October 21, 2010
Lausanne Congress Day 4: Conflict and Reconciliation
Cape Town demonstrates that Christians are not immune to conflict, but neither are they strangers to reconciliation.
In the January 2011 issue of Leadership, we will be featuring an interview with Ken Sande, head of Peacemaker Ministries, which helps Christians and their churches respond to conflict biblically, and assists with reconciliation. This week, Ken Sande is in Cape Town, South Africa, for the gathering of 4,000 ministry leaders from around the globe. Ken's report (distributed through the Peacemaker.net email newsletter) for yesterday was so fascinating that we thought you'd appreciate it.
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As I entered the Cape Town Conference Center this morning, I encountered two young people who were struggling with serious conflict. So instead of joining the worship service, I spent an hour helping them apply the transforming promises of the gospel to some difficult issues in their relationship. It was time well spent, and at the end of our conversation they both expressed a renewed hope to continue serving Christ together.
While we talked, John Piper was teaching on Ephesians 3. Later a friend gave me the essence of his talk. John had challenged our group to remember that as important as it is to exert ourselves to obey Jesus’ command to relieve suffering in this world, we must give equal effort to the prayerful, diligent proclamation of the gospel, which is the key to preventing human suffering for eternity. It is so difficult to give proper attention to both of these messages. Churches that are strong in evangelism are often weak in engaging the culture, and vice versa. May God give us grace to preach and live out the gospel in all of its saving and transforming power.
After John Piper’s talk, we heard a gripping testimony by Libby Little, wife of Tom Little, who was killed along with seven other aid workers in Afghanistan a couple of months ago. Their sacrifice was a powerful example of another statement John Piper made: “The gospel isn’t going to spread without suffering and without prayer, because the places that remain to be reached are largely places that don’t welcome Christians.”
Two speakers from Nigeria and the United Kingdom challenged us further regarding our responsibility to take the gospel to people of other faiths. As one of them said:
"The missionaries of old are great examples of this. No matter what the opposition, no matter how fearsome the opposition looked, no matter how entrenched the tradition, no matter what the cost might be, they continued undeterred, living and teaching in such a way that people of all faiths or none might see the transforming effect of the gospel. The gospel was lived before the eyes of the entire world, young and old, rich and poor, men and women, people of any and every race and tongue, tribe and nation. The gospel is for all and we must dare to reach out to all."
In the afternoon I attended a workshop on taking the gospel to the Muslim world. The three speakers described a variety of challenges and approaches for engaging Muslims in different cultural settings, but agreed that the one essential element for gaining a hearing is to consistently model the transforming power of the gospel in our lives and relationships. Radical love, mercy, and forgiveness in our relationships prove the reality our redemption and make the gospel appealing to people who can find in their religious system no equivalent ways to heal the brokenness in a fallen world. The ministry of reconciliation is clearly a key to reaching the people of Islam.
The worship this evening made me think of Pentecost, where a host of believers gave glory to God in a variety of tongues. Tonight we sang together in English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Zulu, Korean, and Egyptian — a small foretaste of the worship we’ll experience at the throne of Christ!
One of the greatest joys I’ve experienced this week has been to minister to individuals who needed encouragement and counsel on how to deal with significant conflicts in their lives, ministries, or communities. These encounters have covered a wide spectrum of conflict:
--A denominational leader who is under attack by an influential pastor
--An attorney who is seeking to promote reconciliation between two deeply estranged ethnic groups in her country
--A pastor who is weighed down with seemingly endless criticism from members of his church
--A ministry leader who received an email during the first day of the conference saying that his wife had just filed for divorce
--A pastor who is seeking to restore to ministry a highly gifted elder who fell into sin a few years ago
--The leader of an evangelical church association in Africa who is seeking to bring peace between two hostile denominations
--A pastor who is seeking to be an agent of reconciliation between rival political factions in his country
These people come from all parts of the globe—Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe, the United States. The conflicts they are wrestling with have a common denominator: the sin of a fallen world; and they have a common solution: the reconciling power of Jesus Christ.