Category Personnel/Employment
Title A Case for Reconciliation
Author/s David D. Schlachter
Preview A Case for Reconciliation: A group of Christians get the help they need from the ICC to get back on the road to reconciliation.

A Case for Reconciliation
By David D. Schlachter, Director of the Institute for Christian Conciliation

A group of Christians get the help they need from the ICC to get back on the road to reconciliation.

A church needed an expanded facility to meet the vision of reaching its community with the gospel, so church leaders turned to a consultant to help them. Along the way, after serious disagreements arose, the church refused to make any further payments and unilaterally terminated the agreement. The consultant was outraged and demanded payment. Lawyers got involved, and the situation grew more tense—and became public. In an article filled with accusations and hurtful statements from both sides, the local newspaper reported on this relationship breakdown between the church leaders and the consultant.

All the parties knew that the situation was a mess and that it was a terrible example of how Christians should treat one another, but where could they turn for help?

Sometimes, even if a church has peacemakers who are professionally trained, such conflicts cannot be easily resolved in-house. The issues in the conflict may be more complex than the church's conciliatorys are prepared to handle, or the dispute may involve the church and a third party. The Institute for Christian Conciliation (a division of Peacemaker Ministries)0 and it trained and certified Christian conciliators provide a forum in which these types of disputes can be addressed in a biblically faithful manner as called for in 1 Corinthians 6.

In the situation described above, te contract included a clause calling for disputes to be resolved via mediation or arbitration or both through the Institute for Christian Conciliation (ICC), so the consultant and the church turned to the ICC for help. The parties wanted the matter arbitrated quickly so they could move on with their lives and businesses, but the ICC counseled them to proceed with mediation first.  They reluctantly agreed to a short mediation, but established that if mediation was not successful, the parties would quickly move to arbitration. Both the church and the consultant expressed suspicion of one another, proceeding with little expectation of a positive outcome.

But God had something far better in store.

After some coaching from the conciliator and honest consideration of God's Word, the church leaders took the first step, confessing and apologizing for poor leadership and hurful actions. The consultant had come to the mediation ready to fight, with a stack of files and papers to prove his points, but God used the brokenness in the church leaders to soften his heart. He responded to the church leaders with forgiveness and confession of his own. As the process continued, they addressed together over 26 specific personal issues with confession and forgiveness, as well as the material issue—they agreed on a payment from the church to the consultant.

Knowing the public nature of their dispute, they also decided to provide the local newspaper with the following statement:

The past summer there were two articles in the [local newspaper], reporting on a dispute between [church] and [consultant]. [Consultant] had been hired to design a new building for the growing [church]. During [year], issues arose that we all allowed to create a lot of hurt and a climate of extreme mistrust. It ended up with both sides becoming adversaries and hiring attorneys to try to settle the dispute. Both parties finally sat down together in [year] with an impartial Christian mediator. Right from the outset of the meeting, it was obvious that we had both been guilty of very poor communication and that we had unfairly judged one another's motives, which continued degenerating into anger and mistrust. Hiring legal counsel only exacerbated those feelings on both sides.

As we met together God started working in our hearts, and it became painfully obvious that we all had been doing what Jesus warned against... trying to "remove the speck" from each other's eye without dealing with the "log" in our own (Matthew 7). So each side tearfully confessed our wrongs to the other, and we asked for and received each other's forgiveness. By the end of the day, we had settled all the outstanding issues and even went out together for an enjoyable meal as friends.

We wanted to write this joint letter to let readers of the previous newspaper articles know that Christianity does work. And we want you to know if God has the power to restore and bring life to our broken relationship, He also has the power to restore a hurting marriage, to reconcile parents and children, to resurrect broken dreams, to change the direction of one's life.*

This case is an example of how we all need help sometimes. Whether that help comes from a family member, a pastor, a friend, or even a professional organization like the ICC, we need someone else to help us get back on the right path when we are lost in the middle of a conflict. The long road to reconciliation often takes us to unexpected challenges and detours that require us to set aside our pride and ask for help. We must obediently follow the path and trust God to change our hearts and bring reconciliation and restoration.

*This story is shared with the express agreement of all parties and with the hope that it will encourage others who have conflicts that appear irresolvable.

This article was originally published in the Spring 2006 issue of Peacemaker Magazine, a publication of Peacemaker Ministries ( Reprinted by permission.

Notice This article is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It has been provided to member schools with the understanding that ACSI is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, or other professional services. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. Laws vary by jurisdiction, and the specific application of laws to particular facts requires the advice of an attorney.

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