Do you know that you arean ambassador of Christ?
Romans 12:17-21; 1 Corinthians 6:1-8; 2 Corinthians 5:20; Galatians 6:1-5
We must remember that as a Christian and ambassador of Christ, we are to proceed any endeavor with the Fruits of the Spirit where love is our focus. We must have the proper motives before we can be the peace makes and resolve the conflict. Galatians tell us,
"Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load." (Galatians 6:1-5)
We are to take seriously the call to be responsible for each other in love and care. When we help each other, even in the midst of conflict, to point out sin and wrong doing, we are helping that person. We need to take seriously the call that our Lord gave us, that we are positioned to be peacemakers and help in the restoration process of all humankind from evangelism to conflict management.
Restore gently is with the attitude of love and care, not being overly harsh and, especially, not allowing our anger and outrage to get the best of us. God did not express His anger and outrage to us or we would be space dust, rather He gave patience and grace. We are to reflect and replicate His way and not ours. The primary goal with any confrontation is the restoration of the individual, just as it is God's will to restore us in our love relationship with Him. The goal is not the chastising; this is not a sport, but a serious manner where the person must be dealt with the motive and attitude of respect.
Our churches are riddled with conflict and we need to realize the frustration levels of the people we deal with. Most Christians can and will act in a very ungodly manner and, basically, bite the hand that feeds them. The forces that drive them are fear. Fear of change, fear of being wrong, fear of being embarrassed, and a fear of having no control. We need to see the root motives of others and ourselves in order to deal with the attitude and situations respectively. When we are ministering to those who are insecure and bring our own insecurities, then the proper attitudes will be cut off and our effectiveness will be mute. Our motives must not be self based but Christ based, so when we go into a conflict situation we can deal with it in a levelheaded attitude.
Our own motive must be in the restoration of God's people from sin, not the work of the Holy Spirit, but our call of being constructive and providing solutions, not more strife. Our call is to extol people, that is to come along their side with comfort and help. We are to help each other grow in our relationships with God and each other. And with this motive in mind, sheepdog people on the right path when they veer off, as a loving parent does with a child. As a community of believers, we are responsible for each other, including the actions and deeds that we extol on to each other. We are also responsible to extol each other onto the right path. So conflict management is not a double barrel shotgun, but the love to extol and lift up each other. Conflict management must have the best interests in mind for the people involved as well as the church, and most importantly a driving force to glorify our Lord. We get ourselves into trouble when we try to be a savior/ super hero and 'save the day,' so we look good. Our focus is not just to look good, but lift up our Lord.
Be Prepared Spiritually
Before a leader or any Christian can be effective to extol each other, we ourselves must be prepared. Extol is defined when attributed to God as to give praise very highly, that goes beyond emotion and experience, but into a deep commitment and passion. Extol is also the ability to encourage and lift up someone beyond just to tolerate and put up with. So we need to extol as our Lord did for us and then extol to each other. We also need to extol with gentleness and firmness when we confront and encourage the person being confronted. Sometimes the person we confront is innocent, and we need to follow our Constitutional law of innocent until proven guilty, this is Biblical.
So when we confront someone, it must be to lift him or her up while pointing out the grievance and we have to be prepared mentally and spiritually to do this. This is why it is important that someone new to the faith, or someone not as mature, should not get involved in conflict management. Our preparation in any situation is our maturity in the Lord, and the knowledge of the situation, the person, and ourselves. We need to ask ourselves these questions so we can confront with the proper attitude and motive.
First, we must be willing to deal with conflict in a healthy manner and not hide ourselves from it. Are you willing to abide to the mandates of Scripture or are you too engrossed in your anger? If not, you cannot possibly be objective and listen. Are you yourself willing to admit your mistakes and sins, if not, how can you expect others to do so? Are you driven by God's Word and not your own will so you can listen and be objective? Can you, as a person in Christ, handle change and growth where you have not been before? If not, how do you propose to handle others with encouragement and help where you have not been? Do you have the confidence to go against the peer pressure and expectation of others if they are not in alignment with God's Word in order to stand up for truth? If not, you will not have the courage to extol to the level the person may need. Do you have the thick skin and tenacity to listen to self-criticism without it effecting your self-esteem? That is if someone accuses you falsely, can you stand up with confidence of who you are in Christ and not melt away? These characteristics must precede the conflict management process, if not, you will create an even bigger mess. Remember you cannot do the work of our Lord effectively until you are modeling His Character!
The good capable leader will be sensitive to the recognition of the seeds of conflict. That is the type of conflict that simmers below the public surface that we do not show until we are "fed up." Such as people avoiding other people, with such comments like, "I just do not like Timmy" or "I am just not drawn to that person or personality." Now it is unrealistic to expect everyone to like everyone else. As Christians, we will all end up in Heaven together, so we should get along, but we do not. There are tendencies for simple personality dislikes turning into eruptions, we should beware of them and have a plan to deal with them. When we have our radar screens up for conflict detection at its earliest, it will prevent blow-ups later.
A few years ago there was a story in the LA paper of a woman in Florida who won the lottery. She called her live-in boyfriend, told him the news and told him to pack. He responded, thinking they were going on a trip, "That's great, what should I pack, for hot or cold weather?" The woman responded, "I don't care as long as you are out before I come home!" Life is full of interpersonal storms. Either we are in a storm or we are leaving a storm, but one thing is clear, a storm is sure to be on the way! So how we deal with it will make the difference of a bump in the road or all out divorce.
The storms of life can be such a frustrating experience, but also a source of growth and maturity. But the crisis in of themselves can be an opportunity or a danger, as the Chinese word for crisis expounds both the characters of danger and opportunity. They come into our life sometimes without a hint of warning, and other times it is our own miss planning and arrogance that gets in the way and creates the problem. We cannot avoid them, so we need to learn how to deal with crisis in a Biblical and mature manner. If not, the results can and will be devastating and un-repairable.
The pastor must beware of his leaders' situation and the maturity level of their leadership. If the elders are not mature enough to handle a disagreement in a calm level and encouraging way, then they will just make the situation worse. Because in an unhealthy and immature church (which most churches fall into these days), a pastor or leader who confronts the wrong person of sin or any situation will find their bags packed and office vacant. I have seen this situation in church growth consulting over and over. The people who are supposed to suppress it in the first place blow a simple disagreement way out of proportion. Maturity is your key. The problem is most people think they are mature, but in fact they are not. Your template for finding your and the leaders maturity level is in Galatians 5. A pastor can survive having sinned greatly himself, such as infidelity, but they will not survive confronting a key money giver or key personality in the immature church. This is extremely unfortunate, and a lot of leg work needs to be done to disciple and help a church mature, or seek another call and wipe the dust off your feet.
To be a healthy church, we must have a plan of action on how to handle conflict. The ability to deal with conflict as it emerges will allow a church to stay healthy and vibrant. So it is my goal to show from Scripture a simple model of conflict management that can provide the foundation of understanding to create and implement this essential value in church leadership. It is the wise and mature church that can receive and give criticism as well as to have a written out Biblical plan to deal with it when it ventures off too far.
Principle Scripter to How to Understand, Solve, and Prevent Conflict: Genesis 4; Psalm 37:4; Proverbs 3:4-6; 18:13; Matthew 5:9; 7:5; 15:18-20; 18: 15-20; Luke 6:27-36; 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; Colossians 1:17-20; 3:12-17 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