The New Testament calls for the elders of the church to be sober-minded and self-controlled (1 Tim. 3:2). The elder must not be arrogant or quick-tempered (Titus 1:7). He must be gentle and dignified, not violent or quarrelsome (1 Tim. 3:3-4). In my experience this means that a good elder or good pastor has learned to be a calming presence in volatile situations. Of course, this doesn’t mean the pastor says “peace, peace” where there is no peace. Nothing in the Bible equates godliness with avoiding controversy at all costs. But on the other hand, there is no biblical evidence to suggest that maximizing disagreements and escalating tensions are marks of Christian maturity.

Quite the contrary.

God is not looking for more hot-headed, pugnacious gunslingers who specialize in shooting first and asking questions later. If God wanted us to fly off the handle all the time he would have given us wings. Scripture doesn’t ask pastors to kick butt and take names, but it does require the Lord’s servant to be kind to everyone and able to teach with patience and gentleness (2 Tim. 2:24-25).

I love courageous elders and fearless pastors. Heaven knows we need more of each. But bravery without brains is no good. Strength without sensitivity hurts the wrong people. I find that some leaders are non-stop relational intensifiers. Whether it’s because of their own emotions, their quick jumping to conclusions, their over-eagerness to size people up, or their penchant for making everything three sizes too big, some elders and pastors minister like kindling. Drop them into a conflict and the fire burns hotter. They experience thorny situations in exaggerated ways and then convey those experiences with the ever-present air of hyperbole. Choppy waters get choppier. Deep holes get deeper. Explosive problems go nuclear.

These elders and pastors usually don’t last long. They get run out, beat up, or burnt out. If they last, everyone around them feels tired, hurt, and eager to quit. We need church leaders ready to do hard things and wade into the toughest situations. But when they do, they should help serious conflict get calmer instead of making minor conflict get crazier.

Print Friendly

Comments:


12 thoughts on “The Pastor as Peacemaker”

  1. Phillip says:

    Blessed are they.
    Pray for the power of grace to nourish the King’s church with more.

  2. Wesley says:

    Great post KD. As i seek to be shaped in my own pastoral life, this is a helpful reminder to be firm but gentle. As Marky-Mark (Driscoll) quoted one year at DEsiring God Conf. “With the wolves you cannot be too severe and with the sheep you cannot be too gentle.” (it was probably a ref. to Luther if memory serves me at this time of the morning.)

  3. Dan Odom says:

    Thank you!

  4. Ross Bebee says:

    Excellent. Thanks, Kevin.

  5. Great post! I needed this reminder. It is important that the gospel shape our attitudes and actions as Elders. As we seek to equip and edify in pastoral ministry we must remain biblically faithful not only in the theology we preach but also in the theology we live as examples to the flock.

  6. Great post Kev, truly appreciate the tension of grace and truth that is here. thank you!

  7. True and probably what I need to hear.

    But the reference in Titus also says that the role of the elder is to: (1) “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to (2) give instruction in sound doctrine and also (3) to rebuke those who contradict it.” (Titus 1:9).

    I’ve known elders who are so intent on being “peace-makers” (or appeasers?) that they never get around to rebuking those who contradict it.

    And did the Lord Jesus inflame tensions with the Pharisees in Matthew 23?

  8. matt says:

    Telling the truth and being kind are not mutually exclusive principles
    Both are necessary and required. We’ve all seen bad examples of both. Abuse
    does not negate proper use.

  9. Mark says:

    Thank you for this — excellent reminder for me, personally.

  10. Neil says:

    “In my experience this means that a good elder or good pastor has learned to be a calming presence in volatile situations.”

    What is the difference between a pastor and an elder? I ask this rhetorically because we seem to categorize these positions in the church without ever considering if they “should” be the same position or if they are the same position. The position of the pastor in the institutionalized church will always have major problems because it is not a biblical position. I say this because the church service as we know it follows regimented programs that we all blindly follow. The pastor is paid to lead and guide a group of believers to be disciples of Christ. This causes passivity among the church because the laity relies on the pastor to do all the leadership work of the body. This includes a sermon every Sunday. This weekly monologue proves repeatedly to be ineffective because in most cases the sermon is never open for discussion among the body. I understand that the elders also provide teaching and pastoring, but in most cases, the pastor’s role stands above this hierarchy because it is his job to provide the sermon every week.

    The Holy Spirit provided the early church was with a plurality of elders is to be examples to the sheep that never lorded over the body. These men were living examples to the younger and spiritually new believers. The body gathered to give all they had to each other and share in the gifts that God gave them in they would become united in Christ. What I have seen over the past years is that pastors struggle with many issues because they simply cannot cope in this unbiblical position. The pastor position actually divides the body because those who become passive remain passive and those who seek to grow in the Lord become quenched by the clergy/laity system. This causes many problems because if a pastor believes that what he is doing is what God called him to do, any brother or sister who recognizes any discrepancies in the pastor’s preaching, teaching or ministering will be looked upon unfavorably even if they are wrong.

    There is definitely a problem within the clergy/laity system but those who stand by this system fail to realize it as the problem and not as a way to try to make it better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

Kevin DeYoung's Books