It was time for a new car. As missionaries working for Resonate Global Mission in Haiti, we needed to raise funds for six months to purchase a new truck for our mission. Finally we brought home a new Nissan Patrol SUV—the reliable, four-wheel-drive transportation we needed to do our work. To emotionally prepare myself for the inevitable fender-bender, I joked that the vehicle was “God’s car” (if you’ve ever been to Haiti, you will know that car crashes happen constantly). A week later I was stuck in a torrential rainstorm. I watched with dismay as a taxi with failing brakes rolled down the steep hill, crossed the centerline, and crashed headlong into God’s new car. The ensuing moments were some of the most stressful of my life as I managed my own frustration while being surrounded by an angry crowd whipped into a frenzy by the screaming taxi driver.
We love our churches, our programs, our reputation, our cherished theology or beliefs, and even (most of the time) our denomination. We are constantly washing, waxing, and buffing out the scratches on the things we love. After all, they are ours. And when someone or something threatens them, our heart starts pounding and our blood pressure skyrockets. Sometimes we become apoplectic. We say things we regret. We post things we shouldn’t. We see those who disagree with us as our enemies. In short, we are deeply afraid and anxious to lose the things we love—our things.
Like car crashes in Haiti, conflicts are constant in ministry. When faced with conflicts over our cherished things, we often default to either “fight” or “flight.” Either we knock out our adversaries, or we take our ball and run home. As I get older and grow deeper in my faith, I’ve learned that healthier options are available to me only if I do something contrary to my nature: recognize that my beloved things are actually God’s beloved things.
This is a lesson I’m learning from Abraham. When asked by God to do the unthinkable, Abraham climbed Mount Moriah and prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac (Gen. 22). Isaac was the hope for Abraham and Sarah’s promised future. Yet Abraham surrended Isaac to God, accepting that all he had, including his precious son, belonged to God. God then spared Isaac and rewarded Abraham for his faith (Heb. 11:17-19). The more we recognize God’s ownership and rule over everything we love, the more we bless God and bless others. In the words of another famous prophet, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised (Job 1:21).”
We are facing much conflict in our denomination today. I would contend that before we can address this conflict in a God-honoring way, we must recognize that our beloved things are God’s beloved things. Our cherished congregations, our theology, our beliefs, our children—whatever beloved things they are—belong to God. God defends the church. God multiplies the Word. And God loves his children. Recognizing this is the non-negotiable first step in overcoming the temptation to choose “fight” or “flight” in times of conflict. This movement allows us to deal with conflict from a prayerful, discerning, and gracious posture instead of fearful reactivity.
Like Paul, I often face the “pressure of my concern for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28). Maybe you do too. As we face conflict over the future of our churches, may we entrust them to God’s grace and courageously surrender ourselves to God’s will.