In addition to living in Wisconsin, one of my favorite things about serving at Elmbrook Church is working with Scott Arbeiter.

Scott recently gave our pastoral staff a list of observations on walking with the congregation in times of transitions and conflict. I thought that there was a wealth of wisdom in his observations – and not just for pastors, but for anyone who wants to build healthy relationships.  Scott gave me permission to post this list.

Some things I have learned regarding what people in the congregation need from us:
1.) Ready access (not just begrudging acceptance)
2.) To be genuinely heard (not just listened to)
3.) To find common ground (know that we care about what they care about)
4.) To know that we understand that they are not always able to articulate their concerns well. We must “be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.”
5.) To know that we value them and want them to be part of the congregation
6.) To hear of our struggles to find the best path forward in the situation
7.) To understand the principles involved in our decisions
8.) To be trusted with the information discussed in private
9.) To be challenged to do the right things; even (especially)when in disagreement
10.) To hear that we were wrong and are sorry (when we are indeed wrong and sorry)
11.) To know that we hear many conflicting opinions about topics (often diametrically opposed)
12.) To know that we will decide on principle, not pressure
13.) To be well received even when we leave in disagreement
14.) The goal is not to have them feel good about us; it is to elevate truth and find unity in diversity. In doing this there should be no defensiveness; nor cowardice.
15.) Do not make false promises.
16.) Warn a divisive man once then have nothing to do with him.

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The way that we frame things in life makes a world of difference, doesn’t it?

I do not like waking up in the middle of the night.

When my neighbor comes home at 2:30am after bar hoping and wakes me up by slamming doors and shouting – It is the worst offense to me, they are horrible people, my day is ruined.

When my 4-year-old daughter comes into my room and wakes me up with hugs and kisses – It is really cute, she is precious, I love those moments.

Framing makes a difference.

Paul was a leader in the early Jesus Movement. He helped start a number of Jesus communities, and continued to guide them through letters. These letters often addressed serious problems in the young churches. We are fortunate to still have many of these letters to gain wisdom from today.

One of the common pieces that we find in these letters is a greeting of “Grace and Peace.”
Anywhere that Paul sent a letter he framed it with, “Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and Jesus our King.”
Whatever the audience – “Grace and Peace.”
Whatever the relationship – “Grace and Peace.”
Whatever the problem needed addressed – “Grace and Peace.”
Whatever the conversation – “Grace and Peace.”

For Paul, the way of looking at conversations, relationships, and even life itself is through the framing of Grace and Peace. Paul believes Grace and Peace define the way of God in Jesus.

Can you image the difference that framing life in Grace and Peace could make?

Let us begin following Paul’s example and frame our conversations with Grace and Peace.