Battle at Kruger Park (or, a parable of church membership)


Over the summer a friend pointed me to the clip on you tube called ‘Battle at Kruger Park‘. It’s eight minutes shot on a wobbly phone.

Some use it as a parable of conflict: the poor buffalo is fought over by the other animals, and that is what it can feel like to be caught up in a conflict.

However I think there is a much more positive story being told: the story of a herd of herbivores coming to the rescue. They return for the calf because it’s one of theirs. It is the calf’s cry that brings the herd back.

If we consider church membership as the church’s “Welcome to the Herd” statement, then the herd has a responsibility to look after its own. When the lions attack, we return to rescue!

Watch and enjoy. Battle at Kruger park (edited)

Here’s the link typed out


Alfred J. Poirier, Peacemaking Pastor, the: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Church Conflict


Another book on peacemaking that builds on the work of Ken Sande’s Peacemaker. Sande came to Christian mediation as a lawyer seeking alternative ways to resolve disputes, especially for Christians in the light of the teaching in 1 Cor 6 that Christians should not take fellow-Christians to court.

Poirier comes to peacemaking as a pastor, and his burden is to make gospel-based peacemaking a habit rather than a tool for ministry only. He says we confine peacemaking to special crisis situations within the church.

He is, like all of us I suspect, a reluctant peacemaker. But we cannot flee from reality; and neither can we think of conflict as a detour from our real calling:

It is strange that we as pastors, called to preach the gospel of grace to sinners, balk [sic] at having to deal with real sinners with real sin in real and messy situations.


Peacemaking is not one skill among many that pastors keep in their ministry toolbox. Peacemaking is the embodiment of pastoral ministry even as Christ is the embodiment (incarnation) of the God of peace.

Looking to others’ interests

When this is part of our church DNA it will affect how we operate:

Wise peacemaking pastors anticipate that conflicts will erupt … and thus they will preclude them by training their leaders and people to negotiate in a way that fulfills one of the primary calls of the gospel – the call to look to the interests of others (Phil 2:3-4)

He fleshes this out with these remarks about change management:

  • Inviting respectful appeals … communicates to our people that we are eager to be servant-leaders (177)
  • When introducing a change to the Church’s [adult] Sunday school programme: Call a meeting to explain what the change is; why it is being proposed, what if addresses the perceived risks (and explains that it will be reviewed after a year); and then encourage feedback through the year and review after one year.

I know I can learn much from this.

And when there are conflicts, we distinguish between personal issues and substantive issues:

Whereas personal issues are dealt with by confession and forgiveness leading to reconciliation, substantive (or material) issues are dealt with by conference and consensus (or negotiation) leading to agreement.

Mediation and Arbitration

Mediation is where a third party assists two in conflict to find agreement. A Christian mediator is distinctive in that they ‘may counsel a party to look beyond the bounds of what is legal to what us just and equitable.’ (p. 210).

Goals of a mediator are to find satisfaction in three areas (p. 211):

  • Process: that is done well and fairly for everyone.
  • Personal: the each of the parties treat each other respectfully. This deals with the personal offence in the conflict above and beyond the substantive issue.
  • Product refers to the substantive issue(s).

In Arbitration, the parties hand over the power of judgement to another – the arbiter – thus limiting their influence on the way the dispute is resolved. Arbitration also differs from mediation in that it primarily deals with substantive issues (the product) whereas Christian meditation spends considerable time addressing personal issues and matters of the heart.

Church Discipline

A better word is discipleship:

Discipleship, then is the discipline of the church, and the discipline of the church is all about discipleship. As such it involves far more than the church court publicly pronouncing censure against someone. It involves the church using the various means of grace to faithfully nurture Christ’s disciples so that they may grow in the knowledge, love, and worship of Jesus Christ as the risen Lord. Hence, discipline actually begins with the regular pastoral duties of discipling God’s people through preaching, teaching, counseling, equipping the saints [proof texts follow].

The final section deals with how to apply peacemaking to the discipline of the church.

Clearly, discipline requires a sense of membership – this is an issue for us in Anglican polity (which some consider to be a contradiction in terms anyway!). More thought needed on this one.

A really stimulating book

Alfred J. Poirier, Peacemaking Pastor, the: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Church Conflict Baker Books, 2006.


Ken Sande, Peacemaker: Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict


Conflict is a part of life in this world, and it is therefore no surprise to find that it is also a part of the Christian life. Yet Christians fail to draw on the greatest peacemaking resource there is – the gospel. Ken Sande writes from the conviction that God uses conflict and that we should therefore worry less about going through conflict as about growing through conflict. This is the “ABC of spiritual growth” – Adversity Builds Character. (p. 25)

His outline is so simple you wonder why it needs to be stated:

1. Glorify God

When we begin with the recognition that (as Christians at least) we have a duty before God, our view of conflict changes:

Any time we leave God out of the picture and disregard his commands to deal with the underlying causes of conflict, it will be more difficult to resolve disputes and restore genuine peace.

2. Get the log out of your own eye

Sande begins with a great section on ‘is it really worth fighting over?‘Here are his questions:

“Will exercising my rights please and honor God?”
“Will exercising my rights advance God’s Kingdom – or will it advance only my interests at the expense of his Kingdom?”
“Will exercising my rights benefit others?”
“Is exercising my rights essential for my own well-being?”

We then need to admit our own sin, and the Seven A’s of Confession are helpful here.

3. Go and show your brother his fault

The three steps outlined here (restore gently, speak truth in love, take others along) are in application of Matthew 18 and Eph 4.29. For instance:

If most of what you say to another person is constructive and positive, that person will be less likely to doubt your motives…to put it another way, do all you can to prevent someone from saying, “All you ever do is criticize me!”

4. Be reconciled

This involves the four promises of true forgiveness and then learning to live at peace; this means finding constructive solutions to whatever caused the conflict. The steps in a cooperative negotiation are P-A-U-S-E:

  • Prepare
  • Affirm relationships
  • Understand interests (distinguished from positions and issues)
  • Search for creative solutions
  • Evaluate options objectively and reasonably.

There are plenty of resources and courses at I hope to engage with this a bit more in coming months: I can see the benefits of peacemaking becoming part of church life – not only to deal with critical incidents, but as an integral part of daily Christian living. I found all this very challenging.

Ken Sande, Peacemaker: Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict Baker Book House, 1993.

There are later editions

True Forgiveness


Do you forgive and forget? Just as false confession can mar reconciliation, so too can false forgiveness. Ken Sande says that forgiveness may be described as a decision to make four promises:

  • I will not think about this incident
  • I will not bring it up and use it against you
  • I will not talk to others about this incident
  • I will not allow this incident to stand between us and hinder our personal relationship.

Alfred Poirier comments that these four promises are what it means to “remember your sins no more”. He goes on to distinguish two kinds of forgiveness (p. 155f.)

  • Dispositional forgiveness is unilateral: Mark 11.25 (And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”)

In true dispositional forgiveness, if we are the injured party, we have an inner readiness to forgive and a resolve to love our enemy. We do not dwell on the offense by holding it against him, nor do we gossip about it … we take the initiative to do everything that can be done to be reconciled.

  • Transactional forgiveness completes the process. It is bilateral.

Both the offended and the offender are involved – the offended rebuking, the offender repenting; the offender confessing, the offended granting forgiveness.

Ken Sande, Peacemaker: Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict Baker Book House, 1993. [This is the first edition, I think it is now into its third].

Alfred J. Poirier, Peacemaking Pastor, the: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Church Conflict Baker Books, 2006.

True Confession


One obstacle to reconciliation, according to Ken Sande, is false confession. If we say we’re sorry and don’t mean it, then the other party may say they forgive us but won’t mean it either, and nothing is changed. If the Gospel is true then it must change the way we bear with and forgive one another so that we are genuinely living at peace.

Ken Sande has this really helpful 7 A’s of confession. I have added my gloss in italics

  1. Address everyone involved. It’s not enough to confess to God if you don’t confess also to the person you sinned against. And also not enough to confess to the church but not to the person sinned against.
  2. Avoid if, but, and maybe because they cause you to avoid responsibility.
  3. Admit specifically because that is acknowledging your fault.
  4. Apologize say sorry!
  5. Accept the consequences being forgiven does not mean there is no price to pay, whether it’s jail, or a fine, or the loss of influence.
  6. Alter your behaviour this is repentance rather than remorse
  7. Ask for forgiveness and the key word is ‘ask’. This is where reconciliation differs from therapy (you’ve got to forgive me because I did my bit, and it’s not fair you’re hurting me in this way …)

Alfred Poirier, adapts Sande’s 7 As of confession adapted so that acknowledge and admit (a) and (c) above are combined, and a new seventh is, ‘Allow time’ for human forgiveness.

Ken Sande, Peacemaker: Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict Baker Book House, 1993. [This is the first edition, I think it is now into its third].

Alfred J. Poirier, Peacemaking Pastor, the: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Church Conflict Baker Books, 2006.

See also