Ironically enough, I woke that morning with a spring in my step.
The exhaustion of mothering our three stair-step babies had settled in, but amidst the chaotic, oatmeal in my hair and juice spilled on my pants, kind of day, a renewed passion stirred in my heart at the thought of taking my overwhelmed state and funneling it into a new ministry position.
I looked at the handwritten note that had just come in the mail from the ministry leader and smiled.
“What a great first week, Jen. I can’t wait to see what God will do this year as we encourage young moms. Thanks.”
I gathered my diaper bag, loaded up our three boys and headed to church for our team meeting. As I entered, I was surprised to find only a handful of the team already gathered in a small circle.
I sat down and immediately the leader began reading a Bible passage. I can’t remember it now, but I knew a problem must have occurred.
As she finished, there was an awkward silence. Being so passionately naive, I kind of chuckled and exclaimed, “Oh no, we already have an issue with someone? It’s only the first week.”
“Yes, Jen, I’ve prayed about this and sought counsel from others and I just don’t think this is a fit for you.”
Clutching my four-month-old baby, I felt like I was going to throw up. Had I heard her correctly? This was the same woman who just sent the note. Surely not. I was a young mom in love with serving my Jesus and this came out of the blue; a devastating sucker punch. Not only was I was shocked and confused, but after probing about her reasoning, no answer was given.
The meeting adjourned. I rustled up my toddlers from the nursery, and by the time I got them in their car seats, I put my head on the steering wheel and sobbed.
For the first time, I experienced that deep-down, soul-altering, barely-can-breathe kind of grief that only comes through a ministry type of betrayal. While I hadn’t developed a deep relationship with this woman, it still cut to the core because somehow I equated that time as a barometer of my love for Jesus. It was almost as if I heard her whisper, “We don’t need your kind of encouragement,” cloaked behind some “Christian-ese words.”
Seventeen years ago, that meeting marked me.
That encounter was a defining ministry moment for me. My style of leadership changed in profound ways. I never wanted someone to experience a confrontation like that. There had to be a better way.
My parents’ Christ-like modeling, written about in “Who Will Defend Me?”, sprang to the forefront of my mind. Over and over I prayed, “The Lord is the defender of my reputation.”
I contemplated launching a successful justice-oriented defense. I knew I’d “win” because this had been done so quietly without the entire leadership team’s knowledge, but I chose to stay silent and elevate the ministry over my own agenda.
I’ll be honest, my silence was a year-long struggle, and sometimes I wanted a medal for my self-imposed martyrdom, not the most Godly confession, I admit. I dove into studying the peacemaking principles on conflict resolution found in Matthew 18:15-16.
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault,
just between the two of you.
If they listen to you, you have won them over.
But if they will not listen,take one or two others along,
so that ‘every matter may be established
by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’”
Do you understand how much healthier the Body of Christ would be if we followed Jesus’s instructions?
Imagine how different this encounter would have been if this leader had come to me one-on-one as scripture stated, and shared her concerns with me. Would I have been hurt? Yes, but she would have been for me. We could have prayed together, talked it through and built on our relationship. All these years later and I still don’t understand what happened.
The first step is a private matter, not a communal one. We should never gather others around to discuss and confront first because often, it may be a misunderstanding that has taken flight.
I’ll try not to get on my soap box, but my heart is grieved when Christians circumvent God’s word, and determine their own interpretation. Instead of dealing with it in love, truth and compassion, we either tiptoe around it, push it under the rug, get everyone else’s opinion about the situation first, blog about it when it’s not our business or declare we just don’t want to be judgmental.
I no longer confront someone. Since 1997, that defining ministry moment opened the door for my heart of carefrontation.
In carefrontation, we desire to build and strengthen the Kingdom, not tear it down through caustic gossip hidden behind prayer requests and probing Christian sentiments.
With a heart of “carefrontation,” we care more about the relationship than in being right.
With a heart of carefrontation, we don’t approach with fingers pointed, ready for war, but rather, humbly approach with a heart of compassion and restitution. Carefronting seeks community building. It’s a heart ready and willing to look at ourselves and the fact that we may have done something to offend as well.
It’s hard and it requires great courage.
I no longer start a ministry year without first walking our group through the biblical model of confrontation. Practically, we talk through the biblical expectations to observe if any of us have a problem with one another.
I commit to holding their reputation close to my heart and vow that I will not entertain discussions about them with others from the group. “Your reputation is safe with me,” is my motto.
When someone approaches me about another, I immediately ask if they’ve approached their brother or sister in Christ. If they haven’t, I encourage them to go to him/her first before talking with others about their grievance. I take this approach in my everyday life with friends and relatives as well, and we’re teaching our children the very important steps of biblical conflict resolution.
Does it always go smoothly? I wish.
Have I always guarded my tongue? Regretfully, no.
Is this easy? Never, but it’s revolutionized my relationships.
Unfortunately, we live in a broken world where more are concerned about their rights than relationships. The biblical model of confrontation is a two-way street and both hearts have to be willing to lay down their own agendas to peacefully work toward a resolution. Whether or not you want to, it’s always the best option.
Today I’m grateful for that heartbreak because it refined my relationship with the Lord. It allowed me to follow His leading, rather than my own, and prayerfully determine how any difficult situation can ultimately bring glory to His name.
How have you seen relationships restored through “Carefrontation?”
shared by Jen of Balancing Beauty and Bedlam & 10 Minute Dinners
Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God says
Unfortunately I have sat in the same seat as you. I know the betrayal of being ambushed. Even in one on one situations I have felt the sting of finger pointing judgment and criticism. It can be a scarring experience. I have also been guilty of not speaking the truth in love to others. That being said, I really like your premise of “carefrontation”. It really speaks of the truth that is Biblical on how we should approach one another. From the ashes of your personal experience, you have drawn a beautiful conclusion on how to speak the truth in love to others. I really need to take this to heart. Thanks for a much needed post this morning!!
Jennifer Schmidt says
Thank you, Bev – you always have the gift of encouragement, no matter what the topic. 🙂
Thank you for sharing this..it’s such an encouragement!
Jeanne Takenaka says
Jen, what an important post. I’ve been confronted unlovingly and felt the pain of accusations. Like Bev mentioned, your idea of carefrontation is spot on. God’s more interested in our hearts than in our actions. I love your focus on caring more about relationship than being right. It helps when both hearts are receptive to His prompting in the midst of carefrontation. But for those times when we are called to confront and the other heart doesn’t receive it, we can still go about it with humility and love, caring for the other person.
Thanks for your thoughts today!
Jennifer Schmidt says
When we’re called to confront and it’s not received, you’re right, that is the most difficult. It’s easy to second guess ourselves, yet keeping love and care at the forefront is always the goal.
Thank you for your words of encouragement today. I believe it is a timely word for all. It is about bringing glory to the Father!
This is excellent. My husband is a pastor and we have been ambushed so many times in public meetings. He has even preached on the biblical model of going first to a person but that does matter to those who wish to wreck havoc in our lives and set themselves up as the judge and jury. Thank you for these great words.
Jennifer Schmidt says
You are so welcome. I can only imagine how many times pastors and their families see this truth being twisted. Thank you for being faithful and for your husband modeling truth, even when this scriptural mandate is not always popular.
Chris Malkemes says
Wow. Sorry that happened to you, but in the end you were strengthened and know the right thing to do in confrontations. The church body can cut with a knife welding their murdering blow with a smile. Great words of encouragement. I learned the Scriptural way of confrontation and it works every time. Just this weekend, I thought I had offended someone and took her aside to find out what the problem was. Problem: preoccupied with stress and not aware of how she was portraying herself to others. She thanked me for my honesty. Better to talk face-to-face than talk to others about the issue. Man! When we do it right – right comes out of it.
Jennifer Schmidt says
It’s interesting that you bring up that example because the same thing happened to me recently. A friend approached me similarly to how you did and wondered why I hadn’t reached out to her. She thought maybe I didn’t want to, but instead of her mulling over her hurt and deepening those feelings, she just asked me. It was the same thing. I had been gone so much and honestly, trying to keep my head above water in the day to day. It was resolved quickly, but I wonder how many times other women read into similar situations and create something that was never there.
Thank you for taking the biblical approach.
heather m. says
Awesome post! I am the type of person who reallllly dislikes confrontation— so “carefrontation” is such a better word and approach in my opinion!. So sorry you were ambushed but God can use everything for His glory and he certainly did just that with your situation : ) Have a wonderful day and thanks for sharing all that you do with us! ♥
Jennifer Schmidt says
The Lord has wired us all so differently, hasn’t He? My sister in love is the same way. She just can’t stand to confront, and since she leans more towards wanting everyone to be happy, she’d rather avoid it, but she’s realized too the importance of it. it’s just much harder for her.
Thank you. I see we have wordlwide the same problems. And I am so glad to read the way you handle with it. Thats a great lesson for me. God zegene je / God bless you.
It is so hard to do confrontation well. On the initiating or the receiving ends. Takes a lot of humility on both sides. Thank you for these thoughts
Jennifer Schmidt says
It is so hard, isn’t it? So grateful that our Lord is the perfect mediator.
Wow, friend. It breaks my heart to “picture” you there, babe in arms, with that sharp confrontation of words marching across the table, straight toward your heart.
Thank you for teaching us a better way.
Jennifer Schmidt says
Thank you, friend.
It’s amazing how something that happened so long ago can still be so fresh, but still grateful for it.
Sandy King says
Amen! Well written and well said. This reminds me of something I read a few months ago – about the primary thing we must treasure when dealing with others is our relationship with them. God cares first about relationship, and second about ‘sin’. None of us can do anything apart from God, so why do we try to behave differently towards our brothers and sisters in Christ? Not sure I’m making sense… I don’t mean to imply that sin doesn’t matter.
This sentence from a blog called Contemplative in the Mud sums up what I’m trying to say: ‘beneath all the action anyone could do to or with others, there exists the substructure of the relationship in itself’.
Jennifer Schmidt says
I completely understand what you are trying to say. Sin DOES matter and it’s easy to try and just make excuses for it, but getting to the heart of the relationship is paramount as well.
Carol Longenecker Hiestand says
” that deep-down, soul-altering, barely-can-breathe kind of grief that only comes through a ministry type of betrayal.”
yes, these are some of the worst. my husband and I have experienced this in ministry and it is so hard. I think i over-guard my heart as a result by trying to figure out what others want so I am “safe.” That way of being is an exhausting way to live and it is something I am realizing more and more and working through these days with help. When I read this I was so triggered – I wanted to fight for you. I guess it felt a little too close to home.
Deidra Riggs says
I believe this is one of the most important instructions Jesus left us for living and working and being in community with one another. It is one of my life passages, and I love the way you’ve expanded the thought into “carefrontation.” Jesus knew we would bump up against each other and step on one another’s toes from time to time. When we feel offended or when we offend someone, it’s no surprise to Jesus. His instructions to us in Matthew 18 provide such a great framework for staying connected and working things through with our sisters and brothers in the Body of Christ. Thanks for sharing this story, Jen, and for the encouragement to trust the guidelines Christ established for us.
To ‘carefront’ is SO important. I wish I had success stories to share but, sadly, there have been relationships broken when ‘friends’ had decided to cut me off. It has only happened once or twice but in both cases I tried to ‘carefront’, humbling myself and being open and honest, yet my ‘friends’ could not do the same. It is truly scary to make oneself vulnerable and ‘carefronting’ only ‘works’ when both parties are willing.
I was so sad when I read your post, Jen – it was only a couple of days ago that I was trawling through your blog, which I enjoy – yet the Lord does indeed use these circumstances to draw us closer to him, resulting in our strengthening. Thank you for being so honest. May we ALL gain more confidence to love and care for each other, carefronting difficulties before they can grow in ugliness and dissension. And we can only do this by submitting it all to the Lord, dealing with others as He would.
Thank you so much for your honesty and vulnerability. Sharing this is not easy, but it’s do good to let The Lord speak to others out of your pain. I have experienced this more than once in the past twenty years as my husband and I worked in full time ministry. I live that you highlight the biblical model of confrontation. So important and a lost art in the modern lukewarm evangelical church at large.
Elisa K. says
This brought up my wounds. But the numbing came up just as fast.
I hope as I am working on letting go of the bitterness.
And keep choosing to forgive and let go into the tomb at Jesus’ cross.
And get refinement and healing for my three issues.
One day I will be able to practice this, when I re-join fellowship.
I tried, but so many people were more concerned with pointing their fingers.
Than putting our hands together in overcoming differences and joining in a walk of Christ-centred growth.
Then I realized, so many walking wounded. We all need His grace for all our issues.
But by then I also needed a lot of space. My issues make it so I only trust Jesus best.
Always ready to walk away if people keep wounding me.
Jennifer Schmidt says
Oh Elisa – know I am wrapping my virtual arms around you right now. I can’t begin to understand such pain where it has you stepping away from fellowship, but you have so eloquently articulated to keep choosing to forgive. You are right, so many walking wounded. I pray you find a community that embraces all with open arms. xoxo
Linda Schaeffer says
A friend of mine got a knock at her door, there stood her Bible Study Fellowship leader who said “God doesn’t want you to be fat!” Immeasurable pain.
Jennifer Schmidt says
No, Linda!! I can’t even imagine that occurring!! Your precious friend!! Having dealt with my own weight issues in the past, I can understand how deep that must have gone.
Thanks for sharing your story Jen. I love the term carefrontation. I will be using it from now on.
Carefrontation is not easy, whether you are the recipient or the carefrontee. I have been blessed by Danny Silk’s book titled Culture of
Honor and his method of carefronting. In every way we desire to apply grace and look for restoration.
Oh, sister, your heart is so beating along with mine! I love that term ‘carefrontation’. I’ve seen what those other things can do to people in a congregation – garnering opinion from everyone else but never going to the actual person themselves, putting jibes on Facebook, all that stuff – and it so pains me as a clergy wife. As much as you try to help people see the biblical way to do this, some of them just seem to enjoy causing pain.
And yet I’ve seen the other side, too. I don’t like confrontation, but when I had to tackle one lady about her constant and abusive calls and texts to my husband, my heart beating fit to leap out of my chest with fear, the talk ended with her giving me a hug and thanking me for essentially telling her off!
If we tackle things the way God lays out, relationships can be reconciled. It takes courage to remain silent when you’re on the receiving end of pain, just as you did in such a godly manner, but it is worth it in the growth.
Thank you for this post. I really think this is important and helpful what you have written.
I have been grappling with Ephesians 4:15 where it says it is by ‘speaking the truth in love that we will grow up into Him who is the head of all things: Christ.” such a small phrase – only 5 small words but so challenging! I find I like to avoid conflict and want to say “loving”things that smooth down rough emotions and make everyone feel comfortable and nice but then the truth element sometimes is stretched pretty thin! Or I let pressure build up and then I speak “truthfully” but not carefulliy as you say and well, we all know how that usually goes. To be carefully truthful and lovingly honest in a helpful, hopeful way does really cause me, by His grace, to change the very foundation of how I view and interact with others.
I really appreciate you sharing and also believe that it is true what you are saying that difficulties in a relationship when responded in this way are really the opening for deeper conversations and relationships. Thank you for encouraging us all in this as it is not easy at all!
Your gift of sharing encouragement is so appreciated. Reminds me of times when I answered yes to an opportunity to “care” for a group. Yes, and cried all the way home over some silly thing I had said or someone else said — all the while knowing His care was sweet, real and all I needed. Thank you so much.
Susan Shipe says
At this moment I have no answer for Q4U! But I do want to say amen.amen.amen. to the post.
I cannot even believe what happened to you all those years ago. Honestly, my mind cannot figure out how that even happened…AT CHURCH. Wow. Lord, please don’t ever let me be like that.
Thank you for sharing your heart today, and for allowing God to use such a painful experience to bring glory to Him. Because, someone else, might’ve gone in a different way…retaliating, seeking revenge, leaving the church…or worse, turning their back on God. And who could blame them?
I am amazed at your strength and wisdom. When all of my kids were little, I could barely string together a coherent sentence. Depending on how sleep deprived I was at the time, I cannot imagine that I would’ve handled this situation well. I LOVE the term “carefrontation.” LOVE.IT.
Sharon Early says
You have written about an incredibly important subject. This is one of the reasons why the church, sadly, has a reputation for “shooting its wounded.” I know I myself have been in the line of fire more times than I can count.
So awesome. I was recently talking to someone about the fact that not many people are taught how to deal with conflict. It is important! These Biblical principles that you have pointed out are so key. I only wish that we as the Church would start using them to solve the difficulties and the issues that we have with one another! Care-frontation! Yes! Bring it!
I am so sorry you had to endure that public humiliation…I well remember how devastated I was in a similar situation…and while I have been able to get some distance from it, and I understand the place of pain my attackers were coming from, I don’t see myself trying again.
Thank you for sharing your experience and reminding us that we are not alone in this struggle…
Thank you for continuing to seek a better way in your own place of leadership…
Thank you for blessing those with whom you serve by keeping your heart tender and taking time to care…
Beth Williams says
So sorry for the hurt she caused you years ago! Thank you for sharing you heart ad being so wise and honest!
We need more “carefrontation” and less confrontation! I don’t understand why people, especially Christians, don’t just encourage each other and use caring to explain their reasons for things. We need to model more of the Matthew 18:15-16 principle.
Love your heart!
God Bless 🙂
Jen…thank you for sharing…you spoke to my heart!