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Biblical Mediation

Truth in Love 399

What is biblical mediation? How do we put into practice the principles of biblical conciliation?

Jan 30, 2023

Dale Johnson: This week again on the podcast we have with us, our dear brother, Ernie Baker. I’ll remind you, he’s married to his wife, Rose, and the Lord has blessed them with six children and eleven grandchildren, which I know just reading yesterday the Proverbs that talks about the crown of our head is our grandchildren and that must be a wonderful thing, Ernie. He has the privilege of serving the Lord at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville as the pastor of counseling and discipleship. He’s also the chair of the online undergraduate degree in Biblical Counseling at the Master’s University. He serves as an adjunct in their graduate program and as director for training for Overseas Instruction In Counseling. He’s the author of Marry Wisely, Marry Well; HELP! I’m in a Conflict; Help! Disability Pressures Our Marriage. He’s also contributed five chapters to other books, and he’s written many other journals and magazine articles. Ernie’s certified with us at ACBC, and he serves as a fellow. He’s also a conciliator with the Institute for Christian Conciliation.

And if you were with us last week on the podcast, Ernie had an opportunity to speak specifically about this issue of conciliation. What it is, how it’s impacted him to see the beauty of mediation work out when they’re difficult situations, and so, I wanted to make sure we get him back. We talked last week about broad concepts and how this is rooted in biblical doctrine and some of the broad principles that we would rely on when we talk about conciliation. This week, Ernie, I want you to talk a little bit about biblical mediation. So, first, welcome to the podcast. I’m so grateful that you could join me again. 

Ernie Baker: Thanks, Dale. Thrilled to be here. 

Dale Johnson: Now, we’re just going to dive right in. And I want us to talk specifically about mediation and if we were to give our listeners some clarity here on what exactly is biblical mediation. 

Ernie Baker: So, in John 13, we see the beautiful story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, and he says that he did this so that we would with one another, and we believe in the church that he was not establishing another ordinance of the church. He was setting an example of servanthood and love, deep love and sacrifice. So, I think of mediation ministry as following the example of our Lord. And it’s a way for me to wash feet that I get the privilege of being a go-between as a servant between parties that are broken in relationship with one another, and it’s a way to serve them. It can be very dirty work, it can be excruciating work, there’s a proverb that talks about getting between people and their quarrels, and it’s like grabbing a dog by the ears. And that’s often what it’s like, you start getting blamed for issues because you’re trying to help people get reconciled, and they’re starting to get upset at you, and you’re just trying to help them. But out of love, we serve between people who are broken in a relationship, and it’s not us making decisions for them, that would be arbitration at the step beyond what I’m talking about here. This would be mediation, where you’re a servant, and you’re trying to help people hear each other better and come to agreements on issues where they disagreed, most likely for years. 

Dale Johnson: That’s a super helpful point of clarification there, and I really appreciate the distinction that you’re making between biblical mediation and arbitration, and no one’s dictating what happens. We’re giving wise counsel, but that does bring me to another question. Because as we’re hearing you and even as we talked last week, I’m hearing lots of biblical counseling principles that are flying around when we talk about conciliation and mediation. And so, I want you to help us to think about the differences. So, how is biblical mediation different than long-term biblical counseling?

Ernie Baker: Biblical mediation typically it gets used for crisis situations, husbands and wives are separated, maybe even divorce papers are being threatened or possibly served, families have been broken. They don’t even; they can’t even talk to each other any longer. Now, you could use biblical counseling and maybe get to the same place, but biblical mediation is a more short-term model to work through issues with people that have been keeping them, keeping this relationship broken. And I think of those issues. We define an issue as a concrete or identifiable question that needs to be answered so that there can be reconciliation with one another. A classic one would be families fighting over the inheritance, who gets the one hundred thousand dollars. I just turned it into a question. So, we’re coming between people who can’t even talk to each other anymore and where we do pre-mediation work.

What I tell my students is the key to a successful mediation is good pre-mediation. And the pre-mediation is where we’re doing, maybe six sessions to get them ready, and they’re separate from one another, remember, they’re not even talking to one another. That’s where it’s going to sound the most like biblical counseling. In those six sessions, we have very clear processes. We’re following through using biblical principles, giving homework, and helping them see their heart. What’s the idolatries that are going on? Giving them reading to do and then explaining the process to them, and it’s beautiful to watch as the Lord melts hearts in those six, maybe seven pre-mediation meetings. Then we have a day and a half, typically my typical mediation, once they’re ready. And we know they’re ready when they’re more humble; they’re accepting their own responsibility to the conflict. They’re willing to confess sin now. We talk about log lists, which we use that term also in biblical counseling. They’ve created log lists of how they’ve contributed to the problem, and then we get into the day and a half of mediation, and we have a very clear agenda to follow. They are confessing sin and granting forgiveness, but we’re also working through those issues that have caused separation between them, and we’re brainstorming solutions now that they’re in a more humble place with each other.

So, biblical counseling would be more long-term. Mediation is more of a crisis model. As you know, it’s not getting any easier in the biblical counseling world. It seems like we’re having more and more of these crises type of relationships where there’s just brokenness, and they can’t talk to each other any longer. The one caveat I would make just so we don’t forget this is we would not use mediation for a domestic abuse situation, and that might be something good that we could maybe we can talk a little bit about that. So, we don’t forget it. Since we’re doing a lot of work in ACBC right now on the whole issue of domestic abuse, we would not use mediation when there’s brokenness because of domestic abuse. 

Dale Johnson: Alright, Ernie. Since you brought this up and I was thinking in the same direction because we’re working on these same documents where we’re trying to give some clarity, if at all possible, on this issue of abuse, very complex, very difficult things. But you brought it up. I want to ask a little bit about that. So describe, maybe, why we put that limitation here on biblical mediation as it relates to the issues of domestic violence or abuse. 

Ernie Baker: Thanks for asking the question since I set it up. So, I don’t think of domestic abuse issues as traditional marriage counseling issues. And the reason, even though there’s obviously marriage issues, it falls into the category of marriage issues, but we have one party. Typically, the husband that has such deep issues that have to be dealt with before there can even be traditional marriage counseling or a mediation, and the illustration I would use, I live in Florida. So, we have hurricanes here, I think of a hurricane, and I’m trying to do painting on the outside of my house. So, I have home improvement projects that I need to do, and every marriage always has home improvement projects. So there’s things that I always need to be working on with Rose and Rose with me, or us with our family, our family with us. There’s always home improvement projects, but there’s something going on outside of the home that is so dominating, like a hurricane, and there’s wind, and there’s rain, and this one person has anger issues or whatever the issues are that are so life dominating that I can’t get to the home improvement projects. So, that’s the illustration I use with our counselors to try to help them understand why domestic abuse is not a traditional marriage counseling issue and why we would not use mediation as a tool to help an abusive husband get reconciled with a wife. I would not want to put a wife in that situation with an abusive husband until he repents and it’s clear he’s repented; then, let’s work on the marriage issues in general. 

Dale Johnson: As a native Floridian, I can certainly resonate with your hurricane illustration. It really that becomes counterproductive to some degree. Yes, we want to get to painting the house at some point, but we have to deal with the things that are most pressing, or else it becomes counterproductive, and we’ll have to paint the house again in your illustration. So let’s move forward. And I appreciate that clarification. I think that is honestly very, very helpful as we think about these issues related to abuse and now talking about mediation.

So, biblical counselors, I mean, for all of us listening, we’re hearing this, and we’re saying yes, this resonates with who we are, the way we think about the Bible, the way we think about conflict, the way we think about crisis and issues that arise, we’ve even dealt with some of these types of things and maybe wish we had a little bit more focused time. So, talk a little bit about why should we, as biblical counselors, learn how to be mediators. 

Ernie Baker: I’m very thankful that ACBC has the reconciliation specialization now, and we’re helping people think through peacemaking conciliation in more in-depth ways, but the one thing I wish we could add to the process is methodology of how do you actually put this into practice, and that’s where mediation comes into play, and mediation is the methodology to carry out the conciliation principles.

So in our MABC program at Master’s University and the undergraduate program, we not only have the classes of theory and teaching the biblical concepts, but we have a class on biblical change and methodology. So, mediation becomes the methodology to carry out the principles of biblical conciliation. We use an acronym with the word GRACEE. It’s actually extra Grace because I had an “E” on the end, GRACEE, and the word “grace” is the agenda that we follow to help people that are actually in the mediation, and by the end of the process, the GRACEE process people actually the last “E” is end in agreement, and we write up, lawyers would call it a memorandum of understanding. I call it a redemptive agreement, and they sign it, that these are the agreements we came to. So, it’s a whole new tool in a biblical counselor’s toolbox that can be used for more crisis type of situations. Biblical counseling is more long-term, biblical mediation is a short-term model, and why should a biblical counselor consider getting training because it’s another tool to add to your, using Randy Patten’s term, it’s another tool to add to your counselor’s tool belt of how to help in extreme situations which it seems like we’re having more and more of them. 

Dale Johnson: Yeah, we do seem to be encountering more and more crisis situations, and now that we’ve talked about, okay yeah, biblical counselors is this would be something that would be distinct for them. I just want you to give some very practical advice here on how can people get training, specifically in mediation. I know you’ve described some of how you’ve done that, but give our listeners some examples of how they can get training. 

Ernie Baker: I actually dreamed of someday having a graduate degree in biblical conciliation, and there could be a whole specialty in a Master of Arts degree as a specialty of biblical counseling of learning to be a mediator, and there’s just a whole world out there of where that would even be recognized and needed. But in the short term, we have what here at First Baptist Church, FBC Jackson, what we call the school of mediation, where it counts toward the reconciliation specialization. If somebody’s an ACBC counselor, they can come and do all of our training, and it would count toward the ACBC specialization. But in addition, we train people in mediation, and you practice it, and you lead a mini-mediation by the end of the training. Bob Jones does it with me, and by the end of the three-day training, it’s three very intense days of training. By the end of the third day, you’re leading a mini three-hour-long, two-and-a-half to three-hour-long mediation, where we are giving you feedback on the process, and we listen to you as a mediator and see how you work the process. So, I would invite people to learn more about the school of mediation. On the ICC side, they could check out ambassadors of reconciliation website, And you can see the training to learn to be a mediator that they have. They even have online training,, where you can learn to be a biblical mediator online.

Dale Johnson: Ernie, this has been helpful, and what we’ll do is we’ll get those addresses from you to put them in our show notes. ICC, by the way, is Institute for Christian Conciliation, in case you all were wondering, but we’ll get you those addresses so that you can see those in the show notes. Ernie, this has been very helpful, and very practical. I think rooted in biblical realities, how we would deal with crisis, very in line with who we are as biblical counselors. Thanks, brother for your time and for giving us some good insight on biblical mediation.

Ernie Baker: Thank you, thankful to be with you.

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Institute for Christian Conciliation