In Exodus 15:23 we read. “When Israel came to Marah, they could not drink the water because it was bitter.” It’s hard to imagine the disappointment of God’s parched people arriving at the Marah oasis only to discover undrinkable water.
Many churches are like Marah. From a distance they appear to be a spiritual oasis but when parched travelers arrive, they discover the relational waters are so bitter they offer no refreshment. If renewal congregations want to be Christ’s vibrant spiritual oasis, they must be vigilant in keeping their relational waters sweet. As they pursue these sweet waters, they will be modeling the life of Christ who Isaiah described as “the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
Here are six practices that help renewal leaders keep relational waters sweet:
Practice 1: They Value Relationships More Than Agendas
Sweet water leaders commit to people before agendas. Sadly, many leaders are willing to wreck relationships on the shoal of an agenda and then act surprised when the congregational ship takes on water. Wise leaders prioritize on relationships believing that healthy community creates common cause.
Practice 2: They Believe There Are No Bad People In The Room
Sweet water leaders begin with an attitude check. Even when some folk may, from time to time, become contrarians the sweet water leader continues to believe there are no bad people in the room. These leaders give others the benefit of the doubt and keep discussions focused on policies not personalities.
Practice 3: They Listen For Understanding
Sweet water leaders listen to understand before listening to refute. It’s always tempting to build a mental case against someone while listening to their conversation. Listening for understanding takes an abundance of the Spirit’s fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Practice 4: They Go To The Balcony
Where two or three are gathered there will be conflict…guaranteed! Sweet water leaders recognize this reality and choose to be a non-anxious presence even when relational waters begin to boil. Godly leaders perfect the process of “going to the balcony.” They rise above the riot on the street to provide quiet wisdom and comforting grace.
Practice 5: They Move Toward Conflict
Sweet water leaders run towards conflict, not away from it. Many leaders avoid difficult conversations only to find their avoidance intensifies the drama. Jesus said, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and remember your brother has something against you…first go and be reconciled; then come and offer your gift.”
Practice 6: They Are The First To Apologize & First To Seek Healing
In every disagreement both parties have some responsibility. It may be uneven (sometimes 90/10) but sweet water leaders own their contribution to the problem, offer their apology and seek relational healing. Paul said in Romans 12:18 “As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”