SBC Pastors' Conference: Barber calls for more peacemakers in Southern Baptist Churches
June 19th, 2017 / By: Keith Collier | Managing Editor / comments
PHOENIX—Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, delivered a message from Philippians 4:2-9, calling for God to raise up more peacemakers in Southern Baptist Churches. His sermon was part of a sermon series through the book of Philippians at the SBC Pastors’ Conference in the Phoenix Convention Center, June 12.
Noting that the entire letter to the Philippians speaks to the value of gospel partnerships, Barber said, “There are two ways that you can lose partnership in the gospel. One way is to lose the gospel. … But even if you retain the truth of Scripture and the authority of Scripture and the reality of the gospel, you can still lose a partnership for the gospel if you fail to protect the spirit of partnership that enables people to cooperate for the cause of the gospel.”
In this passage, Paul names people in the church who were causing problems, and he calls out the peacemakers in the church to bring reconciliation.
Using the illustration of white blood cells in the body that stand ready to fight infection, Barber said, “God created the body of Christ to expect that there would be conflict in the body of Christ. … And He planned for that by designing the church to contain an army of peacemakers who will wait around and watch for that moment when partnership for the gospel is in jeopardy and will rush in and protect the partnership of the gospel from the threat.”
He explained that much of the conflict in Southern Baptist churches is not simply because of the presence of conflict but rather because of the absence of peacemakers. Deacons, he said, have a biblical responsibility to be lead peacemakers in the congregation.
“I believe that we are witnessing the slow, terrifying demise of the office of deacon within our churches,” he said. “I’m not saying that all of the peacemakers in your church have to be deacons, but I am saying that all the deacons in your church need to be peacemakers.”
Barber acknowledged that many churches have deacons that are more troublemakers than peacemakers “because peacemaking is hard work.”
“But when there are bad pastors, we don’t abandon the office of pastor, we reform it. And I believe there’s a need today for reformation in the office of deacon in Baptist churches, that we might recover God’s design of health for us and might be able to raise up peacemakers.”
Barber said if pastors are going to call people to be peacemakers in the church, then they are going to have to train them how to do it effectively. In the passage, he said, Paul spends one sentence addressing the problem and then the rest of the passage training in how to be peacemakers.
Peacemakers must be trained to resolve conflict in the church by making others’ business their own.
“The lie straight from hell that plagues our churches is that we think if we’re going to be mannerly, we can’t make anybody’s business ours,” Barber said. “We see trouble in church, and we say, ‘Y’all take care of that. Good luck.’” But, he said, Paul challenges the church in Philippi to step in and help bring harmony in the body of Christ.
Peacemakers must also be prepared for the emotional difficulties that come with peacemaking.
“But God has given us defenses against these emotions that make peacemaking so hard,” Barber said. “Against discouragement, we can rejoice. … We should replace worry with prayer, and if we do that, it says ‘the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your heart and mind.’”
Third, he said, peacemakers must be trained in their thinking, including things that are true, just, honorable, excellent and praiseworthy as well as thinking well about the people involved in the conflict.
“Too often in conflict, the first thing that happens is people pressure you to choose sides, and once the sides have been chosen, it is only good that is spoken of our side and it is only evil that is spoken of the other side. Here, Paul calls those who are peacemakers to be people who try hard, who deliberately and purposely dwell on and think about the best of everyone on both sides, who look for good things to say about everyone on all sides so that they might be able to make peace.”
Finally, Barber said, pastors must set the example of peacemaking. Referencing denominational life, he said pastors have great opportunities to model the pattern of peacemaking. He used the illustration of Fannie Heck and Annie Armstrong, leaders of the Women’s Missionary Union during its greatest days of growth but who also hated one another. Denominational leaders and the WMU’s board stepped in as peacemakers, calling the two women to reconcile in order to protect the partnership in the gospel and the mission of Christ.
“Oh, friends, our churches perish for a lack of peacemakers,” Barber pleaded. “Our marriages fall apart because Christians gather around and instead of telling us to work things out, they tell us that we can just bust things up. Institutions struggle because of the problems we have with conflict.
“But the beauty of peacemaking is that it’s something that Christ has promised will receive a blessing—blessed are the peacemakers.”
Barber admitted that as a blogger, he has made trouble, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. “But sometimes, I make peace. And I never make peace when I’m not trying to.
“I would encourage all of you to pray and ask Jesus to make you a peacemaker and equip you to do it.”
Watch a full version of Barber's sermon here.