“Only YOU Can Prevent [church] Fires”

March 03, 2009

Tuesday Remix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and re-run for your consideration and comments.

Church fights…forest fires.  Perhaps it is Ron Susek’s book Firestorm that brings the illustration to mind (one of the really good books out there about church conflict), or maybe it is the “scorched earth” I find when I first look across the landscape of a troubled congregation.

Whatever the reminder, a raging forest fire is a great metaphor for a church fight. Once it gets to the “out of control” stage, the devastation is unimaginable and the utter helplessness catches you completely by surprise. Many of you know this from personal experience.

I am no expert on fighting forest fires, but I know this about fire: it needs oxygen to survive. Find a way to cut off the oxygen, and the fire will dissipate quickly. Water, dirt, foam, wet blankets can all serve the purpose.

Firestorms in churches also have a fuel: gossip. Without it, they cannot survive. But with enough of it, the small initial flames of conflict can grow bigger and faster than our minds can fathom. It is a universal underlying factor in every single church conflict with which I am even vaguely familiar. Gossip always makes the conflict worse, not better.

Here is how I define gossip (hide your toes, there’s a crushin’ a comin’): anytime you find yourself in a conversation about a brother or sister who is not here and he/she is not being edified in that conversation, it is gossip. I take this definition from several places in scripture, such as Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Think about all the good that would come to your own local body of believers if everyone would just start taking this counsel seriously.

Gossip is what happens when I find myself talking about someone when I should be talking to that someone. And as far as I can see, it is wrong every time it happens. As church leaders, we must demonstrate healthy patterns of communication among the church. We must help the church see gossip and run from it. Change the culture in your church to make gossip ugly and unacceptable, and you will have gone a long way toward “firestorm-proofing” your church. You see? You really CAN prevent them!

© Blake Coffee

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3 thoughts on ““Only YOU Can Prevent [church] Fires”

  1. mom2olivia

    That’s a great post and awesome reminder of how we need to be acting or how we should not be acting. The book looks interesting too, I’ll have to remember that one. God bless, Robin

    Reply
  2. D

    Still a great post, Blake. I miss the many comments that were attached to the older version of your rewrite. Can you access them somehow, and email them to me?

    I am still astounded by the number of ministries that will not take church leaders to task for their complicity in or actual conspiring to creating environments that are conducive to church fires. It seems that if A PEST* is doing its job, and the rest are doing their job, then unity is the result (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, Teachers).

    Equipping saints is an essential aspect of unity, and it is the leaders of a church that are either equipping for unity, or are actually misequipping for disunity (See 1 Cor 1-4).

    I’d go so far to suggest that some leaders actually are using gossips and discontents to fight battles, allowing themselves to sit peacefully above the fray. That, I think, would be an example of misequipping.

    Reply
    1. Blake

      Great comment. I agree with you completely regarding the way some leaders actually contribute to the firestorm, maybe even unwaringly.

      As for the original comments on the original post, I’m afraid I no longer have those. So sorry. When I update the post I start fresh with the comments. Maybe I should rethink that…

      Reply

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