It doesn’t matter if your community is a parent-teacher organization or a Boy Scout troop or a neighborhood coalition, using our ability to navigate uncomfortable conversations, own our emotions, and rumble with our stories is how we build connection. Brené Brown.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Jesus (Matthew 5:9)
This weekend at Crossroads Church in northern CO, Pastor Ryan Howell challenged our community to live into the vocation of ‘peacemakers’. (I’ll post the link here as soon as the media team has it ready.)
Ryan shared that (according to Jesus) being a peacemaker is what marks one as a child of God.
Needless to say, Ryan pointed out that churches tend to focus on other markers of godliness such as beliefs, Bible knowledge, ways of worshiping and outward behavior. Somehow peacemaking is not a typical mission priority for Christian churches in our day.
But what if it were?
Even though I am a pastor, much of who I am and what I believe was forged in me through public classroom settings, which are a microcosm of the world. In the neighborhood schools, universities and grad school where I learned, ‘rumbling with our stories’ was encouraged. (The Rumble is part-2 of the rising strong process.)
We also had teachers who were good at facilitating the rumble and modeling respect in diverse settings. Even in seminary, we rumbled with competing theologies, differing ethics and new ways of interpreting scripture. The scholars, teachers, coaches and students in my classroom experiences shaped me more than any other influence.
The churches I have been a part of would have loved to play the role of lead influencer in my life, but they didn’t. Churches did influence my life, but mostly within the focused specialties of Bible teaching, worship, mobilizing volunteers for ministry projects and funding local and global mission.
The best thing the Church provided for my formation, was a place of belonging on the faith journey. But this belonging came at a cost—not much rumbling was allowed. Diversity of perspective was not welcomed if it crossed certain lines. And sadly, church leaders were not nearly as good at creating safe space for rumbling as were my classroom teachers. Church leaders typically don’t have the skills or experience necessary to teach the rumble, nor facilitate it, especially when people feel threatened and start reacting out of toxic emotions.
In Chapter 11 of Rising Strong, Brené Brown writes: What makes a college of social work a unique laboratory for rumbling is the expectation that we must have uncomfortable conversations if we’re going to work to empower people and change systems.
I’m waking up to the reality of how difficult it has been for me to bring rumbling topics from the diverse settings where I learned life into the settings of ‘sameness’ in the churches where I’ve led for 30+ years. Currently, I lead in a church where there is a reasonable amount of openness to the vocation of peacemaking. But as Ryan pointed out in the message on Sunday: Peacemaking comes with a cost. I have painful stories about the cost of rumbling, hence the cost of peacemaking. It seems like church people want peace, but most people do not know how to have uncomfortable conversations.
If a faith community is going to be a peacemaking community (empower people to change unjust systems), we will need to learn how to navigate uncomfortable conversations, own our emotions and rumble with our stories in order to build connection with each other and the world God loves. Although a church is a specific kind of community, the conversations we have should mirror the same conflicts that unsettle all groups—differences, fears, competing priorities and conflicting perspectives.
I’ve tried other pathways to being truly alive, and they always lead me back here. They lead me home to the Great Hope of my life: That God is on everyone’s side. No matter who you are or where you come from, you MORE-than-matter to God– you are essential to God; and you are an essential part of your community.
This reflection was long string of somewhat connected thoughts about The Revolution—part-3 of the rising strong process. (See chapter 11.)
Tomorrow we’ll look at how the ‘rumble that leads to peace’ can revolutionize our communities.
LORD God, lead me into the uncomfortable conversations that are a necessary part of peacemaking.