This post is one in a series dealing with the beauty and and pitfalls of “keeping the peace” in the church.
Could it be that peace is overrated? Please know I am committed to peace – in its true meaning and practiced correctly. As the apostle Paul writes, I try to do everything to “live at peace” with those around me and in the world. However, there are times when peace is the enemy to both progress and discipleship.
How? Let me explain.
A frequent occurrence in the church is for leaders to make reverse decision or change direction because of peace. We want to “keep the peace” or “work for peace” or “live in peace” with one another. On the surface this sounds good, ideal even. The problem with peace keeping in the church arises because “peace” is often code for “keeping the status quo.”
Imagine a scenario when a church is considering a major change in its structure or mission. Meetings are held, perspectives considered, Bibles studied etc…. But as soon as the folks in the pews get wind of a certain change the pushback begins. Congregants with deep pockets start saber rattling, long time members who disagree start talk of “leaving if…” and private and secret meetings occur. Next church leaders begin having lunches and meetings with people who are upset in the hopes of mediating some kind of mutual agreement. This doesn’t always work, though, and then church leaders must make a decision about what to do. And often the decision is to maintain the status quo or put forth some watered-down, pseudo-interesting version of what God may have placed on the hearts of the leaders in the first place.
The reasons for re-visioning the initial change are myriad: keeping power, fear, over-sensitivity to criticism, whatever. But the articulated reason is usually “peace.” We want the church be peaceful.
And this hyper-privileging of “peace” is killing the church of Jesus! It gives influence to those of the church ranks that are the least mature and allows them to remain so. At the same time, the church becomes focused on offering insiders a comfortable community and becomes disengaged from reaching out because the peace within must be maintained.
A friend of mine tells a story about a preacher of a large church from my non-denomination meeting a nationally known pastor who ministers to a large church in Atlanta. As the two spoke, the pastor explained to the preacher that our non-denomination was mostly churches with memberships of under 100 people (which is true), a significant number of churches around 200 people (which is true), and occasionally we might have a church blossom to around 5,000 members (which is true), but never really more than that. The reason, this pastor posited, was that because the way leadership works in our churches we were incapable of growing larger congregations. He stated the reason this way: “Your leaders go to work all day and do battle all day and when they come to church they want peace. And you can’t lead when peace is privileged over evangelism and transformation.”
(More to come…)