One church I served had a problem and it was getting out of hand. Alas, we had a thermostat conflict. No, we had a thermostat war!! Does this sound drastic? Well, let me prove my point. My dictionary defines “war” as “An armed conflict between two parties.” We definitely had two parties who were armed and dangerous.
¨ One party wants the temperature a “little” cold during the winter and “slightly” hot during the summer to save needed money. If folks are a little uncomfortable – tough. Because everything is for the good of the church and extra funds can be used for needed ministry.
¨ The other side wants visitors to be comfortable enough to take off their coat during the winter without turning into icicles and not suffer from heat stroke during the summer. Anyway, the money saved on fuel is spent again on wear and tear on the heat pump.
Unfortunately, the battles were getting out of hand.
Every Sunday morning the war rages on. The first skirmish begins early as advance scouts from each party arrive to check the temperature. Then throughout the day: before, after and even during the worship service one person will quietly sneak up on the thermostat and tweak it just a bit.
Instantly, someone from the other side will jump up and readjust the setting. On and on it goes throughout the day.
Who will win? The battle rages on.
This can be funny but at the same time, frustrating. Disagreements pose the danger of distracting us from our primary mission of showing the love of Christ to others. Our influence as Christians as seen by outsiders often centers on our ability to lovingly resolve disagreements.
Can we as Christians disagree yet still love and respect each other as God’s children?
Learning how to resolve a difference of opinion over a thermostat can provide answers toward helping us handle the really hot issues, such as our financial crisis, abortion, homosexuality, divorce, ethics, poverty, materialism, pollution, alcoholism, drug addiction, racism?
The Apostle Paul gives us a strong warning in his letter to the Corinthians. (Parts of 6:1-5)
When you have something against another Christian, why do you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter, instead of taking it to other Christians to decide who is right? Don’t you know that someday we Christians are going to judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can’t you decide these little things among yourselves? I am saying this to shame you.
Stephen Covey offers advice for resolving conflicts in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families.
1. What is the problem from everyone’s point of view? Really listen to one another.
2. What are the key issues involved? Try to identify several points that can be agreed upon.
3. What would constitute a fully acceptable solution? How can both sides feel like winners?
4. Look for creative new approaches and solutions everyone can agree with?
At one point Mr. Covey wrote of a “Talking Stick” used by Native American tribes. The idea is that whoever holds the stick has the floor and others may only ask clarifying questions. When the stick goes around the circle, everyone has the opportunity to be heard and listen to each other.
Jesus never said “winning debates is everything.” Jesus did say: “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all.” Our willingness to listen to different points of view in loving humility says a lot about the God we serve.
Are there conflicts in your life, which need resolving?
Maybe God through the church can help you discover an answer.
Church is a great place to be, if you don’t mind an occasional squabble over the thermostat.
Then again, maybe we need our own, “Talking Stick.”