UNITY. At present this word is the rallying cry of politicians and reporters celebrities and athletes and many other people of influence. Our culture is longing for understanding despite differences within a community.
What a testimony it would be for a community established by God — the church — to model the true meaning of the word; what an example it would be if the church were to model unity even when there is disagreement or conflict.
A new Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) ministry is serving churches with the end goal of “putting unity back in the church community.”
Consisting of a team of Arkansas pastors church staff and associational missionaries with years of experience in ministry the Conflict Reconciliation Ministry (CRM) is designed to help churches discover some proactive principles for unity and help churches in conflict work through their unique situations.
“Jesus told us ‘By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another’” said Scott Miller CRM team member and Associational Missionary for the Faulkner Baptist Association.
“If we [the church] can’t live that we don’t have authority or influence to impact and reach out to the community around us…and I think unity is the foundation of who we are.”
Working alongside churches and their leaders CRM team members serve as consultants in conflict mediation. This model allows the church to take responsibility for working through the conflict with the guidance of two trained CRM team members.
“Every church situation and pastor is different and you can’t come in with a pre-plan” said CRM team member Ricky Lee pastor of First Baptist Church in Sherwood. “We have some proactive steps that we teach from Blake Coffee’s book ‘5 Principles of Unity’ to help a church be unified and we also have reactive training to listen and evaluate.”
“We are not trying to solve their problem for them” Lee said “but helping them reconcile their situation by seeking God and the path He has for them.” All CRM team members have received about 60 hours of conflict resolution training and participate in a monthly conference call for ongoing training.
In May 2017 associations around the state co-hosted training events with the ABSC to be proactive by “promoting unity and preventing conflict.” The Church Unified training events were based on Coffee’s book. Coffee serves as the Founder and Executive Director of Christian Unity Ministries and is also the author of “One Body: Experiencing Unity in the Church” and “Trusting God’s People Again.”
“The purpose [of this ministry] is to be facilitators: to try to bring two or more sides together in a way that they hear one another and value one another and come to the conclusion that God has for them” Miller said. “Having a method to have those conversations in a way that was not threatening and promises the value of being heard would have been valuable in every church that I’ve pastored.”
To initiate conversation about a conflict situation a pastor or church leader (a deacon chairman or other church officer) can contact their associational missionary or call the CRM Coordinator Bob Johnson.
Or for more information about CRM visit absc.org/ministries/conflict-resolution.
Rachel Moreno is a content manager with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.