Bethlehem: A Culture of Peace

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the LORD has commanded the blessing,
life forevermore.
--Psalm 133

Conflict is common. Peace is precious. Therefore peacemakers are prized. Jesus gave them the highest name possible: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matthew 5:9). I pray that God will raise up hundreds of you in the coming months. Not because there is any crisis at Bethlehem, but precisely because there isn't. It is wonderful. The staff and elders enjoy an unspeakably precious harmony and love and respect. We are tasting the sweetness of the "oil of Aaron" and the "dew of Hermon." The aim is to keep it that way, and to equip hundreds of us to live out the biblical pattern of peacemaking.

On September 9, 2003 the Council of Elders unanimously passed the following motion:

Motion: That Bethlehem cooperate with Peacemaker Ministries of Billings Montana, in order to implement a plan for developing a "culture of peace" in our church that is consistent with the vision articulated by Peacemakers president, Ken Sande, in his article, "The Church Transformed: Cultivating a Culture of Peace."

Ken Sande is the head of PEACEMAKER MINISTRIES. He shares our vision of God and has ministered to our elders in the past. His book, The Peacemaker, is subtitled A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict. It is that: Biblical. And it is applicable to marriage and friendship and church and ministry and business and other contexts of possible conflict. We are excited that Ken Sande is willing to come to Bethlehem next January.

This is part of an overarching plan being implemented to help hundreds of us become biblically effective peacemakers and conflict-resolvers for Christ's sake. The apostle Paul put a very high premium on church peacemaking. Some of the sharpest words he ever spoke were to the Corinthian church for taking their disputes outside the church for resolution: "Why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?" (1 Corinthians 6:5-7).

What a great thing it would be if there were no conflicts among Christians! But it wasn't true in the early church, and it won't be true till Jesus comes. So the next most wonderful thing would be a church that is lovingly mature and wise and effective in helping its members (and their acquaintances) resolve conflict in a Christ-exalting way.

You will be hearing more of the plan. But for now be praying and planning toward January 10-11, 2004 when Ken Sande will be preaching at all services; February 6-7, when The Peacemakers Seminar will be held for everyone at Bethlehem led by Ken Sande; and April 23-24 when the Advanced Reconciler Training will take place.

May the God of peace be with you all.

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