a person with authority. That is not gossip. That is obedience.