Conflict and discipline may conjure up medieval inquisitions, emotional trauma from being overly disciplined as children, or libelous defamation of other's character. Personal accountability has gone under the strata of the Jurassic period, that it now takes a pastoral Archeologist to dig it up again. Personal confrontation and the sharing of ethics have become a repulsive by-word in our society and not the virtue, as it should be. When our government leaders directly lie to us and spin their wheels to keep denying and changing the definition of morality, then the resolution of the conflict becomes castrated. Thus it becomes more vigorous and spreads its message of hopelessness and strife.
These thoughts of action into the life of others has become a difficult role for the church to fill, mostly out of fear of offending and then the fear of confronting itself. Most Christians and leaders have no idea on the responsibility and Biblical instruction concerning confrontation because they have not experienced it, seen it demonstrated at all, or have experienced it skewed and misrepresented. We may flee from the accountability and obligation, so we ignore the problem hoping it will go away as some of my examples in preceding chapters. It can be a family member who we refuse to chastise because they will not like us, even our children, because our lead comes from Dr. Spock and not God's Word. Or it can be a friend who is in sin, but we do not want to lose their friendship, so we look the other way. It can be a teenager who knows their friend drinks and drives but will not tell anybody, thinking they would be giving up a confidence. So their friend gets himself arrested or killed, where is the friendship in that?
Conflict can be Successfully Managed and used to Build
Yes conflict management is a hard act to do, and my least favorite job in the church, but it is a necessity for a healthy church. So to avoid the conflict in the first place is to have a Biblical plan to resolve it. And when we play Ostrich and bury our head in the ground, the strife keeps building and we become the wicked servant who hides their Talents instead of investing for His Body: Because one of the main aspects of being in Christ is accountability. We are first accountable for our sins that Christ covers and mutes, then we respond with the attitude of love to God, and then to His people, i.e. the great commandment.
Five Main Ways Mature People Respond to Conflict
How we respond to conflict reflects our maturity and spiritual growth! Make sure you examine yourself to confirm that you did not offend. And, if you did, be open, honest, and seek forgiveness and reconciliation (Matt. 7:5).
· First, Ignore It! You can ignore the issue if it is minor, as a means of forgiveness. Or, just politely tell the person of the offense and offer your forgiveness. There is no need for a process, and thus no need for a conflict (Prov. 12:16; 19:11; 17:14; Col. 3:13; 1 Pet. 4:8).
· Second, Reconcile it! Through a third party such as a pastor, elder, attorney, or mutual mature friend, sit and talk in the Fruit of the Spirit; pray, listen, and be willing to reconcile and forgive. See only the win-win scenario. The importance of confession and admitting one's own offence and wrong is paramount, no matter how minor. Pride is the only enemy (Prov. 28:13; Matt. 18:15; 5:22-24).
· Third, Discuss it Further! A simple discussion will not suffice and more time and process is needed. This is where all parties involved with a third neutral person go through the reconciliation processes of Matthew 18. This can be some form of professional arbitration or mediation of pastoral council. Confession, repentance. and accountability are the keys (Matt. 8:15-20; 1 Cor. 6:1-8; Phil. 2:3-4).
Being a disciple of Christ and making disciples requires the devotion, nurture, commitment to the Word, and worship. Most mature Christians would agree on these basics, but what else is required is discipline, the ability to be studious, and to be accountable. Certain behaviors are not acceptable in the church, such as fornication; thus we are called to get rid of them. The sins and the people doing and continuing in them are destructive to themselves and others and, if they refuse to cease, must be dealt with. The Westminster Confession states,
"Church censures are necessary, for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren, for deterring of others from the like offenses, for purging out of that leaven which might infect the whole lump, for vindicating the honor of Christ, and the holy profession of the gospel, and for preventing the wrath of God, which might justly fall upon the church, if they should suffer His covenant, and the seals thereof to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders." (Westminster Confession XXXIII)
Church censure is not a politically correct thing to do in a society that tolerates anything except righteousness. But if we do not resolve these conflicts and have a plan to deal with them, then we are in violation of a higher order. We need to concern ourselves with what is best for His church, not what is best for our culture. Culture is a reflection of people's desires and plans converging synergistically. The church is a convergence of the people of God giving God the glory. They are separate entities, even though the culture is worshipping in and leading the church. We sometimes need to be not 'politically correct' and we may suffer some rebuke from our culture and society. But the consequence from not acting, that so many churches do creates the diseases of destruction. The purpose is not to punish, but to pursue reconciliation and repentance.
Our basis and starting point is God's character. Peter tells us "we are to be holy because God is holy," and the way we can respond to this call is by being accountable in our personal lives as believers and as a church. So we need to realize that one of our calls is to participate in conflict management so the wickedness of our nature does not get out of hand. God's Word does give us the guidelines and focus for proper confrontation and the management of problems, so we can be more effective in His service.
Principle Scripter to How to Understand, Solve, and Prevent Conflict: Genesis 4; Proverbs 3:4-6; 18:13; Matthew 7:5; 15:18-20; 18: 15-20; Luke 19:1-9; Romans 8:28-29; 1 Corinthians 6:1-8; 10:31-11:1; 13; Galatians 5; Ephesians 4:22-32; 5:1; Philippians 2:3-6; 4:2-9; James 4:1-3; 1 John 14:15
© 1989, 1998, 2007 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D., Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development www.churchleadership.org