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Experiencing Church

Church conflict seems like an every day occurrence, but church reconciliation?  Is it truly possible?

A week ago I’d have shared the skepticism.  I remembered the conflict that fractured my own relationships and church family.  Disharmony within the Body of Christ is something I’ve personally known for at least fifteen years.  

But last weekend God did something I’ve never heard of before.  He brought together people divided over conflict for decades, now in separate churches within the same zip code.  There were faces I haven’t seen in ages, and some I never expected to this side of eternity.  Friends I haven’t hugged and tears that long needed to be released.  

Church conflict seems like an every day occurrence, but church reconciliation?  Is it truly possible?

A week ago I’d have shared the skepticism.  I remembered the conflict that fractured my own relationships and church family.  Disharmony within the Body of Christ is something I’ve personally known for at least fifteen years.  

But last weekend God did something I’ve never heard of before.  He brought together people divided over conflict for decades, now in separate churches within the same zip code.  There were faces I haven’t seen in ages, and some I never expected to this side of eternity.  Friends I haven’t hugged and tears that long needed to be released.  

First was an evening gathering that felt akin to a family reunion.  It was an opportunity for men and women, boys and girls (or those of us who used to be) to share how God has worked in our hearts and lives.  He alone is the One who gets glory for the peace restored.  It is because of our own reconciliation to Him through Jesus Christ that we can be reconciled to each other (Romans 5:10-11, Romans 5:19-21).

How does reconciliation practically work out?  It starts with confession of sin, admission of impurity, and humble hearts.  It takes courage. Willingness to say hard things like “I was wrong.”  “I need forgiveness.”  It requires determination to let go of anger, fear, and pride.  It involves speaking the truth in love, maturity, and resolve not to minimize pain.  It’s making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3).

Throughout that first night I heard more than one individual express aloud his or her own discomfort with the emotions that welled up unbidden.  We can think we’ve processed and experienced the grief, pain, love, joy, fear or anger—and we have, to a point.

But I’ve recently been reminded by my friend Gwynne Johnson that emotions are a product of our evaluation and an event.  I’ve never been a math girl, but I love this equation:  Event + Evaluation = Emotion

The emotions, welcome and unwelcome, that overflow our hearts are a result of our own heart evaluation.  Compassion. Regret. Godly sorrow.  Joy.  Love.  Healing.  

In celebration of the reconciled relationships that have been restored, a unity service was held last Saturday evening.  It was worship at its sweetest.  I’ll not soon forget the physical presence of brothers and sisters in Christ committed to the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  Reconciled families.  Restored fellowship.  It was just as good as it gets, this side of heaven.  It was the Church the way we’re meant to be.

To anyone hurt by church conflict, I encourage you to continue praying.  God hears and He is at work.  Our experience in Ruston, Louisiana was something I’d have assigned to the “Never Gonna Happen” category.  I commented to an old friend as we parted ways on Saturday, “This is kinda miraculous.”  Jack replied, “Not kind of.  It’s miraculous.”  

He’s right.  We serve a God who specializes in those.  One of my favorite lessons from Dr. Ron Allen’s course on the Psalms has to do with the glory God receives from public praise.  That is my heart’s desire in sharing this experience with you.  For more of the story, visit www.thereconciliation.info.  

“Now to him who by the power that is working within us is able to do far beyond all that we ask or think, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

5 Comments

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    SonShine

    Terrfic
    What a blessed blog to read and we praise God with you for allowing you this side of eternity to witness this as a healing time in your life. Thanks for sharing.

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    Len Woods

    Great job, Kelly…beautiful

    Great job, Kelly…beautiful summary. I'm gonna post to my facebook…okay?

    • Avatar

      Kelly Arabie

      passing it on

      Thank you, Len, especially for your encouragement in sharing with others what God has done.  I appreciate your servant leadership and transparency throughout the process so much!