God, in all of His wisdom, gave the world His Church. We are one Body made up of many members, saved by the same faith, united by the Holy Spirit. He gave leaders and gifts to the Church to help it grow and minister to each other and the world. And yet there is one element of church life that can destroy all that God desires to accomplish through this Body: people.
I have often said that the church is made up of people, and where people are involved things get messy. Conflict is a part of church life. It doesn’t take twenty years of church membership to know this is true. Unfortunately, though we know conflict exists in the church, we usually go on without knowing how to deal with it, solve it, and move on in our walk with Christ together. Yet there is more to conflict than just “dealing it.” We have the ability to redeem conflict and come out of it healthier, closer to God and each other.
Redeeming Church Conflicts is the work of two church conflict professionals. Throughout the book they share their personal experiences with churches, pastors and individuals who brought them in to help mediate their conflicts. They have seen any kind of conflict you can imagine within your church, and probably many that you would not consider.
Their foundation for solving conflict is a four-fold model that is derived from the first Church council in Jerusalem, detailed for us in Acts 15. The book is broken into sections to discuss each of these.
- Biblical Response
Throughout the book, the role of perspective is revisited. Only when we understand our individual and corporate roles in the light of eternity and God’s design will we be able to redeem our conflicts.
Most issues that we deal with are not the underlying concerns that have created conflict. They are symptoms of a deeper disconnect between the members of the Body. These core issues or motivations must be discovered and aligned to the right perspective for conflict to be redeemed. Part of this discovery is in asking “best” questions which the authors help us learn to ask.
Leaders and followers must also learn and apply the truths of biblical leadership and followership. We are reminded of the biblical foundation and role of membership. Leaders have to remember to be models to those they lead. Followers must remember that God gave them a leader because they need a leader.
Biblically responding to conflict includes recognizing that we all have a part that we are responsible for. When our church is divided on opposite sides, we have chosen one instead of seeking reconciliation. We have to repent and forgive one another, on individual and group levels.
Above all we must be sensitive to God’s Spirit. There are times when just stopping to pray or read the right Scripture can diffuse anger and hurt and remind us that God is in control and He is able to work for God all that occurred around us.
After reading the book you might discover that bringing in some help from another group would be beneficial to your situation. There is an appendix to help you decide the type of help you need, what qualifications to look for and some general helpful tips when working with a third-party.
Some of my own highlights include the following:
[After detailing a few “costs of church conflict”] Such destructive results from unresolved conflict should make us flee pride, disregard the fear of man, and turn from defensiveness and self-righteousness. (48)
Jesus revealed reality, which is apparent only through the lens of his eternal perspective, not that of a selfish heart. (69)
We must consider not only what people want by why they want it if we are to understand the motivations of the heart. (74)
The best question shuts the mouth of opponents graciously because it leads to changed thinking and believing. It also leads to meaningful solutions because it goes to the heart of the matter. (89)
The physically blind have a distinct advantage over the spiritually blind—they know they are blind. Usually the spiritually blind person cannot make an accurate self-diagnosis of his or her condition. And we all, to one degree or another, are spiritually blind. (108)
Too often in history, perhaps even in the history of your own church, the name of Christ and the reputation of the church have been disgraced because conflicts were not resolved in a way that would show the power of the gospel to a watching world. (120)
Many Christians don’t know what to do with a true shepherd-leader who uses both the staff and the rod with wisdom and proper balance. (135)
It’s true that all leaders are imperfect. But we can all learn to follow imperfect leaders. We have no other choice, for there is no perfect leader in a fallen world, and as followers, this is what we are called to do. (152)
God’s agenda for his eternal children is not merely a life of comfort, ease, or pleasure. He is fully willing to compromise all of these for the sake of our spiritual growth… (180)
Church conflict is not just an issue to be worked through. When we truly get to the roots of the conflict, when we respond authentically and humbly to the Word of God and the work of the Spirit, church conflict can be the catalyst for great growth spiritually.
Church conflict is the seedbed, the growth environment, in which we can mature if we turn the opportunity of redeeming our church’s conflicts into opportunities for “mining” spiritual growth. (113)
No church is immune to conflict. If your waters are calm and smooth, prepare for the rough days. If you are already in the midst of rough water or can see the clouds approaching, Redeeming Church Conflicts is a valuable resource to bring perspective and guidance to you and your church.
Book been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.