The Senior Pastor of Cypress Church in Cypress, California writes a blog post about the importance of peace. He also mentions that church can be a great way to find peace. Is that always true? After all I would suggest that there is no peace in modern evangelicalism not when you have authority on the rise, organizations like Acts 29 in existence, and church hijackings occurring in the Evangelical Free Church of America. Peace? Peace? What peace!?!
“Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice. “
Benedict de Spinoza
“Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.”
John F. Kennedy
They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly, Saying, ‘Peace, peace!’ When there is no peace.
Jeremiah 6:14 NKJV
Cypress Church is an Evangelical Free Church in Orange County, California. It is not far from Knotts Berry Farm. Steve Highfill who leads EFCA West today planted Cypress Church. Today Cypress Church is led by Mike McKay. When I was working on the rate of Neo-Calvinist/Reformed theology in EFCA West I came across this old blog post by Mike McKay. Called, “Peace Matters” I wanted to write a response and put it on my pile of things to look at in the Evangelical Free denomination. I have his blog post below and I write in red in response, then I go back to writing in black for the remainder of this post.
My wife and I were out to dinner at a fairly nice restaurant. You know, the ones with table clothes and a formal table setting, wait staff all dressed up, elegant atmosphere with soft music playing, and an elaborate presentation at each course of the meal. Well, we were enjoying this wonderful experience when a few tables over there seemed to be something going on. The customer had flagged down a waiter with a bit of frustration and angry tones and scolded him about something. The waiter was calm and seemed to offer apologies and a solution. The offer did not seem to bring peace but only fueled the customer’s criticism. Soon more waiters and, I believe a chef came over. The customer got even more animated. The people accompanying this customer seemed embarrassed. A manager showed up and still this guy would not let it go.
We went on to enjoy our meal and fun time of being together and enjoying our evening. Though I don’t know all the particulars and details of that uncomfortable scene, I do know there are peaceful ways to handle conflict and difficult situations. I was amazed at how each of the staff of the restaurant were polite, calm, accommodating, and willing to help this person enjoy his experience and meal. They had been trained well to handle the unfortunate reality that there are high conflict people out there. You may even know a few.
Let me state that there are some truly difficult people in the world. I encountered them when I worked in the banking industry. People are sensitive about money, just as some are about food. Years ago I had a friend of mine who worked as a server in a restaurant tell me how people are exceptionally finicky about food. One wrong dish, or something not made to their specification can send some people into a rage. I have had some memorable and angry people over the years in banking so I know this can be an issue. So before I continue let me state that I know there are some difficult people out there. So far this post is okay.
According to Bill Eddy, in his book, “It’s Your Fault: 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything,” these high conflict people are not only drawn to conflict, but “conflict is part of who they are. It’s a life-long personality pattern of thinking, feeling, and acting…avoiding taking responsibility for their problems…they…argue against feedback…try to get others to agree with their rigid points of view…negative emotions dominate their thinking…and have…difficulty empathizing with others” (pages 15-16). In addition, Mr. Eddy has seen a rise in people taking on this behavior.
Here’s a question I would like to ask. What do you do if what Bill Eddy describes happens in a pastor figure? What do you do if you have a person in a position of responsibility in a church or ministry who avoids taking responsibilities for their problems? What about pastors or ministry leaders who always have to be right, and refuse criticism or taking feedback? What about situations where you have people in ministry positions who cannot empathize with the needs of people under them or around them? Isn’t it long past time we have an honest discussion about toxic pastors and people who are in ministry who should not be in ministry?
So what do we do? Mr. Eddy gives some great advice, but so does the Bible.
Romans 12:16-18 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited, repay no one for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Its the decision to not always seek to get out way, but in humility care about others around us, regardless of the circumstances.
One of the things that is troubling today is that many Christians are indifferent to others around them. Some organizations and churches have become so insular that people involved leave a cascade of problems in their wake or that many Christians are indifferent or do not care. Christians should care for those around us, but does that often happen? After all see what happens when a child is sexually assaulted in a church and watch what other churches in the area that are close to that church will do. Many will refuse to get involved if there is corruption. There are some unspoken rules that pastors do not get involved in the events of issues of other pastors.
Psalm 34:14 Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
The wording in this Bible verse means to actually purpose to run after peace, to do all we can to create peace, not conflict. It is choosing to love others, being thoughtful of them.
Christians I would propose are to be peacemakers. But peacemaking can not be forced and I believe Ken Sande’s program is systematically flawed. There are a few examples out there of Christians seeking and creating peace that I think should be highlighted and models. For example I think of the story of Eric Smallridge and Renee Napier down in Florida. Eric in a drunk driving accident killed Renee Napier’s daughter and best friend. Yet look at what repentance and grace has done today. The mother of a drunk driver fatality victim and the drunk driver himself became friends and travel and speak about drunk driving and forgiveness. This story inspired me to approach 140 people and seek forgiveness as I was exiting my faith crisis. Can you imagine if this story about Eric Smallridge and Renee Napier was the norm and not the exception? Then you have the story of Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel in Minneapolis. Oshea killed Mary Johnson’s only son and yet through grace and forgiveness they have come far. She considers Oshea to be her son after he repented. Its an amazing story that also begs the question…can you imagine if this was the norm and not the exception? There is also the incredible story of Jacob DeShazer and Mitsuo Fuchida which is also noteworthy. One led the attack on Pearl Harbor and the other participated in the Doolittle Raid. They were both enemies in World War II who befriended each other and found peace in the process. In all of the above situations conflict was turned into something beautiful. Its what makes Christianity shine. Yet to be brutally honest…most people don’t want to go this route. Some people would prefer to leave things as the status quo. How sad.
Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
This love for others creates peace.
As the quote goes peace is not just the absence of conflict its also where there is justice. Peace in its truest form is about love. Its about love for the Lord, each other, your community, and then yourself. I would put that in that order because I believe a Christian should live to serve the Lord, serve others, their community, the Lord and then themselves last.
1 Peter 4:8-9 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love coves a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. That word hospitality means to be kind even to strangers.
There is way too much conflict in our world today and, unfortunately, this seems to breed more high conflict people. But let’s not join in. Let’s pursue, run after peace, for peace matters. Sure conflict is part of life, but even in that we can find a peaceful, loving way to work together to find a good solution. Will you? I wonder how different that scene would have been if that customer would have sought peace.
Church can be a great place to learn how to be more peaceful and experience God’s peace. If you are already not connected to a church, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or one of our branch churches in either Los Alamitos or Garden Grove this week. Our website has all the information you would need. http://www.cypresschruch.net. It would be great to have you with us.
Seeking peace with others along with you,
The last paragraph hit a nerve in me deeply. Can church be a great place to learn how to be more peaceful? Is that always the case? Before I answer this question let me go into the next section.
(Going back to black font again now that the article is finished)
What Do You Do in the Following Situations?
I want to ask Mike McKay the following questions and illustrate the scenarios that exist today in the church.
What do you do when the child you gave birth to is taking a razor blade and cutting herself out of shame. She was sexually molested in the church and that abuse covered up? What do you do when going to law enforcement and reporting the crime creates problems as you have gone against church leadership? What do you do when the situation tears apart your family and they abandon you? What do you do when your children show up at the Uncle’s home and plead to keep the family together but they are ignored and no longer acknowledged? What do you do in situations like this and others in Sovereign Grace Ministries?
What do you do if the sexual assault of your child is covered up? What do you do when C.J. Mahaney allegedly covers up the wrong doing? What do you do when he re-launches his preaching career and preaches on Job and draws parallels on suffering. Yes what do you do when someone who allegedly engages in criminal activity and blackmail paints himself as the poor victim? What do you do when you are one of many families in pain and Al Mohler takes the stage at T4G and laughs and mocks you? Your child has been in and out of a mental health hospital but what do you do?
Recently I got an email from someone that was hammered in an Acts 29 church. They are afraid, frightened, and scared to even explain the spiritual abuse that happened to them. What would you tell them Mike McKay?
What would you do if you dreamed to become a missionary and you moved to Asia to fulfil that dream. Then shortly after you have begun you discover that your husband is sexually attracted to children, is a pedophile and addicted to child pornography? What do you do if the missionary agency evacuates your husband your dream of being a missionary is ended, and in the short amount of time your life crumbles. Then against all this you are in Matt Chandler’s The Village Church. You are stuck in a membership covenant and they expect blind submission and go after you for annulling your marriage to a child porn addict and chase you to North Carolina in an effort to assert their authority? What would you tell Karen Hinkley?
This blog is about the Evangelical Free Church of America in part. What would you tell one of the families in an Evangelical Free situation in Elverson, Pennsylvania? For the mother who I love and respect who gets up every morning and asks herself “how did this happen?” What did happen? Steve Estes the main biographer of Joni Erickson Tada orchestrated the excommunication of his former daughter-in-law to protect his son. His son allegedly raped his wife in their bedroom while drunk, and on another occasion pointed a loaded gun at her. The person in the center of the story, Hurit, knows she could be dead. To those families in this situation what would you tell them? What would you tell those who appealed for help to the District leadership at the time and then Minneapolis who ignored them. Yes the EFCA denomination was okay with giving Community Evangelical Free Church a building loan but was indifferent to intervening in a situation in which an alleged domestic abuse victim was almost killed. What do you do when the denomination you are in communicates to you that buildings matter more than people?
How about Molly Fitch’s situation? There is a church, which in reality is more of a cult called Calvary Temple here in the D.C. area. The church has turned most of her children against her. She hasn’t seen her children in years and writes to them through the internet hoping they will read her passionate appeal of how much she loves them. When she visits the DC area she always tries to see her kids who will not acknowledge her. What would you tell her Mike?
How about my situation Mike? I had a faith crisis that was hell and against that I met someone who was a Care Group Leader in a Sovereign Grace Church in the D.C. area known as Redeemer Arlington. Andrew White who professed to love and care for me, passionately pleaded for me not to leave the Christian faith and tried to get me involved in his church. Then this Air Force Captain in uniform made a false accusation and took aim at my name, reputation and employment. I was thrust into the darkest season of my life. Do you have any idea how much I cried? How hard it was to drag myself out of bed? Do you know what it was like to realize that when an Air Force officer abuses his power it illustrates why rape and sexual assault are a major problem in the military? Do you know what that felt like when that started to dawn upon me? This happens to others…it wasn’t supposed to happen to me. I read about the rape issue in the Washington Post, CNN and the New York Times. I didn’t believe rape was a problem in the military, then this happened. Do you know when I heard the false accusation at times in the gym or grocery store sometimes I cried, shook and asked myself “what is happening to me?”
What about being in a church that is theologically hijacked? I recently heard of a horrific church hijacking in the Evangelical Free Church of America. This hijacking split the church and drove many people away. I would love to tell the story if I can find the sources. But what do you do in a situation like that where a Neo-Calvinist exploits the autonomous nature to turn a conservative Evangelical Free into a hardcore 9 Marks or The Gospel Coalition church? What do you do if you are one of those spiritual refugees who are now homeless. After all it was your home for years and now it is lost.
All of these situations happened in a church or a church affiliated environment or ministry Mike. I thought churches were to be safe places that were warm, nurturing and friendly. Can you explain how this happens?
Damage Control vs. Conflict Resolution
Another issue that is disturbing Mike is that more churches are interested in doing damage control instead of doing conflict resolution. The sad thing is that if they wanted to alleviate the situation they would work hard at resolving it. In my situation all I wanted was to have a series of conversations with Andrew White and talk everything out. Often times what happens is that many places are more concerned with preserving their reputation than doing the right thing. Instead what happens is that they try and silence the person by saying things like “don’t be divisive” or “don’t be bitter” or my all time favorite “you are sinfully craving answers.” These are all tactics that create problems and are about controlling the narrative. Instead what should happen is that the church should work with people and help them. They should nourish, let them grieve, get them proper mental health counseling if needed and report criminal activity to law enforcement. If a church follows the law they will preserve their reputation well especially in the long term. Honesty and transparency goes far. Why is it that many organizations in the secular world have higher standards than many churches?
Peace? Peace? What Peace? There is no Peace in the Evangelical Christian Faith!!
I write all this to say the following. People talk about the importance of peace but I have to say the following. Peace, peace? What peace? There is no peace in evangelical Christianity today!! Many parts of it are engulfed in nothing but ongoing conflict, strife, pain, covered up allegations of criminal activity and questionable ministers who shouldn’t be preaching. Mark Driscoll and C.J. Mahaney don’t even meet the qualifications for elder. Why the hell are they teaching? There is so much conflict and what makes it worse is that many churches and ministries ignore or choose to run the other way. If you knew of a toxic situation happening in another Evangelical Free church down the road from you Mike would you intervene? For the sake of the gospel would you? Or would you wash your hands and say, “it’s not my responsibility.” Some of the emails I get are heartbreaking Mike. There are a lot of walking wounded, and people stuck in their pain. I would be willing to bet that if people did a study one would find that many Christians are carrying similar psychological wounds that veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan might have. But in the current day there is no peace. If the church wants to find peace it needs to deal with this corruption and allow people to heal. Today the church is not a refuge for the poor, a sanctuary for the wounded or a place of healing for the broken. Much of this needs to change in my opinion. Only when that has happened do I believe that all the years that the locusts have eaten will be reclaimed. I wanted to write this to you Mike McKay here at this blog because your post hit a nerve in me. As always I love you guys!