Call me a nerd but I was very ecstatic about what was going down on Tuesday evening in my little church in Northeast, Missouri. I had been saved for a few months now and beginning to get acclimated into the church. I could not seem to get enough of this life with other believers. So it was only fitting that when there was something on Tuesday night that I would attend.
That something in this instance was the quarterly church business meeting. Boy, was I pumped! I figured that this was were we all got together to talk about our evangelism strategies, to share about how the church was going to disciple, and to pray together for the next quarter before our next get together.
The first 15 minutes of the business meeting weren’t so bad. I assumed that discussing the length of tape to put around the boiler was an important side issue that we had to deal with before we could get to the good stuff. But 30 minutes in to this thing I was painfully discouraged. People were having conflict over silly little things. We were discussing paint colors, carpet fibers, clock positions, and everything else that seemed to matter little compared to the gospel.
Now we can all kind of chuckle (or perhaps lurch in our mouth) thinking about such meetings because we have been a part of them. In fact if you have spent any time in church (more accurately any time breathing) you know that it comes with a host of conflict. I had assumed early on that once you come to know Christ and live out your faith in the context of a local church that conflict is held to a minimum.
Now after having served in various ministry positions for over 10 of my 31 years of life I am painfully aware of how deeply conflict is ingrained in the life of the local church. And this is not to mention marital relationships or other familial relationships. Nor to mention conflict with those we rub shoulders with at work, football games, school, or even the movie store.
One thing is certain about conflict, it goes wherever sinners are. And yet I surprisingly continue to be surprised by the painful reality of conflict. As a pastor and writer that deals with some sort of conflict on an almost daily it can be very tempting to either ignore it or blow it out of proportion. It can also be tempting to take a book like Robert D. Jones’ Pursuing Peace and simply toss it to the side because “I’ve heard all of this before”.
But you probably haven’t heard it all before. Not in this way. That’s the thing about this book. It is so well structured and so graceful that it makes charting the choppy waters of conflict look like smooth sailing.
And that is what really high quality writers, actors, shortstops, etc. do. They do their job so gracefully that everybody watching thinks, “oh that’s easy man, I think I could do that”. And then you get a hard hit ground ball that jacks you upside the face and your realize that it’s not easy that guy was just that good. That is what Pursuing Peace does. It is a well written book on conflict.
Jones states from the beginning that his goal is to “provide a step-by-step process for pursuing peace in all your relationships and to give you a tool you can use to help others” (12). And this he does masterfully. No faithful reader can walk away from this book and honestly say that he/she does not now know the biblical process for resolving conflict.
And it’s not just a few theoretical steps that are divorced from grace and the gospel. For the first few chapters Jones focuses our eyes and hearts were they really need to be; namely, on God Himself. In doing this he also reminds us that “pursuing peace” and “having God-pleasing relationships is not a dispensable luxury” (19). It is the Christian life.
Jones’ process for resolving conflict is three steps. Step One: Please God. Step Two: Repent. Step Three: Love the Person. Loving the Person includes having an attitude of grace, forgiving, confronting, and serving. The book is structured around expounding each of the steps in this process.
For me the first two chapters became like watching a graceful shortstop. I was tempted to just skim through the book, do my obligatory review, and move on trying to wade through the conflict in my life. But something happened in chapter three. Chapter 3 was like a play that makes Sportscenter and makes you simply marvel. Afterwards you aren’t thinking, “oh I could do that”. Your thinking, “wow, if I want to be a good shortstop I better study this dude”.
That’s what happened to me after chapter 3. I realized the beauty and the simplicity of conflict. It’s really something that is a “duh”. All we can really control in our conflicts is pleasing God. And that is what is to be our central aim. If I focus on pleasing God it may not solve the conflict but it will make me a faithful disciple and that’s the biggest goal anyways. It puts your focus in the correct place.
Robert D. Jones does exactly what he set out to do. He provides a clear and biblical process for pursuing peace in the midst of conflict and he provides a helpful tool that can easily be reproduced.
Should You Buy It?
Absolutely. This is and Ken Sande’s The Peacemaker are two vital books for Christian ministers. They are also books that ought to be in the home of every believer. Personally, I plan on reproducing this material and taking a group of people through it.
You can buy it here.