There exists a trend which states believers do not need to attend church but simply can worship God whenever and wherever they are. Certainly, it is true that believers can and should worship God at any moment (cf. Romans 12:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) yet, to use that to deny the necessity to exist in a community of believers is sin (cf. Hebrews 10:25). Yet, to live within a community of believers is complicated and requires effort because of the pervasiveness of sin. The propensity for elevated pride, volatile situations, and conflict are not only possible but probable.
That truth has made peacemaking a necessary ministry, of which author Ken Sande has filled through his Peacemaker Ministries. From that ministry have come the books The Peacemaker and Peacemaking Women. Now, with the help of author Curtis Heffelfinger, comes the book The Peacemaking Church addressing conflict from a unique perspective. Heffelfinger is a pastor who has endeavored guide his church towards one that embraces and lives out a peacemaking culture. From this experience comes this new book directed towards churches and individuals with the hopes that they too will desire unity as a defining Christian characteristic. To accomplish this goal, Heffelfinger has authored a book that establishes this priority by looking at three aspects in three parts: (1) Part one is an exposition of Ephesians 4:1-6 in order to establish priorities, approaches, and doctrines; (2) Part two simply addresses three primary areas that threaten peacemaking – anger, litigation, and judgment; (3) Finally, pat three identifies some practices essential to peacemaking. What makes this book unique from other resources of similar motivation is that the author has written a preventative book, not one that is reactive to conflicts already taking place.
While reading this book, I think it is important to draw readers to something important in order to appreciate the depth and importance of this book: to write such a book must have been a great challenge for the author. There are two issues that make such a writing difficult. First, for many people, creating unity or preserving peace is simply a matter of compromise. Because this is not an appropriate answer, not only does the author avoid this route, but he also advocates one of integrity and commitment to God and His truth. Additionally, the author himself must have a history and testimony that represents these truths, otherwise, his authority on the topic is compromised.
With that in mind, there is little to be critical of in The Peacemaking Church, but there are two areas in which clarity could help the intent of the book. First, a specific definition of peacemaking would be helpful, especially because the author often uses peacemaking to summarize certain characteristics (specifically with his use of Ephesians 4:1-6) or will substitute certain words in place of peacemaking (notably ‘unity’). A more precise definition would help navigate some ambiguity that may exist as a result. The other area of clarification comes from his exposition of Ephesians 4:1-6. It is there that he sets the priority of the text to suggest that because ‘peacemaking’ is mentioned before personal holiness, the priority must be the same (pg. 40). Perhaps unintentionally, the author seems to be such an advocate of peacemaking that he sacrifices the importance of personal holiness. However, according to his own characteristics of a peacemaker, personal holiness is necessary for peacemaking to exist. Therefore, simple clarity on these to areas would prove beneficial to readers in the future.
Those two minor clarifications do nothing to negate the great value of this book. Curtis Heffelfinger writes humbly, acknowledging his own personal struggles and those of the church (while protecting privacy). Even more, his style of writing is easy and flows freely from point to point. Thus, it is an easy read and his conciseness has made it short (I was able to read the entire book in one afternoon, even while taking notes, reviewing Scripture, and reflecting upon his points). Readers will relate to the struggles and sacrifice that the author points peacemakers towards. Sticking with the truths of Scripture, he advocates commitment to a body of believers calling on peacemakers to be members of the body, calls upon them to be sacrificial, and points them towards a hospitable attitude towards one another.
Make no mistake. This book may be an easy read, but the implementation will be difficult. It is made more difficult by the fact that his approach is proactive, while most pastors and people are reactive, not recognizing the need until it is too late. However, the practicality of this book defined by God’s truth makes this an important read for the church body. I would encourage church leaders especially take note of the principles offered by Curtis Heffelfinger. The Peacemaking Church is a worthy investment of your reading time.
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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher at no cost to me for the purposes of review. However, my review was not influenced in any way by the author, publisher, or any other person associated with this book and it is the direct result of my reading of it.