How to experience group order and harmony

I was invited to attend a secular forum that gave hope to me as a pastor. Each church I have served has struggled to live out what Jesus teaches in 1Corinthians 14:40: “But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” and in 1Peter 3:8-9: “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” To put it kindly, I have come to believe members struggle doing this at church.

The leader of the forum began the discussion time by passing out a list of “Ground Rules for a Healthy Forum.” I thought, “If only the church could be healthy and conduct sessions together with this agreement” it would help us come closer to what God has asked of his church. So I translated the format for church use. It did make a difference!

The translation, adapted from Asset Builders Summit 2005, follows:

With the realization that we are a work in progress …

With the realization that we are growing in harmony …

As pastor I ask that these ground rules be our guidelines for discussion, dialog, decision making and discovering God’s plan for ministry together.

Open with prayer that God will grant unity through the Holy Spirit.

Participate fully and honestly.

Stay focused on the topics being discussed.

Ask questions if you need more information.

Listen. Be open to new and different ideas, perspectives and possibilities in harmony with what God says in the Bible.

Share the stage with others. Don’t dominate. Take turns.

Honor time commitments.

Assume the best of each other.

Show respect. If you disagree, disagree with compassion, understanding and kindness.

Remain flexible. Be willing to adapt and/or defer to the group’s decisions.

Realize we may all be at different starting positions.

Realize consensus and community building takes time, but it is necessary.

Be an example of the love of Jesus as described in 1Cor. 13:4-8: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”