Many of the phone calls I receive as a Pastoral Ministry Specialist sound like this, “I have just discovered we are in a conflict in our church, what should I do?”
Your first responses to a conflict are important and you need to keep in mind the following first steps:
1. Don’t panic
If you do, you will make things worse. Take a deep breath and follow the steps outlined in the rest of this article.
2. Don’t deny that there is a conflict
If you do, you may wait too long to seeking a resolution to the issues involved.
The longer a conflict goes unresolved; the more possibilities for long term damage in the church.
As the leader in your church, you need to take the lead in redemptively confronting the conflict sooner rather than later.
3. Do pray for guidance
This step comes too late in the process for many conflict situations.
Start with a prayer for God’s wisdom, insight, and guidance.
Lead your leadership to pray the same way. You will do better to save the talking until God guides you because you have an openness to Him.
4. Do apply Holy Scripture
The Bible contains numerous stories of conflict and conflict resolution.
It also contains key principles to guide us as we seek a "grace-based" answer to differences.
I would encourage you to let the Bible inform your reason.
|| Examples of Conflict in the Bible:
- Matthew 5-7
1 Corinthians 13
1 John 3:16-5:5
- Contention in a family: Cain and Able
- Focus on self: Jacob and Esau
- The power of desire: David and Uriah
- The seduction of power: Saul and David
- Self-interests vs. servanthood among the disciples: Mark 10:35-45
- Religious traditionalism versus Christ: John 8: 1-11
- Diversity in membership-prejudice: Acts 6:1-7
- Dispute in Antioch over circumcision: Acts 15
- Divisions in the church: 1 Cor. 1:10-17
- Personal and spiritual immaturity: 1 Cor. 3: 1-16
5. Do manage the conflict properly
Not all conflict is the same so do not approach all conflict the same way. A difference over whether to spend $50.00 and one over whether to spend $500.00 contain different dynamics.
The following are simple questions to ask regarding the conflict:
Are we encountering differences of opinion over resolution of an issue or problem?
Differences of opinion happen and are not bad. If you treat them as bad, then the conflict will escalate.
Are you dealing with an underlying unresolved conflict?
If you answer “yes” to this, you need to start looking for the background causes of the conflict and seek to resolve that first.
6. Do act like a Christian
Let your Christian values always drive your motives, words, and actions as regards conflict. Some of the most un-christian things I have ever heard said were said during heated exchanges in business meetings.
7. Do trust God
Often people in conflict overlook this point. Once we have prayed, discovered God’s guidance through the Bible, and sought to follow a reasonable path to conflict resolution, we need to patiently let God lead us through the process.
Help is available: