In teaching students this past month, I am using the book of Philippians to teach students some basic principles of handling conflicting. The metaphor we are using is to fight clean (build a person up) instead of fighting dirty (putting a person down. Students, and … Continue reading Lessons from Philippians on conflict
Life is hard and not fair. A good friend of mine, Joe, reminds people often that we cannot control our situations, but we can control how we respond to them. The platitude of attitude is everything comes into play here. When life hits you, a … Continue reading React, Repeat, Respond
Change is possible. One of the biggest changes we need is the courage to engage in conflict rather than run from it, only to have an explosion. In the entirety of my ministry, conflict resolution, or peacemaking, is the most often used skill set used. I discovered the norm for most people is naivety on how to fight clean. If only there was a book that deals with this topic well, is positive, and gives hope. Joe does a masterful job laying out a philosophy and tools to help us engage in conflict.
“The Emotionally Secure Couple: The Key to Everything You Want in a Healthy Relationship” would be best read in order for the first reading. While one can go back and use the book as a reference guide later, each chapter does an excellent job of building to the next. The foundation is built well in the first 13 chapters. Chapters 14 through 22 give you the tools to live out a productive, healthy, and loving way to address inevitable conflicts. Make no mistake, even the foundational chapters are practical in nature. When we change how we think and process things, ultimately our actions will change.
A thing that is great about the book is exercises are given to help make the point of a chapter. Many books I’ve read have these (dreaded) discussion questions at the end of the chapter. Joe hits you with helpful questions or activities in the middle of the chapter. It is refreshing and honestly takes the sting out of books that give questions at the end. This also helps do something that is challenging for a book, it makes you feel like you’re getting a counseling session from the author.
Engagement is a word used often throughout the book. Don’t run. Don’t explode. (Joe uses different terms that challenge the way we view conflict.) Rather than becoming defensive or shutting down, the push in the book is how by engaging we not only resolve the issue, but we actually help the other person become better. Fighting does not have to be messy, it can actually be a time of growth and building a stronger safer marriage. This is different than thinking win-win. It is intentionally helping the other person know they are valued, heard, and secure.
“When we build relational equity, we create a space where bad things can happen but not define the relationship. We create space for a fight to occur and no one has to pay. We move back to a time where differences are celebrated.” Often people hear the term “emotional bank account” for this concept, but that is a little simplistic. It is more knowing the person you love to the extent that when there is an issue, it is safe to be dealt with by both. The book invests significant time explaining emotional equity, but also demonstrating how by fighting clean you actually build on this. This concept is the keystone to the book. The philosophy and the practical tools all hinge on building emotional equity in a marriage.
“It is my belief that any couple can come back from anything. They simply need to learn how to build the most important ingredient into their relationship and answer some basic questions every day.” The book doesn’t come from a perspective of fixing you, but rather equipping you. The power of choice is real and too often ignored. Choice is critical to the book. While there is trauma we may face and need help processing, it does not have to define the decisions we make moving forward. While Joe often challenges conventional wisdom, the challenge actually brings more hope to us rather than slavery to whatever.
“When you engage them by obviously seeking to better understand what exactly it is that they are saying and the emotions that are driving those words, you are telling them by your actions how much you actually love them.”
“Being intentional is the lynchpin that holds everything else together when you are working on building your relationship.“ While this is one of the rules of conflict resolution, it is truly the bottom line of the book. We get out of a relationship what we put into it. If we want our relationships to grow, we must choose to use skills that will build the other up while we are and or frustrated.
While many of my ministry minded people may not like the lack of Bible directly referenced in the book, it is there. The book is not a theology of conflict resolution or marriage. There are plenty of other sources out there. But when applying Peter’s instruction to “Love your wife in an understanding manner,” this book unpacks how to do that. I would highly suggest that while teaching on marriage to use this book to make the love aspect happen.
In pre-marriage counseling one of my key aims is to equip couples to fight clean. This book will be the cornerstone to making that happen. The other aims is to connect them to a counselor for key issues that need to be processed, financial planning, and planning the wedding. Wedding planning often allows couples to immediately practice the conflict resolution skills they’re learning.
Read for your own marriage. No marriage is perfect, and often those of us who help others can struggle to take care of our own family. Read the book. Do the exercises. Fight cleaner than you already are. The approach to the book is refreshing. Too often, especially in church contexts, we go to the honor, love, authority issues in marriage conflict. This neglects when the writer of the Song of Songs says: ‘This is my lover and my friend, in me he finds peace.’
The bottom line:
“The Emotionally Secure Couple: The Key to Everything You Want in a Healthy Relationship” is a must read because it changes the way we view conflict in relationships. It is more than conflict can be good. Joe gives a clear pathway to how you can make it good. This work seeks to change the perception of marriage. In doing so this book is not a shot across the bow, it’s a direct hit. We would be wise to engage and be intentional about changing the narrative around marriage. “The Emotionally Secure Couple: The Key to Everything You Want in a Healthy Relationship” shows us how.
We read reports of those on the right causing dissention, dividing, being bigoted, etc.. In those spheres there is no disagreement, so it must be true. We read reports of those on the left causing dissention, dividing, being bigoted, etc.. In those spheres there is … Continue reading To my friends both right and left
A pattern I started in ministry is to follow intensely a local church for a year or two. Mars Hill was one of numerous other churches, and the most recent completed. The reason I do this is to catch the central theme of the church, what lessons I can learn (both from their strengths and weaknesses), and to gain new insights for ministry. It is VERY dangerous to follow one ministry exclusively. A question often asked is who do I follow? Meaning: what big name are you about. My response is I’m eclectic. Some see this as a cop out. Being eclectic is based on advice from an older mentor the national church will never know. Learn from all, but follow Jesus.
The Bible does not give an exemption to biblical peacemaking if a figure is a ‘celebrity’. Much of the mess in the news is slander, gossip and bitterness. I agree with Pastor Mark’s recent statement that the court of public opinion is not the best route to take. Biblical repentance and restoration is a process. Church discipline stops when repentance starts. Further, love does not keep an account of wrongs suffered (1 Cor 13). Dredging up old, repented, and forgiven sins is unbiblical in large measure. It’s what Satan does. The church as a whole dropped the ball.
Focus on the mission Jesus gives us. I have read statements to the effect that he glory days of Mark and Mars is over. Such a statement fundamentally misunderstands the Gospel. Is it possible, yes. But, it is also possible that the best years are ahead for both Mark and Mars. I am confident no one wants to declare that once you blow it God will never mightily use you again. Peter, Paul, Samson, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. would disagree. The other side of conflict is worship. This will further Christ’s kingdom and the purifying of His bride, the church. Focus on being a peacemaker.
A healthy look in the mirror would do us all good, especially pastors. Few people, if anyone, can handle all their past failures being thrown out there with every new ‘development.’ The ‘yeah, but he…’ statements do not help. But for the grace of God, you and I could be in a mess too. Truthfully, many non-celebrity pastors damage churches and church staffs as well. I hear about it regularly. We can blame the pastor, but equally to blame is our cowardliness inaction of biblical peacemaking. Our lack to practice biblical forgiveness. The whole situation says much more about us than about Mark and Mars. We can do better.
Yes there are issues. Yes I’m confident they are serious. To yeah, but the ‘yeah, but…’ is it our place to deal with this? Is our national attention helping or hurting the local church? Psalm 73 states how we need to be careful how we speak so as to not undermine a future generation. James’ advice to be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger is missing on many sides. I’m more concerned with the lack of character demonstrated by Christian media than about the situation. So, yeah, but God has a way of working these things out for good.
The bottom line:
God will use this whole situation to His glory. Jesus will use this situation to purify His bride. My response? I think biblical peacemaking is a critical need in all of us and I think we all need to remove that blemish. My prayer is that from this Pastor Mark and Mars Hill comes back stronger than ever. Why? Because God is cool and able to make that happen. He did, after all, cleanse us from ALL our sin. Christianity is about a relationship, repentance and reconciliation. It is not a religion where once we blow it we are done for good. That is legalism and a false gospel.
Act don’t react is a core proverb I follow. In studying history, particularly church history, I found people tend to react more than act. This often causes an unbalance or defining yourself as what you’re not vs what you are. Acting means to operate and explain who you are. Given my feeds lighting up with the “Strange Fire” conference, here are my thoughts to illustrate the proverb:
People don’t respond well do a direct assault.
Carefronting is done best from the side door because it focuses on relationships. Rather than set up a conference as a reaction to something, set it up to promote who you are. As such you teach truth and through that you can also rightly critique in error movements. Direct assaults, particularly in today’s culture, can inhibit your point.
Love really does matter!
Can the what about truth, what about sin garbage! If those were your first two thoughts, serious time needs to be spent in 1 Corinthians 13. Love does not equal being wishy-washy. What love focuses on is making a difference, not a point. The cross wasn’t pleasant, easy, or wishy-washy, but it was love. People who often here love and then think “what about truth, what about sin” often want to make a point and not a difference.
Paul instructs Timothy to guard his doctrine AND his speech. Speaking truth wrongly is sin just as teaching false doctrine is sin. Jesus made a joke about this scenario, something about removing a log from our own eye. We ACT based on what we BELIEVE. Bad rhetoric stems from a bad belief system. Further, bad rhetoric inhibits your goal. Stating “well, I’m standing for the truth” is no excuse. Rhetoric should first promote who you are.
Ministry is messy! Acting vs reacting is grueling, hard, and takes time. It is not clean cut, often doesn’t get you accolades, but it is what the Spirit teaches us. I’ll let Paul speak to this:
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”
God has a plan, and we’re not God.
The story of Joseph makes this point well in Genesis 37-50. God’s plan will not be thwarted, even by our own mistakes! We’re not God, and while we’re called to guard our doctrine and speak truth, we should ACT on that vs react to other movements. Gently guiding and teaching people about is avoids the egg-shell walk. It also demonstrates class. Finally, it demonstrates humility by letting God be God. After all, God is the one who brings people to repentance.
The bottom line:
Act, don’t react!