vol. 13 no. 1 :: association of vineyard churches usa
Having Difficult Conversations
John Wimber and
Everyoneby David Schmelzer
I run a course called Seek for people
exploring faith. Over the years I’ve done
it with lots and lots of people, and I’ve
learned some surprising things, but maybe
nothing more surprising to me than this.
First, some background: We’re in Cambridge, Massachusetts, home—as don’t believe as you do are wrong. By definition, that’s a line, and your
you may know—to universities like Harvard and M.I.T. While we host friends aren’t fools. They’ll pick that up.”
a substantial cross-section of people in Seek, that number includes
university deans and faculty and post-docs and the like. I initially Maybe. Unless…what if Wimber’s centered-set idea isn’t simply a clever
expected to field heady questions from that crowd, where I’d need to tactic you’re employing, but actually something you believe?
demonstrate my estimable skills in arguing on God’s behalf. Far from
it: In my experience, most of these folks are actually skeptical of I have a little cottage industry these days. I go from one nearby campus
constant argument, seeing its limits in a day-to-day context. Instead, to another and try to put this centered-set concept into practice. I get
I’ve experienced an impatience to actually get on with it! People want invited to speak to joint gatherings of atheist and Christian clubs. I was a
me and the other leaders to show them how faith actually works. Then keynote speaker at the last Veritas Forum at Harvard where my mandate
they’ll try it, and if it works, we win. If not, then not. was to encourage everyone there—secular, Christian, or other—to set
up small groups that explore faith together. (You can hear that talk at
But last night’s group reminded me of the most common single question www.notreligious.org in the multimedia section.)
I get. Namely, “If I, for the sake of argument, say ‘yes’ to Jesus, does
that mean that I’ve just drawn lines between myself and my friends who One of my most intriguing days last year was when a university chaplains’
don’t share that ‘yes’? My Buddhist and atheist and Jewish and just plain group invited me to be their yearly outside speaker. They wanted me to
secular friends? Because that would be a very unhappy outcome.” provide a way for them to talk together rather than talk past each other,
and they wondered if this centered-set stuff might provide a way to do it.
In my experience, this is where John Wimber did those of us in Vineyard
churches an immense favor. He taught us a concept he learned from his They were an interesting bunch. There was the Buddhist chaplain,
colleague Paul Hiebert at Fuller Seminary. The concept is that maybe you the swami, the Swedenborgian chaplain (inquiring minds might ask,
can approach faith in one of two ways. You might call one the “bounded “How does he draw a constituency year in and year out?”), the imam,
set” and the other the “centered set.” the rabbi, the atheist chaplain, the chaplains of several conservative
Christian groups, and so on.
A bounded set is like a circle: you’re either inside or outside of it. You’re
a liberal or you’re a conservative, but not both. You’re a Midwesterner or I gave my presentation, there was a pause, and then the first comment
you’re a Southerner or you’re whatever. But let’s think about bounded- came from the rabbi: “That’s the single most useless presentation I’ve
set faith. On these terms, faith is either/or, and to a large degree it’s ever heard.”
about what opinions or beliefs you hold. What are the boundary lines to
what we regard as true faith? How do we know if someone is in or out? I asked him to tell me more.
By contrast, a centered set is like a central dot surrounded by endless “For you," he said, "Jesus is at the center of your set. But clearly he’s
other dots. The central dot is whatever holds the set together—Jesus, not at the center for me. To me, Jesus represents the Holocaust, and
for our purposes. The other dots are everyone else on Earth. And the you better believe that’s not at the center of my set! So we’re still stuck
question of a centered set isn’t about being inside or outside of anything. where we’ve always been stuck—I believe this, you believe that, yada
It’s about whether the dots are moving towards Jesus or veering away yada yada.”
from him. Wherever they might be on the page, the only real issue is
their direction. And so the job of the spiritual leader is to help folks point “Well,” I said, “let me rephrase. What if, for our purposes, what I’m
their arrows, as it were, toward Jesus. calling ‘Jesus’ is a mask over something like ‘the Good Life’?” I waited
for the Christians to protest, but they were charitable and held back.
So what if the answer to my Seek friends is that Jesus, far from “At the very least, you all clearly have one thing in common: you’re
encouraging people to draw lines, actually invited everyone into a great chaplains. Presumably, you’re all devoting your lives to helping
journey? You’ll recall that the only people Jesus got mad at in the gospels students have better lives. Otherwise, why are you here at all? So
were the ultimate line-drawers, the Pharisees. Everyone else he hung let’s say you put ‘the Good Life’ at the center of your set. Does that
out with quite amicably. give you at least the starting point of a conversation? Could you
give each other your pitches for what exactly your strategy is to help
The folks in my Seek group were skeptical. “But surely,” they pushed students attain that good life? Could you learn from each other and
back, “in the end you’ve decided that you’re right and the people who start talking together about what a faith that works ‘looks like’? In
other words, convert each other, but do it honestly, experientially, and and powerful feedback; that Jesus was far removed from merely being
from common ground.” an opinion to be argued for? Maybe Wimber settled that in the end there
were no viable competitors to Jesus; that maybe Jesus was the only lasting
The rabbi pondered this. “I see your point," he finally said. But if I’m hope for “the Good Life.” Did this free him into the kind of passionate and
going to go along with this, I’d need a few things from you. I’d need powerful advocacy for Jesus that he became known for, knowing that a
you to tell me—as you put it—honest stories rather than some sorts of nudge toward Jesus might well get the job done where pressure to get
opinions and creeds and other fluff. And I’d need you to straight-out tell people to change their minds might prove less productive?
me why Jesus is so important to you. Without that, I’d think you were
being dishonest.” Maybe so.
“Done,” I said. I hear from many people that an encounter with centered-set faith
transforms their conversations with their non-churchgoing friends.
So we broke up into groups. I found out why this man had become a Now when they hear their friend state a strong opinion they disagree
rabbi and how he was hoping to help students have better lives. He was with, they are less tempted to argue their case. Instead they ask, “Wow,
great. I told him in some detail about how I’d journeyed from atheism to it sounds like that’s really important to you. How did that happen for
trying to follow Jesus. He said nobody had ever told him a story like that. you?” They assume their friends are thoughtful people. So the opinion
in question might not be as important as the experienced reason behind
When we were done with the time together, he said he was eager for our that opinion (a reason that no doubt will be potent).
conversation to continue and that this had been one of the most useful
times they’d had as a group. The atheist chaplain found me. He blogs Having heard that, they find themselves saying, “That’s totally powerful.
for a national magazine and a major newspaper, has a book coming As you talk, I’m finding myself thinking about something that happened
out, and wondered if we might be able to do a little touring together. He to me.” Then they share something meaningful to them, and they’re off to
said this was a conversation nobody has, and he wondered if both our the races. It’s a race that invariably heads Jesus’s direction, because in the
constituencies would benefit. end, Jesus seems suspiciously nearby to everything that actually satisfies.
A friend of mine gave me this challenge a while back: What if centered-set Maybe this sounds a little too namby-pamby, a little too close to the
thinking is a little more complex than I’d presented? What if we all don’t “buddy Christ” that filmmaker Kevin Smith satirized. After all, aren’t
just have one arrow (where the only question is whether the trajectory “courageous Christians” those who “stand up for what they believe
of our life is aimed toward Jesus or is veering away from him—as central in”? Who are the very boldest of line-drawers? Didn’t Jesus himself say
as that question is)? What if we all have a hundred arrows because we’re that he came not to bring peace but a sword—that he’d separate family
complex people? If that’s true, then if I’m talking with my atheist friend, member from family member?
there may be more components to the conversation than just whether I
can convince him to follow Jesus. Yes, he did. And he clearly had swords drawn against him too. So not
everyone experienced him as nice, to be sure. But the ones who had him
Let’s say my atheist friend is a rabid environmentalist. In one of our killed were the line-drawers themselves, the Pharisees.
conversations, he convinces me to start seriously recycling, using
mini fluorescent lightbulbs, and biking to work three days a week. It’s Evidently there’s something in us (something that might prove to be evil)
possible those are things Jesus cares about, so maybe my atheist friend that insists on drawing lines; that will fight anyone who refuses to do it.
just helped turn one of my arrows toward Jesus, even though he’s not a
follower of Jesus himself. It’s not just Christians who love to draw bold lines against our enemies.
Have you watched cable news recently? Everyone likes to do that. It’s
If my friend’s many-arrowed model has anything to recommend it, it the epitome of the way of the world. Jesus, by contrast, died because
seems to offer a striking gift. Suddenly we can both persuade and learn he came to “break dividing walls.” The Holy Spirit is described as the
in any conversation. It’s entirely likely that our conversation partner has “Advocate” or the “Encourager”—it sounds like he’s on the people’s
a key window into a life with Jesus that we’ve missed. side. He seems to push one direction. The Devil (the “Accuser”—which
sounds like he likes to draw lines against us) seems to push another.
For us in Cambridge, the net effect has been that we’ve seen lots of And this often results in a clash of kingdoms.
people start to follow Jesus who tell us this approach has been central.
One of the most skeptical people I’ve encountered in Seek experienced A couple of my recent experiences have hinted at this “not peace but a
the Holy Spirit, made central life choices based on Jesus, and has sword” thing. I’ve had some very encouraging connections with a gifted,
become an ardent and effective (centered-set) evangelist. This person high-profile prayer leader. He’s great in rallying Christians to pray for
told me that all of it would have been snuffed out before it began without their cities and areas and governments, and our paths have crossed in
a centered-set approach to faith. terrific ways in his travels.
I can easily wonder whether Wimber’s passion for the Holy Spirit and In his boldness, he rallied folks to set up what they all hope will be a
his encouragement toward centered-set faith were connected. Did he 24/7 prayer center in my town. So he called me, and when his people
experience that once we turn an arrow or two toward Jesus, we get living hit an early crisis, we housed and fed them. We’ve prayed for them and
continued on page 30
As we worked on finding materials for
an issue on difficult conversations, we
discovered a helpful book with a relevant
title: Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss
What Matters Most. We talked with one of
the co-authors of the book, Sheila Heen.
Sheila is a Partner at Triad Consulting
Group and a Lecturer on Law at Harvard
Law School. Sheila spent ten years with the
Harvard Negotiation Project, developing
negotiation theory and practice. She
specializes in particularly difficult
negotiations – where emotions run high
and relationships become strained.
by Jeff Heidkamp
having trouble getting it, the conflicts between them comes out, like,
‘You’re not leading strongly enough.’ ‘Well, you’re not listening, which
is so typical.’”
And then there are things like the space station. NASA got in touch
with us to get it uploaded on the space station, because they’ve got
astronauts up there by themselves under enormous pressure, having
to work together for weeks at a time and work out whatever issues they
have. NSA, the National Security Administration, contacted us last year
because they wanted their own secure copywrited electronic version. We
CE: Could you give a sense of kinds of situations in which the said, “Well, there’s an electronic version. You can just buy it.” They said,
communication principles from Difficult Conversations have been helpful? “No, no. We need our own separate secure version.” It’s like, “Okay, we’ll
give you the secret secret version.” (Laughter)
Sheila Heen: We’re called in to help with projects internationally. There’s
ethnic conflict, like working with initiatives for peace in Cyprus, an island CE: Well, we won’t tell anybody about that!
in the Mediterranean that has been divided since 1974. In Ireland, we’ve
done a little bit of work with police officers trying to manage the conflict SH: Exactly. But for me, one of the most interesting and rewarding places
there better. Things have changed a lot in the last ten years in Ireland, but where people use it is in congregations of religious communities. Next
there are still deep-seated tensions and ambivalence. week I go back to a Catholic seminary in Saint Louis for a third year
of working on this project with the faculty. One of the things they’re
We did a project in Springfield, Massachusetts a few years ago where thinking hard about is how they’re teaching people who are going to be
there was a Rodney-King-like beating caught on tape. It was explosive in working in churches—lay leaders—and the way that they handle conflict
the community, so we built a coalition of people to come together to talk among themselves is essentially what they’re going to teach these future
through it. It included everybody from the mayor and the police chief and leaders in parishes about how to handle conflict too.
some of the police officers to business leaders, high-school students, and
parents. We try to find key stakeholders in the community to talk about I think these faculty have been instrumental in helping me see the ways
courses of action. in which reconciliation between people—as a struggle to understand
each other when we have really strong reactions and are driving each
This month I was in London for Standard Chartered Bank, the bank that other crazy—is the very struggle that Christ talks about—and it even
was chartered by Queen Victoria 150 years ago to be the Britain’s trade echoes our reconciliation with him at the cross. So that’s where a lot of
bank in the British empire. So their locus of operations has always been spiritual growth really happens.
in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. People have been running those banks
for 150 years, but now you also have a professional class of executives CE: All these uses are a testament, not just to the quality of the book, but
who are jumping back and forth. Maybe one person is Indian…but he’s also to the centrality of this question for humans in general.
got an Irish accent because he grew up in Ireland…but he’s running the
Thai operation in Thailand. Or, this woman is Chinese, but she’s running SH: Absolutely. I do think this is a central aspect of the human condition
the Korean operation. They constantly have to negotiate cross-culturally. in that there’s not a person on the planet who isn’t struggling in
When management and executives need to make decisions together some relationship in their life. Take business. I’ll think, “As I get more
but they strongly disagree, they struggle to give an honest performance seniority, I won’t have to deal with all these things. Or we’ll all be
feedback. Those are typical things that come up. experienced enough that it’ll get easier.” But in fact, as you move up in
any organization, you have to spend more of your time having difficult
For me, one of the most interesting things has been to learn how other conversations, because you deal with the most complex questions and
people are using the book. In addition to being used in law schools and the hardest issues. It all gets kicked upstairs because the people below
business schools (which we anticipated), it’s being used in coaching you didn’t know what to do, or they avoided it.
programs. Lots of marriage and family therapists use it with their clients.
CE: Could you talk about the central theme of your book, which is
So, I live in this tiny little town. When we first moved here, I sat next to understanding the three main internal conversations that are always
a woman at a local school fundraising dinner, and she asked what I did. going on every time a difficult conversation happens?
I mentioned that I taught Difficult Conversations, and she said, “Did you
know there’s a book called that?” I said, “I did know that, actually. I was SH: Back in 1992, when we were first working on this project, we had a
one of the authors on that book.” And she said, “Oh my goodness. I teach working title for the book, which was “The Ten Hardest Things to Say and
Tango, Argentine Tango, and we use it to teach dance.” How to Say Them.” We initially thought that there are probably eight or
ten or twelve types of conversations. Talking to your teenager would be
CE: Wow! different than talking to your boss, which is different than talking to a
colleague, or giving performance feedback, or talking to your neighbor.
SH: “Because”, she said, “when a couple is learning Argentine Tango, So we planned to figure out what those categories were and write a
it’s a dance of very subtle cues between partners, and so when they’re chapter on each.
We thought people buy books with titles like that, so it was a great plan. So it’s easy for me to say, “It’s not my fault. He’s the one being ridiculous and
annoying.” But I also haven’t been intentional enough to request different
The problem with our plan is that we pretty quickly figured out that it was behavior. I never let the person know the impact he was having on me.
totally off-base. As we started to listen to people’s internal voices during any
difficult conversation, we began to see a pattern in what we were thinking Another part of the “What happened?” conversation is, we always have a
during the conversation…the conversation we were having with ourselves story or theory about people’s intentions or motivations, which we almost
about it. We started to see that really every difficult conversations had the unintentionally shape into character. It’s subtle in the conversation itself,
same underlying patterns at play. We labeled them the three conversations: but if you listen to people tell the story of their conflict, they’ll often lead
the "what happened?" conversation, the feelings conversation, and the with something like, “Let me tell you what kind of person you are.” So,
identity conversation. the other person is power-hungry, or very controlling, or clueless, or she
micromanages everything, or he’s lazy. We have a theory about why they’re
That can be a little bit confusing. You’d think, “Am I supposed to have a doing what they’re doing, and the minute that hits the table or is implied,
conversation with the other person just about feelings?” But we struggled the other person gets defensive because we’re suggesting that we’re
to find a better word, because it really is about the conversations you’re the good person and they're the bad person. So it shifts into an identity
having with yourself. judgment pretty quickly.
CE: They’re all going on at the same time? They’re all simultaneous? Instead, you should shift more to the impact the issue is having on you or
on others. Leave open the question, “I don’t know whether you intended
SH: They’re all completely muddled together. But what’s interesting is that this or you didn’t—or you weren’t even aware of it. I don’t know. But the
if someone comes to you to complain about a conflict that they’re in, and important thing I want to talk about is the impact that it’s having.”
they come to you to vent…well, if you listen, you can hear “all of them” in the
story that they’re telling about what’s going on. So, we divided “all of them” The Feelings Conversation
into three: Facts, feelings, and identity conversations.
CE: So that’s the “What happened?” conversation. Can you give an overview
The “What Happened?” Conversation of what’s going on underneath that in the emotional conversation?
SH: The first one is the “What happened?” conversation, or the “facts.” SH: The “What happened?” conversation is the most obvious, because
It’s the story about what happened, or what is happening, or what should it’s often what we are debating. We’re usually more comfortable with the
happen. There are key components and distortions we make in this kind of intellectual story that we’re telling.
But then we come to the feelings conversation. Underneath most difficult
One distortion is, I’m pretty sure I know what’s right or what I’m right about conversations, at least one and often both parties have a whole bunch
in particular. I’m always thinking about whose fault it is. Sometimes it’s of feelings going on—disappointment, defensiveness, self-doubt,
actually me. I’m just mad at myself, because I know it’s all my fault. A lot of frustration, irritation, guilt—and often those come in bundles. So you’ll
times it’s you: “You’re being so difficult. You won’t listen.” probably have a headline feeling like, “I’m furious.” But if you unpack it
a little bit—and if I ask people, “Just name three different feelings that
And sometimes there’s common ground, because the two of us can agree are behind that,”—it starts to get complicated pretty quickly. So maybe
it’s somebody else’s fault who’s not in the room. But it doesn’t really help us it’s like this: “I’m actually very appreciative of you for some things you’re
understand what’s going on. doing. But I’m also frustrated and I feel guilty because I should have
handled this earlier.”
When something goes wrong, I think we’re hard-wired as human beings
to look for blame. Look at the conversation of Adam and Eve after they CE: They wouldn’t be able to make you furious if there weren’t some
eat the forbidden fruit. God comes back and says, “What’s the deal?” and other things going on.
Adam says, “Well, she gave it to me.” And Eve says, “Well, the snake is
the one who tricked me into it. It’s not my fault.” The snake says, “Hey, SH: Exactly: “I feel really let down,” or “I feel like a sucker,” which starts
I was possessed. Don’t blame me.” Nobody is owning their contribution to get to identity too.
to that outcome.
One of the things that we noticed in the run of things, as we brought
CE: It’s really a parallel with faith. It’s hard to see how people could get past people in to unpack their hardest conversations, is that there was often
the blame game, but Jesus says, “Forgive others as they forgive you.” If a lot of ambivalence going on behind the scenes. Because people had
you can deal with forgiveness, and blame isn’t the question anymore, then both positive and negative feelings, they hadn’t known where to start.
agreeing how each party contributed to the issue is easier. So they assumed the conversation should be about one or the other,
which means they’d avoid talking about the positive things. Or they had
SH: Right. Joint contribution is a better reflection of reality. It acknowledges, avoided the conversation completely. Negative feelings in a relationship
“Each of us did, or failed to do, some things that made it this bad.” So my can often block positive feelings. If I’m frustrated, it’s actually pretty
contribution might be that I simply avoided bringing it up, but as a result, it’s hard for me to say “I love you,” because that’s not really what’s front and
festered. And now I’m more frustrated than I was a year ago; it accumulated. center for me right now, even if it’s true.
CE: And even if you said the words “I love you” in the midst of your other people do them, which is why it’s funny. Their behaviors are so
frustration, it might be hard for the other person to hear it as genuine. clearly ineffective, but still so common.
SH: That’s been really interesting, because emotions are some of the The Identity Conversation
hardest things in the internal voice to hide. They leak out in your tone
of voice or your body language. Even in e-mail, emotions can leak out. CE: Now, one level deeper, we have the identity conversation. Can you
It just shows. There's been a negation study that shows if somebody's talk a bit about that?
telling a lie about something factual, about 50 percent of the time,
the person across the table can tell the person is lying. But if you’re SH: It was the last insight for us chronologically. We felt like there was
lying about your emotional state ("What's wrong?" "Nothing.")... 85 something missing that would explain why some conversations are
percent of the time, even a complete stranger can tell you’re not being hard for some people but easy for others.
quite straight about what’s going on emotionally. There’s something
funny. They can’t necessarily name what it is, but anybody with any Maybe firing someone is really hard for Jill, but not that hard for Bill.
interpersonal skills picks up on a difference between what you’re saying Bill doesn’t enjoy it, but he doesn’t lay awake at night worrying about
and how you’re saying it. it as much. Or maybe saying “no” is easy for Jill and hard for Bill. We
started to see where people felt like they would emotionally overreact
Since Difficult Conversations came out, there was another book from in ways that didn’t seem to make sense. It was more intense than it
the Negotiation Project that I believe has pushed this understanding of seemed like it should be from the outside.
emotions one step further. It’s a book called Beyond Reason, which I use
a lot in my teaching right now. So eventually we clued into this idea that there’s something a situation
says about you which is threatening to the story you tell about who
The idea is that we each have at least five core emotional interests in our you are, or how you are. So if I have trouble saying “no,” it’s probably
relationships – working relationships and personal relationships – and linked to the fact that I think of myself as a very loyal person. I’m
when those get stepped on, we have negative reactions. Appreciation someone who would never abandon someone in need, which means
– if I feel underappreciated. Affiliation – “Am I on the inside?” or do I even if a complete stranger asked me for help, saying “no” is doing
feel left out? “I’m not in the loop. I’m not consulted. I wasn’t invited.” something in conflict with who I am or who I want to be.
Autonomy – “No, that’s mine to decide. You don’t get to tell me what
to do on that front of parenting or making a decision that affects my I think the identity conversation is a big piece of why conversations
department or my budget.” And then the last two are Role and Status. in religious communities can be so loaded. Underlying it all is this
“Do I like the role that I have, and do I think that it’s valued?” And then, question: “Are you being a good Christian? Are you following what
“Are you giving me enough respect or deference when we talk? Are you God really wants, or are you misinterpreting it? Are you a good person
willing to listen even if you don’t agree?” in this situation, or the bad person who needs to ask for forgiveness?”
Those five things are not only negative triggers for a negative reaction, We tend to hold identity in a way that’s very black and white. I’m either
but they’re also positive levers so that I can make a step toward the good person or the bad person. The stakes are really high. I get
someone in affiliation with them. defensive because what I know intuitively is that we both contributed
to the situation. So it doesn’t feel fair for me to be taking all the blame.
CE: Here’s a connection to church congregations: Pastors sometimes
struggle to make what they think of as the “business decisions,” CE: Or in a doctrinal question or a question about what is the truth, it’s
because maybe that’s not what they were trained to do. Sometimes they not just, “What is the truth?”, but “Am I lumped in with those heretics
think, “Oh, I can’t bring up my emotions here. This is business.” But who believe the wrong thing?”
what you’re saying is that the greatest businessmen in the world know,
“Boy, if you’re not aware of the emotions in the room, you can’t make SH: Exactly. Or, “Am I being naïve, or a fool, or leading people astray?”
good decisions.” We start thinking, “I might as well just go strap on that millstone
SH: In addition, people talk a lot these days about morale and exhaustion.
Well, you can’t talk about morale without talking about feelings. It is by I think in a religious community, we’re striving to achieve an identity
definition how people are feeling about how things are going, how they’re that feels worthy, even though on the other hand we know we can
being treated by the organization, whether you’re going to meet your never be worthy. We think we should not be having conflict if we’re in
goals—and so, trying to talk around feelings to discuss morale is where Christ. So if there’s conflict in the community, then that means there
people start giving pep talks, which only aggravates everyone and makes must be something wrong with us—or certainly with you, or with
it worse. our community. But I actually think that the conflict is really there for
the opportunity for learning. If you look at the New Testament, the
CE: Straight from The Office or something. disciples are in conflict with each other in Jesus’ presence.
SH: Exactly. If you want some good clips on what not to do, The Office is Was this community that Jesus was a part of simply imperfect, or was it
a treasure trove. We all recognize that we’ve done those things and seen a vehicle through which he could teach and we could learn?
For example, the disciples are jockeying for status. Who gets to sit at the me. Then I can look at the other person and say that as imperfect and
right hand of Jesus? Who’s the favored one? That reflects our status and frustrating and irritating as they are, as clueless as they are, they’re also
identity desires. a child of God. I need to try to see them that way too.
The fact that forgiveness is in the Lord’s Prayer is also interesting: learning CE: What are some other aspects of a Christian congregation setting,
to forgive others their trespasses as they forgive us. And we need to learn specifically, that might make difficult conversations especially hard there?
how to forgive ourselves, which can be sometimes the hardest part.
SH: There’s always group dynamic. In any community, but especially in
CE: With the identity conversation, there’s this, “Am I a good person?” spiritual communities, if I have a conflict with you, the chances are very
question, which makes the identity conversation hard. But at another low that the first person I’m going to go talk about it with is you. Instead
level of spiritual maturity, you talk in the book about grounding your I’ll first go complain to someone else. There’s triangulation. Because we
identity. If you don’t have a grounded identity, you can’t have these think we shouldn’t be having conflict between us, I’m probably developing
conversations. And for the believer, that’s a very helpful thing. even more avoidance to addressing it directly. So that festers longer
sometimes than in other organizations.
SH: The way that we teach it in everyday teaching or in secular organizations
is to get away from holding your identity as black or white (I’m either CE: And that backtalk can masquerade as a prayer request, or in saying,
competent or incompetent; I’m a good manager or a crummy manager; I’m “I just need to share this with you,” but in reality, it’s avoidance of a
either generous or selfish.) We have a checklist on our worksheet for people necessary conversation.
to prepare before they walk into a conversation that helps them accept
their contributions to the problems. Then you can see why the other person SH: Yes, we have a tendency to pretend that our purpose is positive or
might tell the story differently. You see that you might not have had the very compassionate, when really it’s human. That is, “I want to explain this to
best of intentions. You might have had a bad impact, even unintentionally, you, I want you to tell me that I’m right, and then I will feel better.” Then
on someone else. That’s part of grounding your identity, because you I don’t have to have the conversation, because I felt better by talking to
have to negotiate yourself ahead of time to accept that you’ve made some the third person.
mistakes: “I’ve definitely contributed to the problem, and I have something
to learn from this.” And then you do whatever’s annoying me again, and I go back, and I
have someone to go say, “Oh, and guess what? She did it again.” And
So you ground your identity in a reality of the pluses and the minuses. You say, so it festers.
“I’m on this block in life”—and the question isn’t, “Have I made mistakes?”
We all have.The real question is, "Can I learn from these mistakes?" Now, I think that there is a legitimate purpose to going to talk to a third
party, but I actually probably need to be very clear about what my purpose
If you’ve done a good job with that in going into the conversation, there’s is. So maybe at first I’ll vent a little, but then I need to say, “I can use your
really nothing the other person can ambush you with that you haven’t help in trying to decide whether to bring this up with her and how I might
already negotiated with yourself. So, they could say, “Well, you didn’t bring it up in a way that’s constructive. I could use your coaching. Could
include me on the conference call. You haven’t been around. You’ve you help me see? What am I contributing that I don’t see?” And often with
been neglecting the project.” You could say, “Yeah, I think that’s actually people, when we’re the third party, we can see what they’re doing to make
probably right. I wish I had handled that differently.” That way you can at it worse. But they’re not asking us for that, so we don’t say it.
least be accountable for what you think you contributed.
If we treat each other as coaches to engage the conflict constructively,
Or if they throw something at you that doesn’t quite feel fair, you can say, that’s good. I don’t mean to say you should never get support. That’s part
“You know, I do think that I contributed to this in some important ways. of what fellowship is about. But we also need to keep our eyes on the
I’m not sure that that’s quite accurate, but please tell me about the impact purpose, which is to work it through with the other person.
on you, because that’s what you understood was happening.”
CE: Churches often hold very strongly to the concept of absolute truth
CE: For a Christian, these ideas are really connected with forgiveness, existing externally somewhere, and that seems to be working to some
grace, and ultimately love for another person to see where they’re at and extent at odds with what you have discovered about how these kinds of
what you can bring positively to them. reconciliations actually work.
SH: For me, I think one of the things that really helps me when I’m SH: We often act as if an issue is just a straight black-and-white question, like,
hooked is remembering the way that God sees me. I’m actually not “I’m right about this. This is what’s true, and you’re just not seeing reality.”
putting anything over on God for Him to think that I’m a great person, But these conversations are almost never about factual disagreements.
even though I’m trying to put it over on the other person. (Laughter) He We’re not debating a fact. We’re not debating what the contract, or the verse
is very well aware of what’s in my heart at different times, the ways that or passage, actually says. We’re debating what it means.
I’m contributing to my own problems, and doing things that, looking back,
I wish I hadn’t done. In fact, He’s working hard to help me see that. But By treating the issue—or the person—as black and white, we’re not
He loves me anyway, and so I think that helps me extend compassion having a true discussion about where the disagreement really is. Instead,
to myself. I get compassion for myself through God’s compassion for we have ideas about what friendship means in that particular situation.
We have different judgments about what the best course of action might SH: Definitely. And one more thing. One of the things I’ve come to
be. That’s not a black-and-white, right-or-wrong issue. appreciate so much more fully over the last ten years are the gaps
between my ability to handle an objective situation versus my own
Now, if you take that into the spiritual realm, one of the bad reputations situations. It’s easy for me to walk into a situation and quickly analyze
from the outside that some Christians get is that they’re sure they’re and understand someone else’s conflicts and help them navigate it
right about everything, and they’re not open to listening. I think that’s a constructively. I’m good at that. It’s what I do every day. But yet, I still have
pretty deep theological question. Last year at the seminary, this question my own conflicts where I can’t see them.
of truth and "rightness" was the question that they took up, and it
culminated in 13 hours of me being locked in a room with 60 theologians It’s so interesting the difference between being in the first-person
debating, “What is the nature of truth and absolute truth in God?” position, where I’m a party in the conflict, and being a third-person
observer. That has really struck me. I wonder how we can equip third-
CE: Geez! Difficult Conversations takes you into deep conversations fast! person observers so that we can help each other, because there’s been a
huge learning curve for me in my ability to have those conversations more
SH: Oh, yeah! We had it. I think the reason we had the conversation effectively in my own life. I still get stuck.
was that we all differed in the way that we were treating the concept of
certainty. They were asking this underlying question: “How certain can The new thing we’re working on right now is a book on feedback. There
you be that your interpretation is it?” That was underneath some of their is a lot out there on giving feedback already. Yes, we help people do that,
conflicts with each other, and it was fascinating because I think the stance but there’s only so far that skill can go if the other person isn’t ready
that most took was, “God is absolute truth.” Our capacity as human to hear it. It’s fascinating to watch people get feedback, now that we’re
beings to be certain that we fully understood it is limited. working on this specifically. Everybody around them says, “Well, yeah,
that’s conventional wisdom about this person. Everybody knows that
In fact, toward the end of the day, one of the theologians said, “We are all about this person.” But the person themselves is absolutely outraged and
1,000 watt volts with 40 watt bulbs.” rejects it and says, “That’s ridiculous. That’s overreacting. That’s not how
it actually happened.”
God is truth. And our soul has that capacity, but we should always
be wondering whether we fully "get it," and be humble about the There are all kinds of ways in which we can defensively dismiss what anybody
fact that there may be something that we’re missing. Or there may be else says. From a spiritual point of view, we can tell stories about ourselves
something that we are far misinterpreting or misunderstanding about that say the way we’re walking in our spiritual walk, and we’re doing a pretty
all of these questions. good job. But if we saw ourselves the way that God sees us, not only would
we see the positive because he loves us and has compassion for us, but we’d
I taught a five-day course on Christianity and conflict and negotiation probably also have a more accurate picture of ourselves.
and reconciliation a couple of years ago. We divided it into negotiations
with others, or conflicts with others, like issues between people, conflicts END
with ourselves, our sense of identity, self-forgiveness, leaps of faith, and
conflicts with God. Recommended Books:
CE: What additional resources might communities of faith have in the Difficult Conversations:
positive direction? What is it about being Christians that should help us to How To Discuss What Matters
have difficult conversations instead of being a hindrance? Most by Douglas Stone,
Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen
SH: I think that to the extent that we see Scripture as the ultimate guide,
it actually has a lot of weight in helping us reframe the purpose of conflict
and help legitimize its presence. All the early churches had conflict. Just
look at the letters of Paul. The disciples have conflict. As Christians, we
can reframe it as, “Hey, these are the opportunities for us to grow and to
learn individually and as a community.” I think it makes it more normal
and not something scary.
We can say, “Of course we’re going to have conflicts. So how should we
handle them, and how should we help each other handle them?” That’s
harder for secular organizations to do because they don’t have Scripture
to reframe the purpose of conflict.
CE: Within that third conversation of identity, it’s sort of an objective
person’s point of view, but from a Christian perspective you could say it’s
God’s point of view, or Scripture’s point of view on how to find a new way
around the conflict.
In our increasingly diverse society, we PL: Right. It’s a very broad concept; we’re kind of lumping the world in two
very big groups: high-context and low-context.
are continually becoming more aware of
Let’s take verbal communication. In a high-context culture, the listener
the power that culture plays in our day- is assumed to have the responsibility for the communication. However,
to-day lives. Patty Lane is the director of a low-context culture says the speaker has the responsibility instead.
So a high-context person might hear somebody asking them, “Do you
the Office of Intercultural Initiatives for understand this? Does that make sense? Is that clear?” This person is
the Baptist General Conference and the going to perceive those questions as saying, “Are you paying attention?
Are you smart enough to follow along with this?”
author of A Beginner’s Guide to Crossing
Cultures. We talked to her about how A person operating from a low-context culture might ask questions like
that because they want to make sure they’re communicating well. It’s not
to approach difficult conversations that a reflection on the listener at all, but a listener from a high-context culture
involve people from various backgrounds, might not realize that.
and how to develop a church culture that So, that’s one way in which that plays out. Here’s another idea: church
enables such conversations to go well. settings, which are probably going to be predominantly Anglo churches,
are going to be pretty low-context. They don’t place the same kind of
meaning on the context or the environment of a meeting. But from a high-
Jeff Heidkamp: For some pastors and leaders, it might be a new idea context perspective, that specific context and environment is as important
that cross-cultural issues could even be a problem in conversations. as the event itself. If people in a low-context culture minimize or dismiss
Talk a bit about why we should really be aware of somebody’s ethnic it, or don't even think about it, they’ve set up a situation that could be
or cultural background when we’re having conversations. very ambiguous. It could communicate a message that’s very different
than what they intended.
Patty Lane: Basically, our culture is a filter by which we understand
what’s being said to us. So if we’re not aware of cultural differences, we Other distinctions between these high and low contexts are just the way
could really misunderstand the conversation. That’s the simple answer. in which a person thinks about life. A high-context thinker is going to
think very holistically. They’re going to think about the big picture, with
JH: From there, I think your concept of “misattribution” becomes the everything kind of integrated together. But, most low-context thinkers
key. Could you talk a little bit about misattribution and how it might think in a very analytical process. They think of all the parts and try to put
play out in a ministry-type conversation? them together into a whole.
PL: Misattribution is ascribing a meaning or a motive to a behavior Say two pastors are working together. One’s a low-context thinker and the
that’s based upon one’s own culture or experience. It happens all the other’s a high-context thinker, and they’re trying to do some sort of strategy
time, between genders, between generations. But we see it the most plan. It’s an amazing process if both groups understand the strengths that
pronounced when we’re working with people of other cultures. the other brings to that process, with both holistic and analytical thinking
taking place. But it’s a disaster if they don’t understand that, because
For example, in my culture, I know I want to appear confident and they’re not even going to approach strategy from the same perspective.
respectful and a good communicator. So I look someone in the eye. But You’re just going to be missing each other right and left, with both groups
in another culture, especially if I’m talking to a person of an opposite becoming frustrated, or one group just giving up and accommodating the
gender, if I look them in the eye, they might think I’m flirting with them. other group, which is not what anybody wanted to happen.
That’s a very different meaning than I intended!
JH: There’s one particular way this concept is playing out in our movement.
Or in another culture, looking an older person in the eye when there’s The Vineyard was founded in Southern California 30 years ago. It was
quite a big age difference may seem very disrespectful. Again, that’s casual—one of the first church movements to say you could wear
not what I meant by that behavior. blue jeans to church. Now we’re trying to become a more multiethnic
movement. But for classic Vineyardites, it’s very hard to say you should
Misattribution can cause lots of problems in communication, because dress up for church or that you should have a really fancy building. And
cultures tell us what certain behaviors mean, but the meaning is yet, from what you’re saying, if you’re trying to reach across to a high-
different in another culture. It makes a big gap in that communication. context culture, some of those things like dress and how nice things are
become a lot more important.
JH: You spelled out some of those differences in talking about the
different “lenses” of communication. One of the most helpful ones— That tension’s not unique to the Vineyard. Could you speak a little bit to
and also most complex—was high-context versus low-context culture. that issue of formality and dress, and how that plays out across high- or
Could you unpack that one a little? It’s an interesting distinction. low-context culture?
PL: You’re right. In high-context cultures, if you want to communicate JH: So, even the willingness to be open to different ways of resolving
something that’s important that has value and meaning to you, you might conflict is step one?
need to do that in a more formal way. How you’re dressed, the setting that
you’re in, is going to convey a lot of the meaning the person gets from it. PL: Right. To be willing to see it differently. The passage that people
always pull out in terms of conflict resolution is Matthew 18, where they
With a low context, that’s not going to be an issue at all. I remember a pastor say that if someone sinned against you, you go to them privately. You try
once who was very high-context going to look at possibly sharing a building to work it out. Then, if that doesn’t work, you go back to someone else.
with someone. The low-context pastor was saying, “Look at this great place.
It’s a big room. There’s a speaker stand. There’s plenty of space. There’s a I learned that passage is about how you have the responsibility to go
sound system. It’s got a keyboard over here…everything you need.” to your fellow believer and tell them how they’ve offended you. That’s
an extremely direct approach. What people in other cultures hear from
And the other pastor, the high-context pastor, said, “Are you kidding? This that passage is not so much the direct confrontation, but that this is
won’t work.” What he saw in the room were posters of these Christian something private. Their focus of that passage is that it’s done in a
rock bands, a foosball table, a beanbag chair. He thinks, “I can’t have way that doesn’t embarrass or cause the person to lose face. So for
something as important as a worship service in this environment.” But them, the way to honor that passage is to use a mediator, because it’s
the low-context person wasn’t even paying attention to that. He just saw more private.
the very practical things. There were kind of the nuts and bolts of what he
thought they needed. Or, take the story of Nathan confronting David about Bathsheba. Nathan
didn’t approach David by going in and saying, “Hey, buddy, this is what
I think we do need to be careful. As a low-context culture reaching out to you’ve done. I’m here to call you on the carpet for it, because you’ve done
a high context, we set an environment to enhance our message and not wrong.” He could have, but it probably wouldn’t have been very effective.
conflict with it.
Nathan used an approach that worked in the specific context. He was a
JH: And just for the record, white American culture tends to be lower- prophet. David was king. Nathan used a way to reach him which was a
context than more other cultures? more indirect approach. He told him a story. He got him hooked in before
he said, “But that person’s you.”
PL: That’s generally true. Now, some people might tell you that as our
culture becomes more and more influenced by postmodern worldview, Even Jesus didn’t always hit people over the head with direct
they’re seeing a rise in some high-context features. But that’s not confrontations. He did sometimes, like with the moneychangers in the
significant enough, especially in the church community, to really be temple. But he also looked down and drew in the dirt and said, “He who
changing that much. So, I would still say the predominant U.S. Anglo has no sin cast the first stone.” He took a less direct approach many times
culture is a low-context culture. to accomplish what he needed to accomplish.
JH: Most of our readers are white American leaders, Anglo leaders, and So Anglos, especially, could stand to see the importance of adapting
those who aren’t will be glad to have you speak on this anyway. Could their message instead of assuming other people think Matthew 18 is
you summarize some of your thoughts from the book about cross-cultural unimportant. There are other ways to accomplish Matthew 18 than this
conflict resolution? Specifically, what do white leaders need to keep in-your-face approach. If people could enter into a conflict resolution
in mind as they’re working through conflicts that can happen between without the idea that their approach to the situation is right and the other
people of different cultures? person’s is wrong…if they could free themselves of that as much as possible,
they’ll have a much better chance of actually resolving the problem.
PL: Well, unfortunately, the white Anglo group can be very entrenched
in their own idea that their way is right and biblical. But they don’t have When you’re working with a group that says they have to resolve a conflict
openness about it. Maybe they’ve picked some passages that match their in a certain way—“We have to come together in a room, and you need to
culture. Then, they kind of proof-text their approach with those passages lay it out and put your cards on the table”—this very direct, confrontational
and don’t leave any room for anybody to handle conflict in other ways. approach could be seen by us as the biblical instruction. But it’s going to
be very hard to work with cultures who just cannot do that. It’s anathema
On the other hand, other cultures can also pull out passages of Scripture to them to cause someone to “lose face.” We need to understand the real
and proof-text their preferred method of resolving conflict. meaning of losing face for so many cultures around the world and how it’s
significantly different than simply being embarrassed.
One of the best ways to get at that issue is to practice hearing. I’ll have
discussions about what I consider to be biblical truths with people of JH: What is “losing face,” and how does that play out in these settings?
other cultures. In those discussions, I allow myself to hear how those
passages speak to them and other passages that they think relate to PL: Losing face is often misunderstood as being when someone “gets
that same topic that I might not have even thought were connected at all. embarrassed.” People who don’t have that within their cultural background
Their perspectives sharpen me. In a homogeneous setting, we all have the often make light of it. But actually, the idea of losing face is about a person
same blind spots. But with other cultures, we show each other our blind losing part of their identity. It’s not about embarrassment. It’s about identity.
spots in terms of hearing the whole message of the gospel.
It varies for different people, depending on their cultural background and There’s a lot to be learned from being in multicultural settings if we allow
the amount they’ve been exposed to U.S. culture. But really for some those other cultures to speak to us and if we give them a venue to share:
people, just putting them in a competitive situation where someone wins “What does that mean to you?” or “How do you see that?” A lot of growth
and someone loses is a loss of face. Asking a person a direct question that can happen in those environments.
causes them to state that they didn’t meet your expectations can cause
them to lose face. The other thing would be just to pray and plan. Ask, “Where does God
want us to be in the future? What does he want our church to look like or
So to have good relationships with people of cultures where losing be like or be involved in?” Once you have an idea of the mission, then you
face is an issue, you want to make sure that you avoid triggering those can work backwards and say, “If that’s where we’re headed, what are the
kinds of situations. Something really interesting to me is that people kinds of things we need to do to start making that a reality?”
will sometimes be as protective of my face as of their own. For example,
sometimes you invite people to an event, and they say they’ll come and JH: I think a lot of churches generally say, “We want to be multi-ethnic,”
then don’t. Part of that is they don’t want to cause you to lose face by but you can’t just say that broadside. You also have to say, “Who are
them telling you no. Low-context people ask, “Why won’t they just be we, and what do we want to become?” And without answering those
honest?” Well, to them it’s not about being honest—it’s about protecting questions, you’re really just saying a truism.
your face. To many high-context people, saying no is so rude and impolite,
they just wouldn’t think of doing it. PL: Churches have to consider the biblical principle about building a farm
without counting the cost. They need to recognize that to become more
To build and keep good relationships, we need to be aware of how we multicultural, it’s not about everybody coming and starting to be more like
protect our own face and other’s faces; the specific things we do. If we them. It’s about how they’re willing to change to be an environment that is
can see through that lens, a lot of behaviors that wouldn’t make sense to healthy for people of other cultures to be a part of.
us otherwise begin to make sense.
That means some of the leadership will probably have to change or
JH: This is one of the hardest things. In the book you said that this is the make room for new leaders. You can’t just have a church run by the same
one thing that was hard to find an analogy of in Anglo culture. elders that run it now if you really want to be multicultural. Churches
need to be prepared for that kind of change so they can celebrate it
PL: Well, what I ended up doing was comparing it to the idea of autonomy. instead of resenting it.
Maybe people’s intrinsic sense of face is like how intrinsic it is within us
that we have personal autonomy. We don’t even call it into question. We END
do a lot of things and understand behavior based on how we don’t want
to take away other people’s autonomy or make them feel like they don’t Book Recommendations:
have the right to choose. But that was really the best analogy. Patty Lane, A Beginner’s Guide
to Crossing Cultures
So it comes back to this: Are we willing to let go of some assumptions
about what’s normal and right? Are we going to acknowledge that other
behaviors and ways of thinking make just as much sense to people from
other cultures as our way makes sense to us?
If people can’t step through that doorway, it’s probably going to be
difficult for them to have really meaningful relationships cross-culturally.
Lots of people are willing to have kind of a pseudo-relationship with Duane Elmer, Cross-Cultural
someone if there’s a benefit to them in that relationship. So then they Conflict Resolution
think, “I have good relationships with people of other cultures. Look how
they love me. They say these nice things to me.” But they don’t recognize
that it’s not a real relationship as far as the other person is concerned. It’s
about something else.
JH: Could you talk a little about developing a church community cross-
Craig Storti, Cross-Cultural
PL: It’s important that churches begin to understand their own culture. I Dialogues
think that’s key. A church needs to understand its own culture and how it’s
influenced by that, and also how culture influences our worldview and the
way we read Scripture. In homogeneous settings, people are never really
challenged to do that.
Move On by Jeff Heidkamp
Steve Nicholson is the pastor of the Evanston
Vineyard in Illinois and the head of the
Church Planting Task Force for Vineyard USA.
We talked to Steve about one of the hardest
conversations church planters and ministry
leaders have to have: removing someone
from a particular area of ministry.
CE: How do you know when it’s time to remove somebody from either a to finally say, “This is the wrong fit.” But you’re not really helping them by
ministry or leadership position? keeping them there. In fact, you’re actually dragging out a disaster.
SN: It’s time to remove somebody when you’ve been trying for months CE: Maybe there’s another kind of hidden fear: “If this person is very
to get them to do what you need them to do, and they’re not making well-connected in the church, and they get upset, then a whole bunch of
progress. Or when other members of the team start asking questions like, people are going to leave. Or they’re all going to hate me.”
“Why is this person not doing their share of work?” Obviously, there are
other things that could mean somebody has to be removed. Are we talking SN: You’d be surprised how often people can tell when somebody’s not
about volunteers or paid staff? functioning well, because people are actually smarter than we sometimes
think. More often than not, when I’ve had to make that choice, everybody
CE: Why don’t you start with volunteers and move to paid staff? else reacted: “Oh, we were wondering when you were going to realize
it wasn’t working.” A lot of people aren’t fooled, even if they’re well-
SN: If there’s a moral failure or a serious loyalty failure, you would connected with somebody.
need to remove both. But probably the harder cases to decide are more
ambiguous. Maybe it seems like they’re not really getting their job—this Secondly, there are good and bad ways to do it. If you’re going to let
is a lot more of a judgment call. somebody go, and they were paid staff, you give them a decent severance.
You try to help them get into the right spot. If they’re a volunteer, you try
Just about everybody’s dealt with it. You always want to think that you can to move them from one position to a different position where they’ll do
fix everything; that if you just try harder, you can make it work. But the better, so it’s more of a transfer than being fired.
reality is, you can’t always. Sometimes you just have to admit that you’ve
got the wrong person in the wrong slot. If they’re not the right person, You try to do it in a helpful, relational way and not be uncaring. A lot of
there’s very little you can do to help them get over it. times, people are willing to cooperate with that and it comes off fine. Once
in a while, you get somebody who is not such a good character, and they’ll
Generally, a good idea is to first go through a process. You try to help them want to go to the church by spreading things around and trying to make
do better, and give them warnings, and maybe put them on probation, and themselves the martyr.
give them extra attention and training, and so forth. But if you’ve done all
those things, and it still isn’t turning around, then there really isn’t much CE: What should you do if that happens?
choice. So you’re going to have to let them go.
SN: If I start to hear that happening, I sit them down and say, “You know,
CE: Early on in a church plant, the biggest difficulty is going to be that it’s this is not the way we do things. We tried to treat you right and protect
very likely that that person is a good friend of yours, just by the nature of your dignity. But if you keep doing this, that gives me freedom to go to
the group’s size. every single person in the church and tell them my side of the story about
why you’re fired. That won’t make you look very good. So perhaps you
SN: I would say, if you were someone who was giving themselves to want to think about playing nice.”
serve in the church and putting your money in the bucket and trying to be
faithful, and you saw that the pastor was keeping somebody in a position CE: So, how important is it really to have this conversation? If somebody’s
where they weren’t functional just because they were friends, how would just too scared or too hesitant to do it, can you tell us why it really matters
you feel about it? You would think that was wrong, that it wasn’t fair to the to help the person move on?
other people at the church—even a little corrupt.
SN: You need to do it. It’s always a struggle for everybody. We all want
When you’re the pastor, you don’t have the luxury of first being a private to be the nice guy, but I’ve never heard anybody say, “I wish I’d done it
individual with a friend. Instead you’re the servant of these people who later.” Almost always, when somebody finally pulls the trigger, they’ll end
are putting their trust in your leadership. You’re obligated to make the best up saying afterward, “I wish I’d pulled the trigger sooner.”
decisions you can to help those people, even if it entails personal cost.
If it’s a volunteer, you have to help a person move on, because they’re
CE: Another angle might be when a pastor thinks it would kill this person in the wrong spot and not in the right spot. You’re not helping them by
to take them out of leadership. It would hurt so badly that it’s hard to even keeping them there. If you’ve got somebody who can’t hold the tune,
imagine doing it. What about that? can’t hold the note, who thinks they’re the world’s next fantastic worship
leader…well, keeping them in there is not doing them any favors.
SN: Of course it’s going to be painful, but actually, keeping a person in
a position where they are failing every day is what’s killing them. And if And if they’re on staff, the reality is, you’re taking people’s money that they
you keep them there longer, you’re destroying them. You’re keeping them are sacrificially giving to the church and giving it to someone who is supposed
from pursuing what they should be pursuing. Every day that they’re in the to perform a certain function. If they’re not doing it, that’s basically robbery.
wrong position is another day that they’re not in the right position.
There are a few people out there who are kind of on the other side of the
Generally, when people aren’t doing well at their job, they know it. That’s road. If you frown at them in the hallway, they’re ready to fire you right
a horrible thing to live under and to live with. Yes, it’s going to be painful then. But most people are on this side. They wait too long.
CE: Removing volunteers is obviously a different animal than staff. It CE: Do you have some practical tips about having the conversation itself?
seems that you appealed to their self-interest, which could be helpful. You
didn’t go into the conversation and say, “You’re really hurting the church,” SN: A lot depends on the reading of it. Certainly if it’s a volunteer, and a
which is a hard thing to say. husband and wife are both involved, it’s very important that they both be
in the conversation. I think that’s important. I usually like to start off by
SN: One time I was coaching a church planter, and he wasn’t doing so asking people to do self-evaluation—“How do you think you’re doing?”
well. In fact, he was doing a number of things that were consistent with
his gift but that really didn’t fit with church planting very well. And he A lot of times they realize they’re not doing so well. If you do it right, it
was miserable. actually won’t be a surprise. The right way should be that it’s the last of a
long series of conversations.
So finally I just sat down with him and said, “You know, it seems to me like
you’re not having very much fun here, and it seems like your gifts are more There should have been previous conversations, where you’ve said,
with your ideology. You’re doing this because you think you should, but “I’m not sure this is working. Let’s go over again what’s happening and
it’s not what you’re really gifted to do. Why don’t you go do what you’re see what we can do to help you.” There should have been a number of
gifted to do?” conversations along the way, or statements like, “We’re going to try this
only this much longer, and if it doesn’t turn around, then we’re going to
And boy, he was so relieved. He couldn’t drop that church fast enough. get you in a different spot.” There should be plenty of warning and lead-
up, but also efforts to help them actually succeed before you ever get to
CE: That’s funny. Did the church survive at all? that final conversation.
SN: No, it didn’t. But it wasn’t going to survive anyway. CE: What kinds of things need to be present in the emotional life of a
church planter who’s going to have to do this well?
CE: There was less misery in the world as a result.
SN: If you have a need to be liked by everybody, you’re in deep trouble
SN: Yes. already. The essence of leadership is making hard decisions. That’s why
you’re a leader—people need somebody to do it. Not everybody’s going to
CE: As people are getting things going, what are some things that people like it. That’ll throw you off, so you’ve got to be secure in your identity and
could put in place and do early on in the plant? These conversations are your relationship with God and in your calling, instead of being dependent
inevitable if the church grows. What could make them easier? on everyone liking your decisions.
SN: Well, pastors need to be very careful about promises. Sometimes we These people are entrusted to you by God. And God has put things into
make promises in sort of a backhanded way and don’t even realize it. You them that are meant to be put to the best possible use. Our task is to try
just start going off, and then you say, “I could see you someday doing to get everybody in such a place that they’re the right person in the right
such and such.” The person walks out of the room saying, “He promised job, and the right position in the church, and the right position in the
me that I’m going to have this position.” ministry—whether it’s volunteer or paid. Either way.
And the later conversations are a lot more difficult if people have felt like Anytime that we don’t have people in the right spot, we’re off track and
there’s a promise behind it. So I’d say you need to be very careful at all accountable to God to fix it. We’ll make mistakes, because people are
points of any kind of promise or commitment for longevity. In fact, it’s not complicated. It’s hard to make the right decision up front. So you can do
often a bad idea to start off on a kind of probationary or temporary period. things to try to avoid it and get better at making decisions up front, but
Kind of like a trial run. you just won’t avoid everything.
You can say, “If this doesn’t work, then we can try something else at the Honestly, over time, somebody who was in the right position at one stage
end.” I think we want to build into the church the idea and theology that of the church’s life just might not be in the right position anymore if the
we want to work according to our passions and our giftings. Part of how church gets bigger or goes through changes. It’s inevitable. You can’t be
we do that is by trying different things. It’s not the end of the world if losing sleep over it.
we try something and it doesn’t work. That’s just part of the process of
getting closer to the things we’ll try that will work. And it reduces the I want to help people have success in being a part of the life of the
“shame factor” too. Kingdom, and having something to contribute that’s changing the world
and making it a better place. Again, if somebody’s in the wrong spot,
You can try to create a culture where people take things a little less keeping them there is not the way to do it.
heavily and are more prepared for inevitable shifts. That helps a lot. It’s
creating a process in the church where you’re actually evaluating what I want to help get them in the right spot.
people’s gifts are, where people work with job descriptions that are
explicit. Then you can point to black and white and say, “This is in this END
description, and you’re not doing it.”
The Power of
by Don Follis
As we thought about difficult conversations, we realized something: a it’s not just time—it’s time and really listening to people from your heart.
congregation that majors on encouragement and life-giving conversation If you will truly listen to someone, whether they are happy or sad, they will
will have a much easier time when difficult conversations crop up. feel blessed. Pastor David Augsburger says, “Being heard is so close to
Anyone who knows Don Follis knows that he has the spiritual gift of being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.”
encouragement. We asked him to give us some thoughts on developing a
culture of encouragement. 6. Comfort. The need for comfort is met by responding to people with
appropriate words and physical touch. If a person is grieving, there really
When my high school football punting made the news, I will never forget are only two things to say: “I’m so sorry,” and “I love you.” Place your hand
what my coach said during halftime of the game against our archrivals: “If on the shoulder of a person in pain and tell that person you’re on his side.
Follis keeps punting like that, next year he’ll be kicking for Kansas State
or the University of Kansas.” Talk about affirming a young man in front of 7. Encouragement. The need for encouragement is met by urging people
his peers. In the second half, I practically kicked the football to the moon. to hang in there; to persist toward the goal they so want to achieve. Send
notes; phone someone; pray with someone; take someone to dinner or a
After 30 years in the ministry, comments like this can still put me on cloud movie. People are dying for someone to say, “I’m so proud of what you are
nine. Just the other day I gave a pretty sharp presentation. My wife, a doing. You make this world a better place to live in.”
university faculty member, was the first to come up to me after my talk.
“Baby,” she said, “that was great. You are absolutely at the top of your 8. Respect. The need for respect is met by honoring and regarding people
game. Most presentations I hear at the university couldn’t touch that.” as important. Do you show deference to your spouse’s opinion? Do you
listen to your children? Do you respect people’s time? Do you respect
I love to hear words like that. And guess what? So do you. Nothing gives people from different backgrounds and religions?
people hope like a dose of encouraging words delivered from the heart.
In a world where selfishness and sharp words prevail, people are dying to 9. Protection. The need for protection is met when we establish harmony
hear encouraging words. in relationships and show people they are free from fear or threat of harm.
Are those for whom you are financially responsible secure in knowing that
Having encouraged hundreds of people over the years, I have discovered you will provide for them? Do you relate to people in a consistent way?
ten great ways to give people hope. You need all ten emotions in your Do you treat your employees the way you want to be treated? Do people
“bag of hope” if you’re going to be effective. It’s not surprising to know know what to expect from you? Can they read you?
that people are dying for someone to encourage them. I encourage you to
make an effort to use all ten this week. 10. Support. The need for support is met when you come alongside
someone and give them your complete attention. Anticipate and notice
1. Acceptance. The need for acceptance is met when we willingly and when someone is experiencing periods of stress. Are you willing to use
unconditionally love someone. Can you look beyond a person’s faults and your personal resources to help someone, if need be?
still care for them? There’s not a better way to give a person hope than by
accepting them for who they are, not for what they do. None of these ten means you will have fewer problems in your relationships.
They don’t mean you won’t have to have hard conversations, or set clear
2. Love. The need for love is met by expressing care through physical boundaries, or keep forgiving those who hurt you.
touch and tender words. Tell people you love them. Tell your spouse, your
children, and your colleagues. Tell people in the hospital, at weddings, at Real encouragement seems to always happens right smack in the middle
funerals. Try calling someone today and say, “I wanted to give you a quick of life’s messes. Writer Peter Scazzero is right in saying, “Jesus modeled
call to tell you thank you for being part of our church family and for being incarnating love when he took on flesh, entered our world, and walked in
a good friend. I love you, and I’m proud to call you friend.” our shoes. His love compelled Him to cross two worlds, heaven and earth,
and live among us. In order for us to love others as Jesus did, we too need
3. Appreciation. The need for appreciation is met through expressing to cross into other people’s worlds, enter life in their shoes, while holding
thanks and praise, especially in recognizing someone’s accomplishments. on to our own world as well.”
I recently heard a senior pastor praise the youth pastor in front of the
congregation about his summer program, and the young pastor was Church father Tertullian writes in “The Apology” that the heathens said
beaming from ear to ear. of the believers, “See how they love one another.” Love compelled
Jesus, and love remains the most compelling force in life. Cross over into
4. Approval. The need for approval is met by building up or affirming someone else’s world with real love. What you have to give may be the
a person and acknowledging the importance of the relationship. An encouragement for which they have long been hoping.
employer I know called out a young man in an employee meeting: “Josh,
the way you organize the storeroom has made everybody so pleased. We Don is a 30-year pastor and a member of the Champaign-Urbana Vineyard
can find things now. You are making everybody’s work so much easier. Church in Illinois. He spends part of his time providing pastoral care for
Thank you so much.” The boss made a big deposit. Vineyard pastors in the Midwest Region and part of his time coaching and
providing spiritual direction for pastors across the U.S.
5. Connection. The need for connection is met when we enter another
person’s world. There is no substitute for spending time with someone. And
by Stephanie Davenport
Church planters need to be able to have The leader continued to attend Rachel’s church and now serves in several
significant leadership roles better utilizing his gifts. Rachel says that for
healthy conversations early on in their some time afterward, their relationship was awkward, but over time, the
ministry. To get an inside look at some majority of the anger and distance has healed.
tough talks, Cutting Edge spoke with a few Another pastor, Frank, says it’s been his experience that all difficult
Vineyard pastors who were willing to share conversations don’t look the same, and it is easy to make mistakes in this
area. “If you love people and you love the church, you’re going to have
some of their experiences. Due to the more difficult conversations. You’re also going to blow it now and then, so learn
to say you’re sorry,” he advised.
personal nature of the stories, names and
details have been changed. He shared a story of when his church decided to redesign their website
and assigned the task to one of their emerging leaders. Simultaneously,
Rachel had taken all the preliminary steps when laying the groundwork they planned to unveil their new church facilities. Frank remembers
for her church planting team. She explained from the beginning that even being under the impression that he’d given explicit directions for specific
if team members helped from the ground up, it didn’t mean they were changes to be made to the website about staff titles and photos. At the
going to be on the leadership team two years from then. “There are no crucial time of the launch of the website and the new church location,
guarantees. I told them that many times,” Rachel shared. however, the website was not updated in the ways he anticipated.
Despite the precautions she’d taken, Rachel still found herself facing an “I didn’t take time to pray or anything. I just reacted,” Frank said. “I called
extremely difficult situation when it became increasingly clear that one of him on his cell phone and just let him have it. When I got done talking, I
the leaders from her original team wasn’t able to lead in a particular area heard a bunch of noise in the background. So I asked him, ‘Where are you?’
as the size of the church grew.
“And then came the resounding moment. ‘My birthday party,’ he said. At
“He moved down here with us,” Rachel explained. “He sacrificed right that moment, I knew I had messed up.
along with my family, so to think about telling him that his skill set didn’t
match the growth we were experiencing—or where we were headed in the “After our conversation, I had to go back and pray. Then I tracked him
future—was really hard.” down the next day and told him how sorry I was. He apologized too. So
trust me, saying you’re sorry carries a lot of weight.”
Rachel said she went through a phase where she found herself wondering if
there was another way to handle it without having the difficult conversation. Frank also shared another difficult conversation that was quite different.
“Could the church offer them some type of support or equipping instead?” Three men at Frank’s church were meeting for accountability, and it soon
She even questioned her motives, pondering thoughts like, “Who do I think came to Frank’s attention that the primary activity in their meeting was to
I am? How do I know this is the right thing? Maybe I’m a bad pastor. discuss how much they didn’t like Frank. After some time had passed, the
person who seemed to be the “ringleader” of the group called and told
“Even in the face of my doubt, I resolved to have the conversation. It just Frank he’d decided to leave the church.
became obvious to me that it was the thing to do. Who really wants to
have a hard conversation? No one. Which likely means it’s exactly the Instead of convincing him to stay, Frank listened to his objections without
thing to do,” Rachel shared. engaging in any arguments with him. Rather, he blessed him. Frank even
thanked the parting church attendee for his thoughts and noted that the
“At that point, I initiated the conversation by sending an e-mail to the leader, other man had brought up a number of valid points for Frank to consider.
laying out my intentions and requesting meetings. In hindsight, e-mail may Frank then closed the conversation by asking if the other man needed any
not have been the best approach. But one thing I have learned is that it’s help finding another church. Finally, he prayed for him.
better to have a messed-up version of the conversation than to not have the
conversation at all. I think emerging leaders don’t hear that enough. You’re By just letting him go, not only did the “accountability” group ultimately
going to make mistakes, you’ll learn from them, and it will be okay." break up, but the other members of that group seemed to go back to
being content members of the church. Learning to let someone leave, it
Rachel then met with the ministry leader in person to explain her concerns turned out, is sometimes as important a skill as getting someone to stay.
for the well-being of the church plant. As she had anticipated, the
interaction was awkward, and he was upset. “I cried all the way home,” Another church planter, Andy, found himself in a tough spot awhile back.
Rachel said. “He and his wife were two of my best friends. You see, when He started to notice two of the worship team members (whose spouses
you’re a church plant with 30 or 70 people, it is like everyone is best were not part of the worship team) “hanging out” a lot. “Initially I chalked
friends with the pastor. But when you have to make these hard decisions it up to being a clique,” Andy shared. Shortly thereafter, Andy said that he
and have these kinds of conversations, suddenly you are their leader. As noticed the worship during the weekend services seemed to be off-kilter.
this becomes a reality, it starts to distance you from all of your friends.” When additional information came to Andy’s attention about the two
continued on page 30
The Value of
Prayer in Missions
Cutting Edge interviews Indonesian native
Loudy Posumah, who not only planted
the first Vineyard in Indonesia, but also
oversees the continued growth of the
Vineyard there since 2007. We also spoke
with Ross Nylor-Tatterson, Pastor of Without
Walls Vineyard in Holland, Michigan. Ross
serves as the Missions Task Force leader
for the Great Lakes Region and directs the
Indonesian Partnership. In this interview,
Loudy and Ross share with us the
significant impact prayer has had on their
lives and ministry in Indonesia.
CE: Loudy, why is prayer so important, particularly in your role as a pastor how to prepare for what is coming up. It also helps to know that I can
trying to reach a nation that isn’t overly receptive to the Gospel? e-mail or Skype or text back home and know that people will begin to pray
if I am in a tough situation.
Loudy: Prayer brings a community together, giving us a sense of unity and
purpose. We see clearly what it is that God wants us to do—and we see CE: In what ways have you seen corporate prayer play a role in
the role that He has for us. transforming an area?
Secondly, prayer also prepares the soil of our hearts. It’s like a seed that Loudy: Working alone is not really an option for me, so I love to do
we have to plant. The work God gives us to do is often so great that we anything with a team—and prayer is no exception. Often we form a team
couldn’t do it alone. God’s vision is always something greater than we and go to an area of a city or neighborhood that is full of desperate
could accomplish on our own strength, so we need Him. And prayer gets people. Then we ask God to work. We pray and fast before taking a step
us ready for that. When we’re faced with the task of doing something that of faith to go to that area.
seems impossible, we need to be in prayer continually, aware of where
our strength comes from. We like to do prayer walks. Many times, we go to the capital of a province
with a population of between 400,000 and 500,000. It takes a few days
We need not only just one group of people praying for us, but we need for us to cover the whole city. We begin walking around and claiming the
prayer warriors—people who have a heart for what God is doing and who city for God. And we observe what is really going on. It helps us to know
can meet and pray together regularly. if there is some type of fellowship or group of believers that we could
talk to and do something with. But so often, we know of no one who is a
In my experience, I’ve also discovered that prayer is key when we are believer in the entire city.
seeking the Lord and asking God for a heart for people. Prayer motivates
us to focus our attitude and find God’s heart, really understanding that we After a few days of prayer-walking, we always see some type of
don’t just do these things because it’s a good idea, but we are doing them breakthrough through new relationships God gives us. God brings people
because we know that God really moves. We want to discover what God is in our path who need to hear the truth, and we begin sharing the gospel
doing so we can move to where He is. with them. And something amazing almost always happens.
CE: Ross, how do you view prayer from the perspective of a pastor in CE: Loudy, share with us a story about how you have seen prayer change
the U.S. who spends a lot of your time in countries that aren’t as open a village.
to the gospel?
Loudy: Once we were among tribal people who lived in such a remote
Ross: I have intercessors praying well before I make a trip into this part area that they didn’t have laws—just jungle rules. If they find someone
of the world. I have prayer people I meet with each Thursday morning at doing something wrong against their rules, the chief of the tribe would
our church, and they not only pray for our local church, but also pray with kick the person out of the tribe. This person wouldn’t have anything but
me before, during, and after I go into the nations. I find they often get that community, and suddenly they would be banned. Just because of the
impressions before or during my time away that really help me discern interest of certain people, a person could be kicked out.
In this certain area, we discovered there was a young lady who had been When I get up in the morning and enter into prayer, I just rest in the
caught and put into a cage. No one cared about her. She had been there presence of God and focus on what God wants to speak to me. Sometimes
for eight or nine years. We decided to stay longer in this place and see if I just stay quiet and sense God’s presence.
we could help this woman out.
CE: Ross, what kind of “prayer partnership” do you have with the
We asked for a relative and couldn’t find anyone. After a few days, finally churches that you have a mission partnership with? How do you maintain
we found a sister of the caged lady who told us what happened. The lady contact about prayer needs?
had been raped by her brother-in-law and felt very ashamed. Then she
began acting abnormal and tried to attack the man, so they put her in a Ross: We have many people praying when we go into the nations. Each
cage to protect her from him. church and team have their own intercessors. We also have e-mail
updates going out to our partners and reports flying around between
We started praying and asking God to show us what to do. So, we partnership members. The Vineyard Missions prayer and intercessors
gathered the community together and got someone to open the cage. group that prays for all of Vineyard missions is extremely effective, too.
We determined that she needed to forgive the man, and the community Facebook is totally awesome for on-time, instantaneous prayer!
needed to ask for her forgiveness for keeping her caged up. And when
this happened, something just broke over this woman and she began CE: How can people pray for you and the work that God has called you
weeping. It was amazing what happened as she returned to normal. And to do?
it was easy for us to start a fellowship of believers there after that.
Loudy: This region is one of the biggest mission fields in the world.
CE: Ross, how have you seen the power of prayer displayed in some And we need two things. First, we need to mobilize workers. Like the
of your travels? Bible says, you need to pray to the Father so he will send his workers.
We need prayer that God will send workers here. In our country, there
Ross: I remember one time in particular when I was planning a trip to a are Christians who have been here for ages, and the potential for doing
closed-access nation with a group of pastors from western Michigan. We something missionally is quite large. God is doing something. It’s like
were preparing for a mission trip that was about three weeks away when the start of a movement.
one of the pastor’s wives called me and told me that she had a strong
impression during prayer from the Lord that the timing of our trip was But it’s not going to happen without the second thing we need prayer
not right. Now, it is not unusual for people to tell us we need to be sure for, which is a good strategy. The task seems so huge that we can’t
we are in the will of God going into some of these more difficult access accomplish it all. But with the right workers and a strategy from God, I
nations, but this time I felt that my friend’s wife was truly hearing from the think we’ll begin to see some major transformation take place.
Lord about this. So I, too, sought the Lord about the timing together with
others who were scheduled to go on the trip. We all felt that indeed this And for the people of our country, everyone needs prayer for their physical
lady had heard right, and we postponed the trip for a later date. needs. How can people hear the gospel if they can’t meet their physical
needs? If they’re starving, how will they be in a place to hear about God’s
As I it turned out, the week that we had originally scheduled this trip was love? It’s not just spiritual needs, but also physical.
the same week that a large bomb was set off in a downtown area of the
city where we were to visit at precisely that time, in a place that we could Ross: We need prayer that we never get tired of participating with God
have easily been in. I believe the Lord miraculously forewarned us of the in advancing His Kingdom into places that desperately need to hear the
timing and location of the trip—sort of like what happened in Acts and Gospel. We always face resistance, and sometimes that resistance isn’t
the Macedonian call. So now I always seek the Lord and get confirmation always from outsiders. We need wisdom to stand and to fight and to move
about not only the timing but also the location of our trips and endeavors forward. Strongholds are real and do not give in easily, but we do believe
in this country. that greater is He than the enemy of this world. Religious paradigms are
the hardest ones to break.
CE: What does prayer mean to you?
Loudy: Prayer isn’t just the key to keep my spiritual life moving—it’s
become a lifestyle. It’s that time when I enter into intimacy with the Lord.
Also, when I meditate on specific verses in the Bible, those words come
alive, and it gives me more confidence to speak out and share my faith. I
really like to meditate on the Word of God and let His words become life—
it’s not just about the thought of them bringing me joy, but God’s truth is
what gives me the strength to face the day.
Prayer is also the key for me to help sense what others are feeling,
especially when they’re going through a hard time. Through prayer, it’s
easy to discover God’s father-heart for others and show me what I need
to pray for.
continued from page 5 continued from page 25
with them. We couldn’t be more excited that they’re here in the heart of the meeting for coffee and breakfast multiple times without other worship
city we love. team members, Andy concluded that an inappropriate relationship had
developed between the two—perhaps an emotional affair.
There was one speed bump early on that seemed easy enough to clear up.
The group started distributing their promotional material (prayer letters, Andy sought counsel from his church-planting coach, his board, and the
fundraising appeals, and so on). The material always said that they had set Area Pastoral Care Leader. He and his wife prayed together for guidance
up shop in our town to pray against the evil influence that Harvard exerted from the Holy Spirit about how to approach the issue. Fortunately,
worldwide, and they wanted to stop it at the source. the church plant already had policies in place about team members
meeting with the opposite gender, which gave Andy a starting point for a
I called the leader. conversation with the two musicians. Andy felt confident about the need
to have the conversation, but he shared that doubts crossed his mind:
I was so glad they were there, but could I pitch one small change? Could “How bad is this going to hurt the plant? Will it destroy us?” Yet he knew
they promote that they were there to pray for, not against Harvard? Harvard he had to put those fears aside for the sake of the overall health of the
might indeed be working evil worldwide. But that’s not Harvard people’s people in the church plant.
dream for themselves. I knew for a fact—not least from a few deans and
faculty members and other leaders who’ve experienced Jesus with my Andy met with each party involved, first individually and then with
gang—that they’re working with a great degree of sacrifice and passion their spouses. “My main goals were healing and their marriages. Those
to do good worldwide. Of course, not many of their leaders are doing so two things are far more pressing than the plant or any ministries,”
from a perspective of faith in Jesus. So absolutely, they need all the prayer Andy explained. He shared that it has been his goal to keep difficult
they can get. But do we want to promote to Harvard people, and others conversations centered on healing and growth.
who love them, that people of faith are their enemy or their friend? Couldn’t
we pray that Harvard would actually achieve its stated dream of promoting Following the conversation, after-care was attempted, and one couple
“veritas”—truth? Wouldn’t that be in everyone’s interest? did accept an offer to get together for prayer with Andy. However, both
couples decided to leave the church not long afterward. Despite the
The conversation did not go well. Stated simply, the leader had nothing nice loss of the two couples in what was still a fairly new church plant, the
to say about what he now saw about my heart—that I and those like me worship team experienced greater unity afterward, and the ministry
were “appeasers.” Lines had to be drawn, he said. I pushed back with a doubled in size.
comment I’ve just read elsewhere: “So does the Bible say they’ll know we
are Jesus’ disciples by our strongly stated positions on controversial issues? One thing Andy says pastors should keep in mind is, “You can’t take
Or are we to be known for something a little warmer-hearted?” He said that, responsibility or ownership for the behavior of others when you’re
regretfully, that would likely be the last time we’d speak, and it has been. having difficult conversations.” He said especially in situations where
leaders are confronting sin issues, people quickly become defensive and
Jesus came not to bring peace, but a sword. start shifting blame. In cases like these, Andy and his wife have found it
helpful for them to get prayer ministry from others afterward.
As we talked about related things last night at Seek, a quiet member of my
group suddenly piped up. “I just had a baby daughter,” she said. “And I While many of these stories have themes in common, it’s impossible to
guess I’m one of those new parents who wants their child to have some develop some sort of formula for difficult conversations. Maybe the most
spiritual instruction. Maybe someday I’ll check out your church. But what important piece of advice is simply: have them. Stumble through them,
all of this makes me realize is that I’m not just doing this for my daughter. mess a few up, learn from your mistakes. But avoiding them is probably
I’ve always wanted actual connection with God, but I’ve stayed away from the most problematic approach of all.
religion because I’ve been confident it would separate me from everyone I
love. If it’s true that Jesus could actually offer me a way deeper into those END
relationships even as I finally experience a real connection with God…that
would be a dream come true. That would be everything I’ve wanted in life. I
didn’t even know I could hope for that until tonight.”
What’s your thought? Could she hope for that? END
Dave Schmelzer is the lead pastor of the Greater Boston Vineyard and
the author of the Tyndale book Not the Religious Type: Confessions of a
Turncoat Atheist. His course for people exploring faith, Seek, is taught
around the country. He leads a dynamic forum about vibrant faith in
secular places at www.notreligous.org, and he helps run Not Religious
Inc., a nonprofit that helps faith leaders prosper both in very secular
settings and in religious settings where secular-friendly people live.
Each August, Not Religious Inc. hosts The Culture Center Summit: A
Yearly Gathering About Vibrant Faith Among Great, Secular People.
Next up: Determining your call
February 19-21, 2010 Urbana, Illinois
This will be an intense weekend open to all men and women who
want to explore the adventure of following God in church planting.
Our goal is to help you identify the necessary qualities of a church
planter, to conduct an honest evaluation of your gifts and abilities and
then learn how to recognize, recruit and begin training your potential
team. It’s a great opportunity to learn from some seasoned church
planters who have been around the block a couple of times. But be
careful, this weekend just might change your life.
The Vineyard Church
1500 N. Lincoln Ave
Urbana, IL 61801
Church planting boot camp: communicating a compelling vision
Vineyard Central Retreat House, Norwood, OH
Cost: Lodging (first come, first serve at VC or hotels in the area)
Contact: Jim Pool, 248.506.5457 or email@example.com
vineyard christian church of evanston BELLMAWR, NJ
2495 howard street PERMIT NO. 866
evanston il 60202
Change Service Requested
Cutting Edge is the church planting
magazine of the Vineyard and
is published in the U.S.
PO Box 2089
Stafford, Texas 77497-8464
Cutting Edge Publication Offices
Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Evanston
2495 Howard Street Evanston IL 60202
Art Direction, Design and Photography
Inquiries should be directed to the
publishing offices of VCF Evanston
To change your address or unsubscribe
to Cutting Edge simply email us at