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Why People in Church Fight?

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
How and why churches breakdown, the Synopsis of the Research and insights from Schaeffer himself.

How and why churches breakdown, the Synopsis of the Research and insights from Schaeffer himself.

People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. 2 Timothy 3:2-5

In the late 1970's, Francis Schaeffer was a witness to an escalating church fight that happened in my first pastoral position, one which resulted in a schism that once started, kept building up until he was called home in 1984, then the church split. Through this process he personally talked and listened to the parties involved and gave lectures at this church. As he mentored me through this tenuous situation, he shared many insights from his personal, pastoral experiences with me as well as gave me encouragement. He was deeply fascinated with how and why all this happened, and his interest eventually launched this long-term research project.

Here are some excerpts from those lectures and conversations:

…As a people who follow Christ, we are in and a relationship to the One who is here and to others who are here. Our right ecclesiastical position is important, but only as a starting point to go on into loving and living relationships, these things we do are not as ends in themselves, they are to know and grow in Him. He becomes more, we become less, then we become more in our relations and opportunities to be personally transformed, renewed and be impacting to one another to our culture and societies at large. It starts in our hearts and must follow us to here in these halls…

…Because of the Fall we all became abnormal and dysfunctional. It is not just that us as individuals are separated from God by our true moral guilt, but each of us is not what God intended to make or us to be, what He wanted us to be more of Him and less of ourselves. Beyond each of us as individuals, human relationships is sin and pride, desires that feed upon ours and others sin and desires, all of which is not what God meant us to be or behave as His Fruitful Bride. In our interpersonal dealings we have to be aware of our sin nature, we are abnormal, our wholeality, our cause and effect is from sin and the choices we make, even the entirety of history shows us this as significant, as we are now abnormal. To say it another way: there is much more which we should be and not be as a Fruitful Bride of Christ… How do you display this?

…In saying that God is there, here with us now, saying we are saying God exists, but are we showing that God exists in our being and not just talking about the Word God, or the idea God, but exercising His Word in our being so it shows in our dealings with one another. Have any of you read any of the "one another" passages, love one another… a glimpse in a Bible reference or concordance may give you convection or at the very least awareness, insights into this sin and how to become His Fruitful Bride. You say God is here not by mere mouths and words written down but by continual actions said and done. This is what transforms a church and influences a society, our reality in Christ acted upon into others…

…In order to understand the problems of our church or our families or our societal breakdowns, we should be very wise to sin so to be alive to His distinction. Arguments may make up the heart of your church world, but it does not have to be. Through the Christian call and life of true spirituality one can rise above to such things, as forgiveness, by accepting Christ's precepts, study, not just as a philosophy, rather as a life to be well lived in the here and now, in this very room and up the steps I see outside that go to the worship place, the alter, that beautiful display of wood and cross of crucifixion, as we rise to go to Him. There is no reason why this cannot happen in us and through us, less we take in more sin or ignore Him. Should we not be glad for the concept that kind words reflects our kind Savior, we need to be defined in Jesus Christ as Lord before we can be used in communication and connection. As Christians, we must understand that we have a call, we have a responsibility, we have a mission, we have a Lord a God who is there as in He is here. Here we are called in this church "All Saints," do these word's mean meaningless? …Live your lives to know this and reflect this. We have no meaningless "god,"? How do you live? How should you live? How will you live? In this place and through this place?

…Consequently, let us not be confused. There is much "spirituality" about us today that is needed to be built upon, we need to relate our Christian life to the word of God or not just the idea of a god; but this is not what we are talking about. Biblical truth and spirituality is not a relationship to the Word God, it is a forcep to His Way and true Truth that we must know and reflect in our relationships, especially here, in this hall, on these grounds, if not, how can you now live? The idea we have of God will pave the way of our relationship to the One who is here, then to one another's as God's Word declares us to do so...

…This is our calling. This is part of our richness to be in Christ. the reality of what true spirituality is about, the Christian life in action, in relation to my brethren not my separation from my fellowmen, including those fellow men who are my perceived enemies or distracters, we are brothers and sisters in Christ, in the church as a whole and in the this precious local congregation as in any other Christian group. Our efforts are not to be practiced in sin or in pride or by a dull, ugly way; to be a Fruitful Bride is to be a thing of true beauty, practiced by those within, and observed by those outside. This is an important part in preaching the gospel to the all of humanity who are still in revolution against God; but if we are in revolution to one another what does this say of Christ? More on this in my work, "True Spirituality." Our confessions in action is the only thing that is right on the basis of the existence of the personal God exhibited in us and on the basis of what Christ did for us in history, on the cross…

…And having come this far, true spirituality is the Christian life that flows on into the total culture from our investment in Christ first and foremost…

- Francis A. Schaeffer, (notes from the lectures at All Saints Church, Carmel Ca, he also read out of John 3:30, cir 1980).

Findings about Church Relationship Breakdowns

The wiliness and ability to build effective relationships is paramount in the long-term success and health of any given church.

In the course of research that first went into the subject "why churches fail," we also interviewed scores of psychologists and counseling pastors, asking them, "What are the main factors and reasons people fight with one another? This became an independent study and took on a life of its own.

· Why do people fight?

· How do people fight?

· What are the tactics that keep those fights going?

· What are the main causes of "church" breakups?

· What are the main causes of "relationship" breakups?

· What can be done to solve and prevent these conflicts?

Research Abstract: Our in-depth investigations (1980-1998), and an online retest (July of 2008 with less than 5% statistical variation) have shown that a direct correlation exists between people who are satisfied in church, and who are friend makers and keepers, with the overall effective health of the church. There is also, in contrast, a direct correlation between those who are not satisfied in their church, who lack the ability or make no effort to make friends in a church setting and those who cause church fights and failures. This study shows that effective relationships are paramount in the contribution to long-term church relational success and health (CS=2,153 surveyed for the retest). This includes the study of varying seasons of life (20-30, 30-40 years, and 40-50, 60-70 years) relative to church and leadership satisfaction (satisfied versus being dissatisfied). Leaders independently completed surveys and interviews. The retest consisted of a split form, namely email questionnaires, and then a faction of people (85) participating in a focused group workshop that gave attention to areas of conflict versus sources of spiritual joy. Findings supported a positive view of a personal, local, as well as universal Church where friendship was practiced and conflict resolved-or the willingness to be resolved was present, and people felt connected and accepted. Compared with those dissatisfied by gossip, strife stemming from a lack of connection or spiritual activity as evidenced (a) by a reduced congregational participation in spiritual things such as small groups, Bible Studies, and prayer meetings. This was also compared to the potential and then actuality for conflict and greater potential for spiritual growth in several areas (including High school youth). (b). Equivalent levels of feeling accepted and stress that were related to physical health, and (c) differences in levels of Christian maturity. The relation between factions and their relative satisfaction and spiritual fitness was stronger for those who practiced biblical precepts than for those who only came to worship services and not to small groups or invested in personal devotions. In satisfied church goers, church health was equivalent: in dissatisfied church members, more stress and personal health problems were reported than from the satisfied group. Resulting key factors such as being Defensive and Critical, Withdrawn, having Anger and Contempt were ascertained to be the prime issues in relational breakdowns including a root of pride, personal agendas being detrimental to a church, or of biblical precepts broken by an adherence to sin.

Commentary Abstract: Our findings from people's perceived disappointments show the importance of relationship building-from leaders to key people. Our observations of healthy churches and practice have clearly shown there also needs to be a joy and hospitality which is obvious both to the visitor and long-time member. Carrying out the presence of Christ and the receiving of love and the Fruit of the Spirit in real practice equals to a healthy church. People who love other people make them feel expected and accepted; visitors are welcomed from the moment they first enter the church and are joyfully engaged by others who are glad they are there. Others are listening, sharing laughter as well as tears, the leaders have real humility and are growing in Christ, and they teach with authority and conviction. The leaders and pastors smile; the truth of Jesus Christ is a part of them. They are immersed in His Word and filled with His Spirit, as Christ is present in their church and daily life. Because their intimate relationship with Christ affects their interpersonal and family relationships, the church is healthy. In contrast, pastors and leaders who see their position as a job, a form of drudgery or for personal agendas, there is no engaging of one another among their people. There is no hospitality or laughter or joy-only gloom and dysfunction, regardless of theological correctness. Theology is important, but we must also practice our faith with joy to really exhibit Christ, for He has called us to build an excellent church for His glory!

This study also revealed that the disappointments that contribute to Anger or the practice of being Defensive, Critical, showing Contempt, and being Withdrawn within the church are formed from the clash between expectations and experiences, ignoring the signposts of God's promises. A wrecked life of self-pity and resentment is created as our expectations collide with our experiences. However, it can lead to a triumphant life. The choice is ours in building a healthy church and the key is where we look for our hope!

Biblical findings: This is about our circumstances, how we look at our Lord, and how our hurts can be escalated into weapons of hurt for others. Our perception of adversity and His sovereignty will totally affect how we learn to deal with all of these (Phil 1:27-30). Unanchored stress and disappointment, along with detachment from looking to God will take us away from seeing His signposts of precepts and thus we will engage in the practice of Defensiveness, Criticalness, Contempt and Withdrawal. We ignore God's plan, and we are dumped in the middle of a tossed sea (Job 23:10; Rom. 5:3-5; 1 Thess. 5:16-18; James 1:1-8). We cannot just expect God to get us through without any effort on our part. To grow, we have to struggle and work it out (Phil. 2). It is the struggle that helps us; it is what builds us and forms us. Without it, there is no growth, no real impacting faith, honest character, genuine patience, or maturity (Prov. 3:5-6; 20:30; Job. 36:5; Rom. 8:28-29; 2 Cor. 1:9; 1 Peter 1:6-7). When we do not rely on God, we are not taking care of ourselves by helping Him out; rather, we are insulting Him and thus producing a church of suppression instead of what Schaeffer coined, a Fruitful Bride!

The path to Relationship Breakdown: John 3:5; Romans 3:23; 1 Corinthians 4:6; 5:2; 13:4; 2 Corinthians 5:12; 10:17-18; Galatians 6:1-5; Colossians 1:18; 2 Timothy 3:2-5; James 1:9-10; 4: 1-6 ; 1 Peter 5:5; Revelation 3:17

· Relationship Breakdown: Proverbs 13:12; Matthew 5: 1-12; John 16:33; Acts 20:31; Romans 6:11; 15:5-7; 1 Corinthians 12:26; 2 Corinthians 2:1-4; 4:6; 5:2, 12; 10:17-18; Galatians 6:1-8; Ephesians 1:3-7; 4: 2, 11-16, 25-32; Colossians 2:13,14; Ephesians 1:3-5; 4:2, 11-15; 26; 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8; James 1:9-10, 19; 4:1-11, 29; 1 Peter 1:22-2:10; 4:7-11; 29; 5:5

· Pride: Job 35:12-13; 40:12; 41:34; 2 Chronicles 26:16; 32:26; Psalm 10:4-5; 18:27; 31:18; 56:2; 59:12; 62:10; 73:6-12; 101:5; 119:21; 131:1; 6:17; Proverbs 3:34; 8:13; 11:2; 13:10; 16:5,18; 17:4; 21:4; 24; 27:2; 28:25-26; 29:23; 30:13; Isaiah 2:11-21; 5:21; 13:19; 16: 6; 23:9; Ezekiel 28:2; Obadiah 1:3; Habakkuk 2:4; Mark 9:35; Luke 16:15; John 5:44; Romans 1:21-32; 12:16;1 Corinthians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 5:12; 7:4; Galatians 6:4 and these are just a few!

· Defensive Mechanisms: Proverbs 17:4; Matthew 7:1-5; 21-23; 25:31-33; Luke 15:17-19; John 5:22

· Defensiveness: Proverbs 17:14; John. 3:5; 13:34, 35; Ephesians 4:15; 2 Timothy 2:23-24; 4:1-2; 1 Peter 5:5

· Contempt: Psalm 94:4; 18:25-26; 62:12; Proverbs 27:15; 29:9; Matthew 7:1-5; John 5:24; 16:33; Romans 2: 1-16; 1 Corinthians 3:18; 4:17; 2 Timothy 2:22-26; 2 Peter 2:10

· Criticism: 2 Samuel 6:20; Psalm 15; Proverbs 17:27-28; 26:18-20; Philippians 2:3-6; James 3:13-4:2

· Withdraw: Matthew 5: 13-16; John 1:15; 16:33; Galatians 6; Colossians 1:13; James 1:5-8; 1 Peter 2:9

· Getting Over It: Job. 23:10; 36:5; Psalm 19:12-14; 139:23-24; Proverbs 25:15; Jeremiah 17:9-10; Romans 5:3-5; 1 Corinthians 12:26; 13:4-8; 2 Corinthians 2:1-4; Galatians 6:3-5; Ephesians 4:15-32; 5:1-2. 28-29; Philippians 1:27-30; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Ephesians 4:31-32; Hebrews 12:15; 1 Peter 2:17, 3: 7

· Disappointments: Psalm 136; 142:1-7; Proverbs 3:5-6; 20:30; 23:10; Isaiah 26:3; Matthew 6:33; 21:21-22; John 7:17-18; Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 1:9; 4:7-12; Philippians 1:27-28; James 1:4-8; 1 Peter 1:6-7

· Anger: Job 5:6-7; 14:1; Proverbs 14:29; 15:18; 16:32; 27:12; 28:1-3; 29:11; 22; Ecclesiastes 7:9; Matthew 6:34; 18:15-17; 21:12-13; John 2:13-16; Romans 1:18; 6:11; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Galatians 6:1-2; Ephesians 1:7; 4:25-27; Colossians 2:13-14; James 1: 1-3, 19-21; 1 Peter 5:8-9

· Destructive Nature of Anger: Psalm 37:8; Proverbs 6:16-19; Romans 12:18-21; Galatians 5:19- 21; Ephesians 4:31; 1 Peter 3:7

· Self Control: Proverbs 16:32; 25:28; Romans 13:12-14; 1 Corinthians 6:12; 9:25-27; 1 Thessalonians 5: 22; Titus 2:12; Hebrews 12:2; 2 Peter 1:5-7

· Compassion: Job 29:13; Psalm 136; Proverbs 17:4-5; Isaiah 40:11; Matthew 9:35-36; Mark 1:41; 9:41; Luke 10:25-37; 19:4; John 7:17-18; Romans 2:4; 12:1; Ephesians 4:23; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; James 1:5-8; 1 Peter 3:8

· Building Healthy Relationships: Genesis 4:4-7; Psalm 23:4; 27:1-14; Proverbs 1:7; 3:3-10; 12:25, 28; 25:15; Isaiah 1:10-15; Jeremiah 6: 20; Amos 5:21-24; Matthew 5:11-12; John 3:5; 8:12; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 10:23-24; 2 Corinthians 3:16-17; 4:6; 9:12-13; Ephesians 4:15, 5:8-9; Philippians 1:27-30; 2:3-8, 14-15; Colossians 4:6; Hebrews 11:6; James 1:17;1 Peter 1:22-23; 2:9-12, 21-27; 1 John 4:7-12

Our Research

From our findings, we looked at Schaeffer's insights, then our surveys and interviews, placed them as statistics, related these to our personal consulting and pastoral experiences and compared them to our biblical, exegetical research. We even looked at the secular world of psychology. All we seemed to find from psychology were symptoms-no root issues or effectual solutions. Although these are important to know and deal with, they are not the source causes of relationship breakdowns in a church or in interpersonal relationships. We wanted more; we wanted the meat of the matter. After careful research and compiling, we found five key categories of symptoms that tear like a cancer at the heart of any relationship. Whether in a marriage or dating situation, in the work place, in the church lobby, or in the boardroom, the symptoms and causes were operating in the same strategy. This should not be surprising, since all these categories involve relationships and a church is a collection of personal connections between people and people, and people and God. Each of these causes of why people fight is rooted in a prime cause. Several years after our initial research, I stumbled upon a major study that found similar results to ours (Research compiled by Dr. John Gottman, Ph.D. Although his is on marital research, it has provided outstanding results, insights, and areas for pastors and counselors to be aware of and cover. However, I believe his findings are also just symptoms and not the root of the problem.
Why People in Church Fight? Part II Defensiveness, Criticalness, Contemptuous and Withdraw!
Why People in Church Fight? Part III Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall...
Why People in Church Fight? Part IV Do you feel you have to be right to speak your mind, even when you do not have all the facts?
Why People in Church Fight? Part V If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions...
Why People in Church Fight? Part VI We can grow beyond our natural tendency to put others down by focusing on what Christ did for us and...

© 2008, Research from 1980- 1998, 2007-2008, R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D., Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development

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