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Christian Conciliation

Truth In Love 398

What is Christian conciliation? Listen to Dr. Ernie Baker's personal, pastoral, and counseling experience in Christian conciliation.

Jan 23, 2023

Dale Johnson: This week on the podcast, I have with me my dear friend Ernie Baker. He’s married to Rose and the Lord has blessed them with six children, five of them are married, and they have 11 grandchildren. He has the privilege of serving the Lord at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, as the pastor of counseling and discipleship. In addition, he has the privilege of chairing the online undergraduate degree in Biblical Counseling at the Master’s University, serving there as an adjunct in the graduate program in Counseling and as a director of training for Overseas Instruction in Counseling. He’s the author of several books: Marry Wisely, Marry Well; HELP! I’m in a Conflict; Help! Disability Pressures Our Marriage. He’s also contributed chapters in five other books, and written many journals and magazine articles. Ernie is certified with us here at ACBC, and he’s a Fellow with us as well. He’s also a conciliator with the Institute for Christian Conciliation. And Ernie, I’m so grateful that you’re here to talk about this issue of Christian conciliation, welcome to the podcast.

Ernie Baker: Thanks, brother. I’m thrilled to be able to talk about this. 

Dale Johnson: This is always fun, Ernie, to talk with you about lots of different subjects, but even this one in particular. And I want to start out just; some people may say, well, I’ve heard of reconciliation before, but I’m not sure I know exactly what conciliation is. So, I want to give you a chance at the beginning, just at the outset, to describe what we’re talking about here when we refer to conciliation. 

Ernie Baker: Thanks. That’s a great way to jump into the subject. So, in Scripture, the doctrine of reconciliation is central, and there are so many verses about reconciliation, I love the doctrine of reconciliation. It’s thrilling to my soul to think about our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, being a mediator between us and our Creator, God the Father, so that we could be reconciled to him after sin broke our relationship. And so, conciliation ministry is the privilege of helping people get reconciled to one another following the example of our Lord, who is a mediator and Paul talks about that in the book of first Timothy that there’s one mediator between God and man. So, I believe it’s a very Christ-like thing to do, to help do conciliation ministry and help people get reconciled to one another. It’s absolutely thrilling to me. It’s exhausting physically. It is spiritually exhilarating to see people get reconciled or to coach people if the other party is not willing or reluctant; to coach people on how they could, even in a unilateral way, pursue people and become reconciled to the best of their ability.

Dale Johnson: That’s helpful, and this may play into the next part of my question as well. Well, you’re a conciliator with the Institute for Christian Conciliation. I want to know why are you interested particularly in the subject. Maybe even a little bit about how you got into an interest in this idea of conciliation, and I’m sure it speaks a little bit to Christ being our mediator, what that picture means we’ve been called ministers of reconciliation, of course. So, talk a little bit about your interest there in this particular subject and then how you got into conciliation. 

Ernie Baker: I got into this subject when I was a young pastor. And it was out of desperation. So, I’m 64 now, and I went through a very life-shaping event as a 32-year-old pastor, young pastor, and I was put through the meat grinder of a significant Church conflict, and there was a mediator that got involved. It got so bad that we had to call in a mediator, and I had enough biblical counseling training at that time to know that in enough biblical training to just know that the way the mediator was handling it was significantly against biblical principles. But I had no say in it because I was the pastor who was being accused, but on my mind was processing all of this that there has to be a better way to do this.

Then I started working on my doctorate degree in Biblical Counseling at Westminster Seminary, and I was introduced to a book called The Peacemaker by Ken Sande, and I thought, here it is. Praise God somebody has thought through these issues. So, I just started pursuing advanced training and conciliation through the Institute for Christian Conciliation, which at that time was a division of Peacemaker Ministries, they are now separate and that would be good for the listeners to know that Peacemaker Ministries and the Institute for Christian Conciliation are two separate organizations now, and what the ICC is to the Christian Conciliation, biblical conciliation world is too similar to what ACBC is to the Biblical Counseling world. It is certifying credentialing agency of the Christian conciliation world, and I’ve been very happy to be involved. Robert Jones is another conciliator; he and I for years and years have talked, I mean decades actually now, we’ve had a dream of how do we help our brothers and sisters in the Biblical Counseling world understand the Christian conciliation world and how we help our brothers and sisters in the Christian conciliation world see the beauty of Biblical Counseling, and I can talk more about that later about what we’ve been doing to try to bridge that gap. So, I’ve done all the phases of training with the ICC just like, there’s a process with ACBC, there is a process with the ICC, and now just as with ACBC, we have fellows supervising people. I’m a supervisor for the ICC, and I help people learn how to be a mediator. 

Dale Johnson: Now that’s helpful as we think about this, you know, how this works, Ernie, where for us, we like to make sure that everything is rooted in a biblical reality and specific doctrines of our Christian faith. And I want you to describe a little bit. I mean, we can already tell the flavor obviously of our heart behind reconciliation and desiring to see entities or people reconciled. But talk about this from a biblical doctrine perspective. How does the subject tie in to the biblical doctrine of reconciliation?

Ernie Baker: So, I’ve already addressed the idea that our Savior’s our mediator, and He has made us one in Christ. And there’s so much in Scripture about love one another, about the way Christians are to interact with one another, about unity in the body. And in particular, I address this in my little booklet Help! I’m in a Conflict, Ephesians 4:1-3 says endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The bigger doctrine, I think, is the doctrine of the Trinity and the beautiful harmony that is in the Trinity. And I personally believe that the one another commands of the New Testament probably flow out of the way the Trinity interacts with one another, and we’re made in the image of God, and we’re social beings. So, God wants us to be the people that we call our brothers and sisters in Christ in the church. We are to be in unity with them, so that would lead me to say that the idea that Christians are unreconciled to one another is antithetical to the very essence of what the Gospel is and antithetical to the idea of the church. It’s heartbreaking to God, in fact, right in the context of Ephesians 4, our famous put-off, be renewed in the spirit of the mind, and put on passage, right in there as Paul’s giving examples of the way the bodies they interact with one another, he says let no unwholesome word proceed out of your mouth, etc. And then he says, and grieve not the holy spirit of God by whom you’re sealed to the day of redemption. Then he goes in to be kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving one another right in the middle of that is it grieves the Holy Spirit when we’re not interacting with each other in the right way. So, biblical conciliation ministry is rooted in all kinds of rich theology. 

Dale Johnson: Yeah, and these are not simply suggestions; they’re calls of the Lord to us as believers. Something that, according to our sin nature, is quite frankly very unnatural to us. We would prefer to divide over lots of different issues, but the beauty of the Spirit in us, testifying of Christ, breeds unity. I love the way that you described that. Now you’ve talked about this a little bit, at least how you got into conciliation and some of the ways you were impacted early on in ministry, I want you to talk a little bit more about how biblical conciliation principles have impacted you on a personal level, whether that be, you know, someone who as you’ve learned this, you’ve been impacted or as you’ve engaged in conciliation, how you been impacted? 

Ernie Baker: That’s tough to decide which part of the question to start with first, but I’ll talk about ministry first. I love doing mediations, so I love coaching people with biblical principles of how to get reconciled with others. But when you get in a mediation room, and you see people humbling themselves and confessing sin, and then granting forgiveness to one another, husbands and wives that have been so mad at each other or family members who they have broken relationships, they haven’t talked to each other, and then they humble each other because the Holy Spirit’s working, and we have this process of mediation, and they are getting reconciled to one another. You’re seeing the power of the Gospel unleashed, and I walk away from every mediation exhausted just physically and emotionally but exhilarated spiritually. We even sing songs, we just did a mediation maybe about a week ago, and at the end of the first day, we sang Amazing Grace together because they had already been confessing sin and forgiving each other, and then at the end of the second day, we finished the whole mediation with the doxology. And it was just this very worshipful, tiring, but worshipful experience.

But personally, in my own family, when our kids were teenagers, we read the book, Peacemaking for Families by Ken Sande, which is a family version of the bigger book, The Peacemaker. And then we practice that when our kids got to be teenagers and a little bit older, I used to joke and say I feel sorry for you that your father is a pastor who’s a biblical counselor; because we practice those principles in our family. And I wanted my kids to go into marriage having conflict resolution practice, and we taught them a principle based on Philippians 2:3-5 called the pause principle and our older teenage children, we actually worked through conflicts with them in our home, using the pause principle. Rose and I have used it for decades that is our conflict resolution procedure. Every couple needs to have a conflict resolution procedure. And in many ways, you know, I think Rose would say the same thing if she was here on the podcast is that peacemaking principles have deeply impacted our marriage, maybe even saved our marriage, learning how to actually apply the Gospel to our relationship. 

Dale Johnson: That’s so helpful. Even that you’re talking, I’m thinking in my mind 1 Corinthians 2 when Paul’s talking about the way in which he came to the brothers and sisters in Corinth. He didn’t come with lofty speech, and in verse 3, he mentions when I was with you in weakness and fear, in much trembling in my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and of power, and this is what you just described, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God and the beauty of what you were saying, and I think, partly why you can end a session, very difficult sessions of conciliation, saying, you know, God restores through reconciliation is because the power of God that happens in the lives of people, and that is worthy of our worship and it’s fun when you get to see the Lord do such a work like that. And again, we’re not minimizing the fact that it’s emotionally draining and physically difficult. It’s very intense conversations at times, and so, man, that’s really helpful. Right, let me finish out with maybe, maybe one other question. Why is it subject important for us in biblical counseling? And how do you personally use these principles in your counseling ministry? 

Ernie Baker: There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t use biblical conciliation principles, and if Robert Jones was on the podcast, he would tell you the same thing because he and I have talked about it many times at our training with the ICC, we learned strategies, principles, and we both had very advanced biblical counseling training, but we learn things through the ICC of ways to help people get reconciled and strategies to use that we never heard in our biblical counseling training. So, I’m using them on a regular basis. We’ve trained all of our counselors here at First Baptist with these principles and continuing to do that. We’re training whole teams of not just biblical counselors, we have teams of mediators being trained here at First Baptist, and we’ll talk later, I believe, about mediation. Then by the grace of God, there is a biblical counseling class in the curriculum at Master’s University in the undergrad program, both online and in the traditional program. The MABC program now requires a biblical conflict resolution class as a core and the Master’s Seminary; I had the privilege of starting a pastoral conflict resolution class at the Master’s Seminary; they continued that even after I left campus, teaching out there, they now have a class in biblical pastoral conflict resolution at Master’s Seminary, and got the teach this all over the world. It’s amazing how one horrible story back when I was 32, I’ve been able to do mediations; I forget how many continents now I’ve done mediations, and teach graduate-level biblical conflict resolution classes. And I’m just amazed at how the Lord can take brokenness and turn it into something beautiful. So, it’s dramatically impacted my ministry and how I even think about doing biblical counseling.

Dale Johnson: You know, this actually works very, very closely with what we described here in biblical counseling, and that’s what we’re after; we want to see reconciliation, we want to see people grow in the things of God, we want to see maturity, but isn’t this just what God does where he takes ashes and turns them into beauty, and you’re extrapolating biblical principles to be able to apply in very difficult broken situations and to see the work of God. And I mean, that’s what we’re about.

Now today, on the podcast, we talk conceptually, Ernie, but I want to have you back next week. I want to talk specifically about mediation which will be a little bit more practical, as we dive in to maybe what this looks like more specifically. And so, I’m interested. I can’t wait until we get a chance to chat next week as well. 

Ernie Baker: That will be great.

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