Fact of the matter is, there will always be some tension when we gather with a group of people. But without tension you don’t get stronger! That’s how you build muscles. But to have a healthy church environment, we must always be asking, how are my relationships?
To have the right environment, it begins with you. You can never change another person, but you can change how you respond to people around you.
Conflict has ruined so many churches, because when a church has internal conflict…
2 problems occur:
—The community hears about it and then avoids it.
—Those inside the church then have no desire to invite their friends.
Conflict is NOT a bad thing. Conflict reminds us that we all have something to contribute from different perspectives. The whole body is needed.
NOT dealing with the conflict is the bad thing. So how do you handle conflict well? First, you need to understand what way you usually confront.
The ways we confront…
1) I’ll get them—Someone totally right, other wrong. NO negotiation
If you just shoot for a win/lose scenario. The loser ends up stewing and then blowing up.
2) I’ll get out—I’m uncomfortable so I’ll get out. I’ll avoid. Withdraw. That is no good, because we then lose your unique perspective.
3) I’ll give in—Friendship approach. I’ll smile on outside. I don’t want pain, but then your ideas are never listened to.
4) I’ll meet you ½ way—I have ½ the truth, I need your ½. Compromise is needed sometimes, but sometimes there is a right next step in leadership. So compromise sometimes just leads to nothing more than ½ truth.
5) I’ll care enough to confront!!!
This is the only way that’s truly healthy. But, it’s sadly the least common way.
So how do we deal with conflict in a healthy way? Before we look at the 4 steps, the overall goal is to keep a healthy relationship. NOT just kick the loser out of the church. We want relationship!
So many people think the Matthew 18 principle is saying kick the person out of the church. Let’s read those verses, see if you can notice what Jesus says we should do when there is conflict? “If a member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a pagan and a tax collector.” Mat. 18: 15-17
So after you have taken the steps of meeting with leadership…what is the last step? Treat them as a pagan or Tax collector. Does that mean kick them out? NO!!! Who did Jesus hang out with? Jesus is saying…bring them closer…treat them gently as you would someone outside the church. Rebuild a relationship. Don’t kick them out. Our goal is to have a healthy loving church! Not people in tension!
When we look at how Jesus dealt with conflict, we realize that he sometimes avoided conflict, sometimes he resolved it, and sometimes he created conflict! So all of them are necessary at times. Keeping the peace doesn’t mean repress the truth, ignore the problems. That causes more problems! But how we deal with conflict makes all the difference for the culture of our church. In studying various Scriptures, there are 4 different steps needed in conflict and confrontation.
1) Check your Motive! Start by asking yourself… Why do I need to confront? Is it possible that I am wrong? Many times, we have unhealthy reasons for tension with someone. Sometimes it is because we are jealous or irritated with their personality. So we just want to get even, and make ourselves feel superior or look good. Sometimes I have noticed that some people just like chaos. Or you may just have a need for attention or you have a need to be right. But what if you are wrong. And the other person’s idea is right? One good way to check for your motive…If you feel good in saying it, you are probably saying it with the wrong motive.
In Corinth, Paul had to really lay down some tough leadership statements to the church in Corinth. He actually sent 4 letters to them. He has more to say to them than to anyone. They had some different views on how a Christian should live and how the church should function, but Paul checked his motive and wrote these words, “Everything we do, dear friends, is for your benefit. 2 Cor. 12: 19.
So ask yourself before stirring up tension with someone, what is my motive? Is it for their benefit? Or is it just a need I have to have it my way? Check your motive. You may want to talk with a trusted friend.
2) Plan your presentation
Paul thought before he confronted the church. “I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.” 2 Cor.2:4
You don’t want to bring it up when tired or in a hurry. And sarcasm never works. Good examples… For instance. I’m never persuasive when I am abrasive. Think of a pleasant way to say it. And I would encourage you to never send an anonymous letter. If you send one to me, I don’t even read it. Because if you are just wrong in your perspective in the letter, I have no way of offering you correction and proper perspective, so that just causes me unnecessary stress. Then I start wondering who sent it and everyone becomes a suspect. I used to fall for that in my early days of ministry.
Look at these great verses that encourage us to plan our presentations wisely when there is a disagreement. “The right word at the right time is like precious gold set in silver.”Pr. 25: 11
“Thoughtless words can wound as deeply as any sword, but wisely spoken words can heal.” Pr. 12: 18
I heard a great equation: Truth + tact + timing, = Transformation.
3) Give them affirmation
As I said before, differences of opinion will happen at all levels of a church, especially when we are working through a merge. But we are responsible for how we respond to one another. Conflict will and does happen in church. It does hurt, but it can be so beneficial.
Far too often, we have tons of unity, but that one difference becomes larger than life. In that same line of thinking. Affirmations can be anesthesia! A word of encouragement does wonders! Pr. 12:25 Paul begins and ends with affirmation. Look at 1 Corinthians. The first chapter and the last chapter. “I always thank God for you.” 1 Cor. 1: 4. “My love to you.” 1 Cor. 16: 24
I would encourage you to never use the word BUT!!! “You are great, BUT…” When people hear but, they stop listening with an openness and start listening defensively. Use the word and. You are a great person AND I am a teammate with you in this ministry. Can we look at some new options for next year? Or ask them a question. “I thought what you did with that women’s dinner was great in how you organized the night. What did you think? Is there anything you wish we would have done differently?” Or let’s say you look at the kids ministry, and as you look at it you see a total miss with the teaching plan. Instead of just complaining about it, look at what is right and encourage the workers. Then ask some questions. “I love how you draw such a great variety of kids. Is it hard to try to teach such a variation? How is the curriculum picked?” All of this, of course, is contingent upon you have the right motive and healthy relationship.
4) Speak the Truth in Love
I know that is what Paul did! Look at the love he had for his church…
“I know I distressed you greatly with my letter. Although I felt awful at the time, I don’t feel bad now that I see how it turned out. The letter upset you, but only for awhile…and you were jarred into turning things around. You let the distress bring you to God…And that’s what I was hoping for in the first place when I wrote the letter.” 2 Cor. 7: 8-11
We often ignore issues because we fear the consequences of hurting the relationship. But look at this proverb, “In the end, people appreciate frankness more than flattery.” Pr. 28:23
To not say something when there is a problem is as ridiculous as a doctor saying you don’t need surgery because it will hurt you.
Your goal as a leader is to build a culture that when someone enters, they see our unity and peace versus our places of disagreement.
Each of us are responsible for creating an atmosphere in which God can be found. Look at this command. “Pursue Peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble and through it many be wounded!” Hebrews 12:14-15. Do you realize that when you don’t deal with your frustration with someone, that MANY can be wounded? When you roll your eyes to someone about what “They” did in “their” ministry, that you just invited that person into your issue of frustration. Our goal is that no roots of bitterness grow, but that we will be an example of love in this community. Jesus said in John 13 that everyone will know that we are a Disciple of Jesus Christ because of our love for one another!
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