By Dick Koehneke
Those are the three core values of a strong Christian ministry I know. I’d like to unpack each of those words. I invite you to do the same as they relate to your life and work.
Someone has said, “Honesty is when your words match your deeds. Integrity is when your deeds match your words.” Here are some “integrity assessment” questions I might ask myself: Do I just talk a good game, or am I living it? If I say I’m fair, am I consistent in my dealings with other people, or do I favor some over others because of what they can do for me? If I say I’m honest, will I speak the truth to someone who needs to hear it but may not want to hear it? If I say I’m willing to listen, will I keep listening and asking questions even when someone is saying something that really annoys me?
In my view, excellence is doing the very best you can with what you have at the time. Excellence is not about comparing or competing; it’s about being your very best self on that day. It’s good to expect excellence from yourself; it’s totally unrealistic to expect perfection. As Romans 12:3 says, “Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but think of yourself with sober judgment.” Don’t get down on yourself if your best isn’t as good as somebody else’s best. And don’t look down on someone who’s doing his or her best but is not measuring up to your performance.
I define relational strife in the church as an autoimmune disease in the body of Christ; it’s the body fighting itself. Strife weakens the body. It can lead to the body’s self-destruction. That’s why so much of the Bible, especially the New Testament, has to do with God-pleasing relationships. How do we keep the peace among believers in Christ? God’s Word tells us to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3). What does that “eagerness” look like? I wrote something for this publication nearly eight years ago that I want to share with you again. Here it is.
In Matthew 18:15 Jesus tells us to go to a person we feel has done us wrong in some way. We need to remember that God’s goal is reconciled relationships, not the victory of one person over another. The goal is not to prove yourself right but to heal and restore the relationship.
What makes a great church? I agree with the person who said, “Trouble and struggle.” But that is true only if churches and Christians handle trouble and struggle God’s way. How do we do that? How do we approach the person we feel has wronged us? How do we go to that person?
Here is “the way to go”: Go promptly, go personally, go privately, go positively, go patiently. That’s the way to go!
First, go promptly. Don’t delay unless it’s to pray or to seek Godly confidential counsel.
Second, go personally. Don’t send an email or a text message. You need to see the other person so that each of you can see each other’s body language and facial expression.
Third, go privately. Don’t do this in front of an audience. Find the time and place that works best for the other person. Remember that your motive is Christ-like love: total commitment to the total well-being of that other person. Any other motive is not pleasing to God.
Fourth, go positively. Go for the right reason. Don’t go to ventilate; that’s not love. If you have to ventilate, find another way to do it. Go positively: not to prove a point but to restore the relationship; not to win a victory but to reclaim unity.
Fifth, go patiently. It may take more than one conversation. You may need to “go” frequently so that true reconciliation can take place.
By the way, when you go you may find out that the other person has no clue he or she has done something wrong. The person may have acted in ignorance or simple thoughtlessness, as we all do on occasion.
You may discover that you have some confessing and repenting to do in the relationship with that person. If that happens it will be a good exercise for you in Christian honesty and humility.
Expect God to do great things. You are acting in faith and obedience. You are doing what God is blessing, so go!