Church Conflict – Part One: It’s OK!?!
“So amid the conflict, whether great or small, do not be discouraged, God is over all; count your many blessings angels will attend, help and comfort give you to your journey’s end”.
These words by Johnson Oatman were written in 1897 and set to the familiar tune BLESSINGS, by Edwin O. Excell the same year. Since this is the fourth verse it completes the lesson of strife a human soul might encounter – tossed about, lost; burdened with a load – our cross to bear; other’s riches – yet Christ’s wealth is our promise on which to cast our many blessings. Who could have ever thought this was also a song for a church in conflict? A body of believers, the church can be tossed about, burdened, seeking riches, know Christ is the answer – yet, amid conflict, great or small become immune to the possibility that God is over all nor are there any blessings to be found.
This writer deals with church conflict every day. More often, the conflict is great, rather than small. Every church conflict is serious and truly out of character for a body of Christ’s believers.
One of the more recent suggestions I have made is for a church to decide ahead of time how they would settle disputes or conflicts. An Article with Sections in the Bylaws of the church would be a step in the right direction, or possibly in a Policies and Procedures manual. Either place could detail a process to follow where consistent ecclesiastical/biblical direction is given. Part Thirteen in the December 2006 issue of Church Staff Digest will provide a method for handling church conflict.
All churches have or will have conflict. However, it is possible for a church to have conflict and remain healthy IF they have a process in place to follow.
Jim Van Yperen, author of Making Peace: A Guide To Overcoming Church Conflict, states: “A healthy church has learned a way of thinking and seeing and behaving that is redemptive, so that when real conflict comes, they’re able to handle it. They’ve learned that God is sovereign over all things, so that conflict is not necessarily a threat.”
Ken Sande of Peacemaker Ministries says, “Conflict is actually an opportunity. First Corinthians is a long conflict resolution letter. At the end of chapter 10, Paul sums up by saying, … ‘whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God, not for your own good but for others. Follow my example”’.
Churches need to take the high road and be prepared to handle conflict as God would look at it. He has given every church the opportunity to exalt Him – not man. God wants the church to behave so differently that the people take notice and are impressed. Church conflict can be an opportunity to grow in Christ likeness – the only thing we have to do is prepare the church on how to handle conflict efficiently. Conflict is not something we go looking for, but when it comes, we need to slow down and say, Lord if nothing else, in this conflict situation refine my spirit to count the blessings.
Church Conflict - Part Two