Recently I went out for coffee with a new person in our church. He had been hurt, as many have, by some things that had happened in the church he grew up in. I have heard the stories again and again – a harsh word, something financial, being excluded – people have been hurt by church people. They expected better.
The person I was meeting with said to me, “I am really loving Covenant Grove. So far I haven’t found anything I don’t like about it.” I told him, “Whoa there! We are not a perfect church. In fact, one of our secrets is that we talk a lot about conflict. Jesus told us in Matthew 18 that we should expect to disagree with each other, and when we do we should talk to each other about it, not run away. So that is what we do in our church.”
He looked at me and said, “That is brilliant.”
I said, “Well, thank you.”
He smiled and said, “No, not you. I meant Jesus.” Of course.
I loved that this young man, who had been hurt by God’s people, got the point. If you haven’t read Matthew 18, read it, memorize it, and live it. It works! Church will let you down because church is full of people. We have to talk to each other, challenge each other, and forgive each other. I am going to let people down; I already have. I am so appreciative for those who have had the courage to come and talk to me so I can listen, explain (if needed), and apologize. I know I can be scary to approach, but I don’t bite (promise).
All churches are hospitals. There are sick people there. The wisdom is in acknowledging that we are all sick – including you and me – but God is making us healthy. He has called us into community – broken and messed up but loving each other – it is the connections that help us overcome the unhealth in each other.
Conflict is a bummer, but it is the only way that you and I will discover the blind spots in our lives. So don’t be afraid of conflict, expect it. At Covenant Grove, we expect conflict – that is one of the secrets of our church. This is why our church is full of so much love. People who love each other are willing to have the hard conversations with each other.