I have realized that as I try to help people resolve conflict that I don’t really know what I’m doing. I don’t want to cause more damage in my ignorance, so I started to research information on mediation. I don’t want to overburden the leaders to resolve every conflict when all of us as disciples have the God given authority to help resolve conflict based on Matthew 18. I believe it is in every disciple’s best interest and the churches best interest to have biblical principles for mediation. God definitely values mediation because he discusses in his word how we should resolve conflict between each other and one of Jesus’ many amazing titles is “mediator” in 1 Timothy 2:5 (For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus). In our effort to be like Jesus and model his style of leadership, truly a sacrificial heart is necessary. Righteous and holy mediation will require sacrifice on the part of the mediator and the parties involved as it is not an easy task, but remember that although as Christians we do not get paid for mediation we will have treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).
In an effort to get a more complete picture of mediation and obey the “knowledge” and “moral excellence” part of 2 peter 1:5-6 (“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance and in your perseverance, godliness”), I have reviewed the secular structure to mediation and applied the lens of the bible to assist in this process. This is by no means something I have figured out and I’m not saying that all other ways are wrong. I encourage anyone reading this to research the topic for themselves because even in the church, we will have our issues and we need to deal with them righteously. In the stages leading up to your involvement as the designated mediator, here’s what I have so far:
According to secular books on mediation there are three types of mediation: Authoritative, Social Network, and Independent.
Authoritative mediation in the church would be someone who can enforce a “settlement” or some action, like the leader of the church or someone that God has given authority to.
Social Network mediation would be having the conflict mediated by someone you already know and will continue to get help from in the future such as your discipling or shepherding couples.
Independent mediation would be receiving mediation from someone who does not know you. This would be someone like a church counselor from another church or even counseling outside of the church.
In reading the passage Matthew 18:15-17:
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church”
It seems that Jesus’ plan in working through sin and mediation is first to start off just between the two individuals (no mediator, this is more conflict resolution which is a topic in and of itself) then have some social network mediation or independent mediation (take with you one or two more), and if that doesn’t work you try authoritative mediation (tell it to the church). This does not mean that the social network mediation carries no authority. Jesus actually says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be[e] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[f] loosed in heaven.” However sometimes we need someone in a God ordained position such as an Evangelist, Teacher, or Elder to assist.
After you decide what type of mediation is needed, it is necessary to collect data. Data collection comes in various forms and should be done with the permission of the parties. You can collect data through interviewing the parties individually, analyzing second hand resources (text exchanges, emails), interviewing other involved parties, and direct observation which is very simple in social network mediation as the mediator and the parties already have some familiarity. Asking a lot of questions and gathering information before trying to help the parties involved is just the wise and the humble thing to do. It is very arrogant and prideful to assume we can help resolve a situation without first getting the information. This process of gathering information also helps to build rapport with the parties, build your credibility, and cultivate a trusting environment.
To answer before listening– that is folly and shame. (Proverbs 18:13)
Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them. (Proverbs 29:20)
It is also important that an outcome or goal of the mediation is understood and communicated. Within Gods church, the goal is to be reconciled. The goal cannot be to “stick it to someone” or to prove you are right. In the kingdom of God, both parties are called to be “completely humble and gentle” (Ephesians 4:2-3) and willing to “submit to each other out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21) this will likely require a lot of prayer prior to the meditation. The goal of the mediation should be stated and understood prior to beginning the mediation. I believe praying and reading a scripture prior to beginning the mediation is necessary.
23“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering (Matthew 5: 23-24).
These are just some healthy steps before mediation I believe can assist greatly in contributing to a healthy mediation session. There are also many strategies to implement and use during the mediation session to achieve the desired outcome, which this particular post does not cover. This is simply a post with some suggestions as to the “prep work” leading up to mediation to assist during mediation. I’m not saying that doing it another way is “not biblical” or wrong. These are merely suggestions as to the prep work, and my opinion on the matter so far. Please do your own bible study on this topic and let me know what you find!
 Christopher Moore, The Mediation Process: Practical Strategies for Resolving Conflict, 2nd ed., (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1996). <http://www.colorado.edu/conflict/peace/moor7538.htm>