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hope for churches in stress

A Time to Heal

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes wrote: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: . . . [such as] a time to heal (3:1-3).

Two years ago, a church in south-central Pennsylvania was racked by conflict. As a result of sharp disagreement about a pastor’s reappointment, people were estranged, grieving the departures of friends, and demoralized.

A seasoned churchman was brought in to chair the governing board. The aim was to diffuse tension and, over time, to create a new leadership climate.

The assisting churchman withheld judgment. He endeavored to be calm, patient, and even-handed. He offered encouragement, perspective, and counsel. The governing board pulled together to pray, engage with constructive give-and-take, and make good decisions.

The 24-month season of healing, though painful and incremental, has resulted in restored health. People are learning to extend grace in messy situations. They are gaining capacity to interact with respect, trust, and hope. Their faith, always authentic, has been tested and proven.

Their intention is to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which [they] have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3).

No church is immune from conflict; and there is rarely a quick fix. Recovery normally requires a “season” of intentional care and treatment, sometimes with outside intervention. Yet even after deep distress, a church can mend for revitalized life and mission.

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