Ted Kober is Senior Ambassador for Ambassadors of Reconciliation, a para-synodical organization of the LCMS. From its founding until 2015 he was the president of Ambassadors of Reconciliation. He has also published articles, Bible studies, devotions, and books on the topic of reconciliation, including Confession & Forgiveness (CPH 2002) and Cultivating Lifestyles of Reconciliation (co-authored with Ken Sande; AoR, 2009). He has been a Certified Christian Conciliator since 1992 and teaches on the topic around the world. He is a lifelong member of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.
The author’s occupation with Ambassadors of Reconciliation is to work with churches, families and even businesses to help them resolve issues using a Biblical model of confession, repentance and forgiveness. The goal of this book is to lead people to reconcile their differences using the same Biblical model of reconciliation. It was written in response to many Christian books on reconciliation which base their methods on a “psychological approach based on family systems theory” (12). He writes, “Solutions based on psychology typically fail to direct people to God’s Word or to confess sin and seek Christ’s forgiveness for empowering changed behavior” (12). Kober uses real life situations to show how the Holy Spirit can bring about change through the Word of God.
The book is formatted so that each chapter can also be used as a Bible study, with space on the side of each page for notes and “reflection” questions at the end of each chapter. The content of the book is straight forward on the process of reconciliation. He simply follows God’s directives in Scripture and applies them to the conflict at hand. He uses real life situations (names changed, of course) to illustrate his points.
He divides the book into four sections.
- The Foundation of Spiritual Health.
In this section, Kober demonstrates how he gauges a congregation’s spiritual health. There is no secret. He shows the correlation between Biblical ignorance and an unhealthy congregation. He also makes the note that the spiritual health of a congregation cannot always be ascertained by looking at statistics. Healthy congregations have leaders who are “regularly engaged with the Word of God”, and “modeling reconciliation through confession and forgiveness.” Finally, he notes that restoring spiritual health means destroying “idols” that get in the way. Two of which are “fear of” and “misplaced trust” in money.
He summarizes this section: “The foundation for a church’s spiritual health is based on how well her members, especially the leaders, are rooted in God’s Word and live lifestyles of reconciliation – reflecting our forgiveness from Christ in the way that we confess our sins to one another and forgive one another” (17).
- Restoring Health and Nurturing.
In this section he outlines calling people to repentance, giving them an opportunity to confess their sins to each other, and assuring them of forgiveness. Once that has taken place the solution to the problems work themselves out easily. While this process can be difficult at first, Kober offers a compelling example of how “Faith Church” changed through Christian reconciliation, and worked through their conflict. He writes, “The proclamation of God’s forgiveness among His people restores healthy and nurtures spiritual healthy and wellness” (93).
Kober also makes an important point by distinguishing between conflict resolution and reconciliation. He notes, “Conflict resolution works to solve material issues, but it fails to mend broken relationships. In reconciliation, we address personal issues and seek to restore relationships… In most conflicts, both conflict resolution and reconciliation are necessary” (100). Without addressing the spiritual brokenness, the conflict can quickly reignite.
- Healthy Spiritual Leadership.
In this section Kober reminds us that strong spiritual leadership is more important than congregational organization. He also reminds us that it is important to seek spiritual leaders, rather than leaders who are most “qualified” from an earthly standpoint. In his words, “Healthy leaders commit themselves to defining how they serve together, seeking not only their own interests but also the interests of others… This section highlights the importance of building and maintaining spiritually healthy leaders” (157). Leaders and congregation regularly studying the Word of God is the key. He concludes the section with an encouragement and outline of how a congregation can care for its called workers.
- Practical Applications for Improving Spiritual Health.
In the final section of the book the author gives “practical ways to improve spiritual health within the congregation” (225). He begins with suggestions on how to get more people in the congregation into the Word of God and reminds us that this will be a slow process. He continues with an outline for regular contact with members in the congregation as a method of caring for their souls. “Today, more than ever, personal contact makes a difference” (252). He wraps up with practical suggestions on how to practice reconciliation.
I found this book to be a quick, easy read. It was an outstanding reminder of things learned, both at the Seminary and in the ministry. The content is based on God’s Word and clearly reflects good Lutheran theology.
Conflict in the church is often rooted in an unwillingness to follow God’s Word. The author shares his experience and notes that congregations that experience conflict often have a high level of spiritual ignorance and are, consequently, spiritually immature. In the last section of the book he gives some realistic, practical tips on how to lead a congregation’s leadership and membership to grow in their faith.
I believe this book would be an outstanding addition to a pastor’s library. While it may not reveal much new insight into conflict resolution, it presents an outstanding outline to follow as one assists others in resolving their conflicts. It can be used well as a Bible Study for a Board of Elders or a Church Council. It will ground them in God’s Word, encourage them to make God’s Word a priority in their personal lives, and motivate them to be an example to the congregation. This volume could also be an invaluable tool to work through a specific conflict in a congregation. It’s filled with things learned through many situations of conflict and many years of experience applying God’s Word to those situations. For those reasons I would highly recommend this book, especially to a younger pastor.