January 6, 2010 by C.J. Mahaney
Categories: Conflict | Interviews
Ken Sande has written the finest book I’ve read on the topic of conflict resolution. It’s titled The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
(Baker, 2004). I have read and re-read it over the years and I have recommended it to pastors and churches around this country. And given that The Peacemaker
has now been published in ten languages, I’m sure this book has spread around the world, too. It is on my short list of must-reads for every pastor.
Ken Sande lives Billings, Montana. He is an attorney and the president of Peacemaker Ministries
, an initiative he founded 25 years ago. There is much to learn from Ken and I am thankful that he’s taken some time to answer a few questions about life and ministry.
Meet Ken Sande.
Thanks for your time, Ken! Please describe your morning devotions. What time do you wake up in the morning? How much time do you spend reading, meditating, praying, etc.? What are you presently reading?
I wake up at 5:30 and spend the first 60 minutes of the day with the Lord. To wake my mind up, I first read from The Valley of Vision
and Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening
. I then read a Psalm (to inspire praise) or a chapter in Proverbs (to be warned and gain wisdom for the day), and then a chapter in the Bible that my church has designated for the day (currently I’m in the book of Acts), which I also discuss with my family at dinner. I keep a journal of the insights God gives me from this reading. I then spend 10-15 minutes memorizing and meditating on Scripture passages or quotes from the saints that are especially meaningful to me (which I organize on my iPaq in a system that allows me to memorize and review passages on a progressive daily, weekly, and monthly basis). I spend the balance of my devotional time with prayer for my family, church, and ministry.
What book(s) are you currently reading in these three categories: (a) for your soul, (b) for pastoral ministry, or (c) for personal enjoyment?
For my soul, I am reading J.I. Packer’s Knowing God
, which is one of my all time favorites. (My entire staff is currently reading this book as well.) For pastoral ministry, I am reading Tim Laniak’s While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks
(which is featured in our new Leadership Opportunity resource set
). For personal enjoyment, I’m reading Shelby Foote’s three volume narrative on The Civil War
. (Quite an irony, I know, a peacemaker enjoying books on war; the reason is that I find many parallels between military wars and the spiritual warfare I deal with through my ministry.)
Apart from Scripture, what book do you most frequently re-read and why?
I first read J.I. Packer’s Knowing God
in my late twenties and have gone back to it again and again to refresh my awe for God by drawing on Packer’s remarkable insights into the Lord’s holiness and love.
When you finish a book, what system have you developed in order to remember and reference that book in the future?
I highlight key passages in books as I read them, and then transfer select quotes into my memory/meditation system so that I can reflect on them on a regular basis. I often pick up favorite books and thumb through them, reviewing many of the highlighted sections.
If you could study under any theologian in church history (excluding those men in Scripture), who would it be and why?
I could happily listen to J.I. Packer read a telephone book; I just love his accent. Fortunately, when I’ve heard him teach, he has always dealt with far weightier content, always with a humility, clarity, and sense of humor that I find to be both winsome and edifying. I own many of the books he has authored and refer to them again and again.
What single piece of counsel (or constructive criticism) has most improved your preaching?
I teach far more frequently than I preach, and focus almost exclusively on the practical peacemaking message of Scripture. The most important advice I’ve ever received is “Be true to the intent of the passage (rather than reading my own meaning into it), keep it simple, and make it real and relevant through personal stories.” I’ve found this to be especially important with a topic as challenging as peacemaking.
First, peacemaking is a highly theological topic. Justice, reconciliation, relationships, church unity, and our witness for Christ are on the line when we are in conflict. Therefore it is critical that rather than simply following our own feelings or ideas, we accurately discern what God is promising and commanding.
Second, when emotions rise (which is usually the case in conflict), rational thinking usually declines. Therefore it is helpful to organize God’s peacemaking principles in simple, memorable terms that provide a clear track to run on (which is why I rely so heavily on acrostics like the “4 Gs,” the “7As,” and the “PAUSE” principle of negotiating).
Third, peacemaking is challenging and sometimes seems impossible. If all I do is teach the principles, people can easily think, “That may work for someone who is an expert like Ken, but it won’t work for someone as messed up as me.” But when I add a personal example of my own failings as a husband, father, or mediator, and then describe how God graciously forgives me and redeems the situation as I apply his principles, many people later tell me, “When you shared that story, I realized you struggle with the same sins I struggle with, and that God’s grace can work through me as it did through you.”
What books on preaching, or examples of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?
I have been blessed to sit under two of the best preachers I know for the last 25 years: Rev. Al Edwards and Rev. Alfred Poirier from my home church, Rocky Mountain Community Church. Most of what I’ve learned about preaching and teaching has come through their examples. Their careful exegesis, thoughtful organization, relevant applications, and timely humor have shaped my teaching.
To be continued in part 2...