Seminaries generally are not very effective in equipping pastors to be ministers of reconciliation, says pastor and experienced mediator Alfred Poirier. The result is pastors trained in biblical exposition, well-ordered worship, and good theology, but with little practical know-how about one of the most important functions they will be expected to perform: conflict resolutSeminaries generally are not very effective in equipping pastors to be ministers of reconciliation, says pastor and experienced mediator Alfred Poirier. The result is pastors trained in biblical exposition, well-ordered worship, and good theology, but with little practical know-how about one of the most important functions they will be expected to perform: conflict resolution. The Peacemaking Pastor provides a survey of the nature and kinds of conflict typical in the pastorate to bring to light the need to recover the ministry of reconciliation. Poirier, chairman of the board of Peacemaker Ministries, shows pastors the importance of a reconciliation ministry, gives them a theological framework for peacemaking, and provides practical tools for facilitating the peacemaking process. Written by a pastor for pastors, this insightful book will encourage and equip seminaries and ministry leaders in their original calling-promoting a culture of peacemaking in the church....more
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click here.Here is the book review that I submitted for the DMin seminar "Managing Church Conflict" of New Orleans Baptist Seminary.
Many young pastors begin ministry with visions of grandeur marked by rapid church growth, invitations to speak at revivals and conferences, and even book deals that allow them to expound wisdom. However, these dreams are often shattered when they are met with the reality of life in the local church. In most cases, pastoral ministry is a process of slow leadership tHere is the book review that I submitted for the DMin seminar "Managing Church Conflict" of New Orleans Baptist Seminary.
Many young pastors begin ministry with visions of grandeur marked by rapid church growth, invitations to speak at revivals and conferences, and even book deals that allow them to expound wisdom. However, these dreams are often shattered when they are met with the reality of life in the local church. In most cases, pastoral ministry is a process of slow leadership that is marked by conflict. From marriage counseling to contentious deacons meetings, reconciliation of personal conflicts to moderating difficult business meetings, ministry requires conflict management skills. Most pastors do not come equipped with the skills necessary to handle such situations. Thankfully, Alfred Poirier’s book The Peacemaking Pastor: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Church Conflict serves as a resource that provides a framework of gospel centered conflict management that every pastor needs to master.
Poirier’s book is divided into three sections. The first section, comprised of chapters one through three, identifies the mechanics of conflict as a part of the human condition. The first chapter is a discussion of the uncomfortable truth that most pastors shy away from peacemaking. It concludes with a call to peacemaking by reminding the pastor that he cannot fulfill his calling if he refuses to be a peacemaker.
The second chapter is devoted to defining the forms of and responses to conflict. This proves beneficial in two ways. First, it provides the pastor with a basic understanding of different types of conflict. Second, it gives an abbreviated analysis of healthy and unhealthy response to conflict. The third chapter may be the most important chapter in the book in that it unmasks evil desires of the heart as the true origin of conflict. This is important because many contemporary approaches to conflict resolution start with the role of others in conflict. Poirier rightly states that true biblical conflict resolution begins with understanding how personal desires drive behaviors leading to conflict. “As church leaders, we are called to turn people's eyes first on themselves, on their own attitudes and actions, because James's first lesson is that reconciliation of conflicts must begin by having the parties examine themselves and their desires.”
The second section consists of chapters four and five. These chapters underscore the theological underpinning of peacemaking. Chapter four deals with the theological principle of God as peacemaker. The key point is that, even as God allowed the curse of sin to run its course, he is constantly in the process of making peace with humanity for his glory. Chapter five take the logical step by concluding that a peace making God expects a peace making people. Within the context of the local church, believers are not people gathered together with no significant ties. Rather, the church is a family. Its members are sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters with one another.
The final section is a basic primer on the components of peacemaking. Chapters six through twelve address specific aspects of peacemaking. These include the role of confession of sin within the body of Christ, the extension of real forgiveness, the priority of others over ourselves through negotiation, the pastor’s role in resolving conflict, the principles of mediation and arbitration, and principle and practices of church discipline. Chapter thirteen concludes the book by discussing the implementation of peacemaking in the church. This section effectively takes the philosophical and theological truths established in the first two sections and puts them in the context of the local church.
Significant Contributions to Conflict Management
Poirier provides a wealth of information for those who desire to resolve conflict in a manner that follows Scripture and honors Christ. The thorough nature of this book leaves few if any issues untouched. Although many could be discussed, there are two significant contributions that must be pointed out.
Chapter three provides an important understanding of the root of conflict. Often symptomatic results of conflict are mistakenly presented as the root of the conflict. For example, a conflict in the church that erupts over worship style is often understood to originate in the experiences and preference of people. But Poirier rightly states that this is not the case. He says that the heart of conflict is rooted in the sinful desires that push and pull against others for ourselves. This is important in that it helps peacemakers identify what they must resolve. Rather than wasting time trying to find solutions for symptoms, understanding the role of evil desires helps peacemakers more effectively get to the heart of the matter. As the author says, “As pastors called to be peacemakers, we must come armed with law and gospel, gospel and law. We must understand that the conflicts people are in are conflicts in people-conflicts in their hearts, conflicts of desires, demands, and idols.”
A second significant contribution that is made to the field of conflict resolution is the PAUSE principle. Developed by Ken Sande, this principle is a five-step process for successful negotiation. It is important to the peacemaking process to sit down and discuss personal issues such as emotions. However, most of the time additional work is needed. Specifically, substantive issues need to be negotiated. This is where the PAUSE principle becomes useful. These five steps lead the pastor/negotiator through a logical process of conflict resolution. The first step of preparation is the absolute starting point. Without this, negotiation is much more likely to go awry. The second step is to affirm relationships. It is here that the negotiator establishes the importance of the parties to one another. They are more than individuals; they are brothers and sisters seeking resolution for the glory of Christ. The third step calls for a thorough understanding of the interests of all those involved. It is here that the unifying principles that lead to successful negotiation are given prominence. Fourth, the negotiator must work with those in conflict to search for creative solutions. This allows all involved to have ownership in the final solution. Fifth, the options identified must be fairly evaluated to ensure they are feasible. All of these steps allow hostile situations to be disarmed so that solutions that are beneficial for the church can be reached. This measured and logical approach adds much to peacemaking.
Strengths and Weaknesses
There are at least four strengths of the author’s presentation. First, he is thorough. The reader is not left with many questions. From theological implications to individual elements to practical application, all of the major tenets of peacemaking are addressed. The writing is not so technical that it is difficult to comprehend; yet it is a heady approach that challenges the reader.
Second, Poirier’s presentation is logical. As he progressively moves through each of the sections of the book, he logically addresses peacemaking in a way that makes sense. The careful reader is not confused at any point. One does not get lost in this reading. The logical flow gives clarity to the purpose and direction of the writer.
Third, the book is balanced in that each of the major sections is covered proportionately. The reader does not feel as if one concept was given too much attention to the neglect of another. Specifically, the first and second sections are shorter than the last, but all three sections adequately address the matter at hand. There is not a sense that the author should have spent more time in a particular area. He points out necessary truth and moves on.
The final strength is the most important. Poirier is thoroughly biblical. There is no sense that he is trying to convince his reader of the latest psychological trends. He is not merely engaging in philosophical discussions. The Bible serves as his source of proper conflict resolution. This elevates his work far above books that do not consider the Bible as the primary source of conflict resolution. His success is found in his confidence in the Scripture’s sufficiency. These four strengths make this book a profitable read.
Every book has weaknesses at some point. Even as the strengths in Poirier’s presentation far outweigh the weaknesses, there are two weaknesses that need to be pointed out. As mentioned above, the book is thorough. However, there are occasions where the thoroughness of the book tends toward laboriousness. There are places where the author continues to expound upon a point that is already adequately covered. Better to over explain than under explain, however, it seems as if some sections could be a bit tighter.
Finally, it would have benefited the writer to be a bit more illustrative. No doubt there are illustrations provided. However, more real life examples, particularly in the third section of the book, would have been helpful to the author’s presentation. This would have added a connecting point with the reader. Regardless of these relatively minor weaknesses in presentation, this book is a great work that is worthy of serious consideration by pastors who desire to be peacemakers.
Points of Agreement and Disagreement
There are many strong points in the book with which the pastor who has dealt with conflict will readily agree. For the task at hand, three will be addressed. First, the assessment of the source of conflict is accurate. Conflict is not something that is external in origin. It begins in the human heart. Disagreements are rooted in the depths of the individuals involved. The external issues merely exacerbate what is happening in the heart.
Second, the direct connection between discipleship and discipline is particularly useful. The church cannot produce disciples of Christ without exercising discipline. Discipleship and discipline are deeply connected. You cannot have one without the other. However, this is not the inaccurate and unbiblical idea that many have of church discipline. Poirier is not advocating a cleansing of the church over any and all disagreements. He is calling for an act of discipline that binds the church together rather than tears it apart. “The point is that discipline is not simply for fornicators, drunkards, or spouse deserters but for all who seek to follow Christ.”
Third, the concepts of confession and forgiveness defined and explained in chapters six and seven are invaluable. Reconciliation is impossible without the confession of those who have committed sin and broken peace. Confession must be genuine. Many supposed acts of confession are no confession at all. The author’s establishment of what true confession is provides a great service to peacemakers.
Likewise, few things are misconstrued in the church like forgiveness. Forgiveness is not forgetting, ignoring, or tolerating. It is choosing not to dwell on an offense. It is determining not to hold an offense as a weapon for the future. It is deciding to let settled matters be settled without unnecessary discussions with others. It is committing to continue in fellowship without allowing the offense to be divisive. If these principles of confession and forgiveness were taken seriously in the body of Christ, surely the staggering rate of division would be significantly slashed.
The only significant point of disagreement was found in the first chapter. The argument that believers are not good at peacemaking because they are heretics at heart seems to be over the top. Certainly there are some who have a skewed view of the Biblical obligation to make peace, however, deeming the difficulty that most have with conflict management as a matter of internal heresy is a bit much. Thankfully the content that followed was strong enough to reengage this reader.
There are three big ideas presented in The Peacemaking Pastor that will enhance future ministry. First, the truth that those involved in conflict are not merely parties but rather brothers and sisters is powerful. This personalizes what the sinful nature tends to depersonalize. This is particularly helpful for the pastor when he is personally called to question. Too many pastors tend to demonize those who question them with phrases like “touch not God’s anointed.” The natural response is often to part fellowship and removed the offender from the church. In some cases, the extreme measure of implementing restraining orders is taken. In rare instances this might be necessary, but seeing a questioner as a brother who deserves a fair hearing seems much more Biblical than the alternative.
Second, the call to pastors to exercise the keys to the kingdom is valuable. The role of pastor is not one of autocracy, however, he is given authority under Christ. In the context of conflict, that role is peacemaker. Therefore he properly utilizes the keys of the kingdom when he extends peace. Connected to this idea is the importance of reminding believers of who they are. This is powerfully illustrated in the author’s story of his correcting his daughter’s behavior by taking her to Ephesians two and showing her who she is in Christ. The calling up rather than preaching down led her to correct inappropriate behavior. This particular exercise of the keys of the kingdom proves very helpful.
Third, chapter thirteen provides a strategy for pastors to follow in leading their churches to be safe places where peace abounds. This steps presented are very practical in nature and can systematically be taught and implemented. Even as there are denominational differences that will work themselves out in implementation, the general principles work for any pastor and church serious about peacemaking.
The volume of truth and practical teaching in The Peacemaking Pastor is phenomenal. Writing a review is challenging in that there are so many strong points that can and rightly should be discussed. Jesus told his disciples that the distinguishing mark of those who belong to him is their love for each other. Far from the romanticized notions of conflict free church life, true love for the brethren is fleshed out in peacemaking. To this end, Albert Poirier has made an invaluable contribution to the church and to the Kingdom. Those who have been called to lead would do good to read and implement these biblical peacemaking truths. ...more
Alfred Poirier skilfully relates the many valuable leasons that he has learned over many years of Christian Ministry. Leasons learned from both Scripture and personal experience. This is a inciteful, practical and useful read for anyone involved in any form of minsitry, particularly at leadership level. This read is exceptionally useful for not only assisting to resolve conflict but more importantly at enriching relationships which will great reduce conflicts.
A helpful reminder of the pastor's task (and that of all Christians) of being a peacemaker. He makes some good points, and I recommend this alongside The Peacemaker by Ken Sande for everyone in ministry.