In October 2007, I had the privilege of hearing Albert Poirier preach and teach on biblical peacemaking at Covenant Theological Seminary. So I bought his book and put it on my shelf. This month, my church has begun "The Peacemaking Church" small group teaching series, of which this book is a part. Since I have been looking for more help to lead my church in peacemaking, it made sense to read and review this book at this time.
"Conflict is a synonym for congregation." "Conflict is not necessarily a consequence of sin, though it assuredly is frequent occasion for it." Therefore congregations need pastors who can lead them through conflict in a manner that brings glory to the God of peace.
"Christian conflict theory must be theologically rooted and ecclesiatically integrated." Pastor Poirier has done both excellently in this helpful pastoral theology text, although his ecclesiastical integrations assume a presbyterian model of polity and make an error in the interpretation of "the church" in Matthew 18. But that doesn't take away much from this very helpful book.
The theological roots for peacemaking and conflict theory start in the biblical doctrine of the person and work of Christ, spread to James chapter 4, develop in the biblical doctrine of adoption into the family of God, and result in real repentance, confession and forgiveness. Gospel truth, applied to relationships, by the grace of God resulting in transformed lives.
If you're a ministry leader or church member, I hope you read this book after you read "The Peacemaker" by Ken Sande.
I also hope you also get a kick out of Poirier's caricatures of some of the different pastoral leadership "models" that are out there. Rather than understanding the pastoral role primarily as one of a spiritual shepherd, conflicting messages within the "church-world" tempt pastors to abandon the biblical model of shepherding through the ministry of the Word and prayer. After all, who wants to embrace the role of "pastor as shepherd" when you could be:
"pastor as chief professor of his own captive seminary"
"pastor as CEO running a profitable, market-driven corporation"
"pastor as stand-up comedian and a generally feel-good guy"
"pastor as fascist dictator standing against the world for his own little causes"
"pastor as church watchdog publisher, always pointing out the failures of other churches in his denomination or in the larger evangelical community"
"pastor as mystic wordsmith and ritual maker, who appears only on Sunday morning and Wednesday night to give us the Word for today."
Reading that list made me and Megan chuckle last night.
May God give this world many more peacemaking pastors!
The Peacemaking Pastor: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Church Conflict, Alfred Poirier, Baker Books, 2006.