Thoughts about church fights and an update on the latest recap of AMC’s The Walking Dead. A cover of the Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash.
This episode came to mind after a conversation with my sister and a pastor friend that are both going through something in there churches, respectively. Here are some of the things I have learned.
There will always be some level of conflict whenever human beings gather, so expect it in the church too. I didn’t and it hurt me. The pastor should be the head of the church. If the deacons are fighting the pastor they are out of order. Anything with more than one head is a monster.
I’d like to hear if you have a story or a comment about this subject. 301-828-1414.
Thought for today: Dying churches spend their energy fighting each other and fighting change.
Growing churches spend their energy fighting for new opportunities to reach un-churched people and speaking up for the change that will impact their lives.
Conflict and division destroys faith and blights the Christian witness in the community. Some churches with a great history of evangelism and growth have been torn apart by dissension and factions and are now only a shadow of what they used to be.
The potential for conflict exists where two or more people are present, and the church is people. People often experience conflict as a result of divergent ideas and opinions, conflicting ambitions and goals, and varying needs and concerns. The potential for conflict is never far away. It crouches at the door ready to move in to disrupt, divide, embarrass, and destroy all that is sacred and holy.
Acts 6 reminds us that churches are never free from conflict when they are true to their mission, and you don’t pastor long until you discover the need for conflict management tools.
A majority of the conflict experienced in churches is the product of changing times rather than creative leadership. Remarkable changes have occurred in the pressures that pastors bear compared to pressures they experienced when their word was seldom questioned and their authority prevailed. Pastors need not be surprised when they find their authority and plans challenged, and they are caught up in a whole storm of protest. It’s happening in every institution in our society, including the church.
Laypeople, frustrated by feelings of powerlessness from personal or professional change, often displace their frustrations and act them out in the church. Why there? The church is one of the few places they fear little or no recrimination. These conflicts must be managed constructively by mature church leadership
Occasional personality conflicts between segments of the congregation and the pastor can affect the pastor’s influence. But in most instances, it is a conflict with the position of pastor as the source of legitimate power in church leadership. People who refuse to engage in sincere, mature mediation while respecting the position of the pastor need to be seen for what they are and dealt with as decisively as possible (cf. 3 John 9–12 for the scriptural precedent).
3 John 9-12New International Version (NIV)
9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. 10 So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.
11 Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. 12 Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.
DISRUPTIVE, MANIPULATIVE PEOPLE
When you have to deal with a disruptive, manipulative person on your staff or in your church, remember that such a person will see your kindness as stupidity. He or she will try to make your attempts at reason and reconciliation look like evidence of weakness. And your prolonged patience will be seen as an extended opportunity to manipulate and exploit the circumstances.
If you find yourself caught in the throes of a person’s critical attempt to disrupt the church, it’s important to keep your program going as though nothing had happened—including those justifiable features which may be under irresponsible attack. Don’t publicize conflict. The truth will “out,” eventually.
Mature members of the church will, in time, see the wisdom of what Paul admonished the church at Rome to do: “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple [innocent]” (Romans 16:17,18).
By your words and deeds teach your people what good leadership looks like. And keep your hand on all levels of the leadership-selection process in your church. This is how you sustain—and at the same time contain—those unhealthy people in your congregation. Pray that exposure to the properly functioning body of Christ will bring healing to them before they can damage the cause of Christ.
DISRUPTIVE, ARGUMENTATIVE PEOPLE
Disruptive, argumentative people will make your board or committee meetings even more difficult than they would otherwise be. They will want to override every other point of view during your times of deliberation and control the decisions you reach as a group. Save yourself a headache by keeping these kinds of people in positions of prominence—without power.
During your deliberation of conflict-laden church business, encourage free discussion of the issues with all parties involved. In your board meetings and in your departmental and committee meetings, encourage differing viewpoints. You can do this easily by being careful how you respond to someone who has given an opposing point of view. Say to this person in the group meeting, “Thank you for sharing from your standpoint. Now, let’s hear from someone else.”
It came to pass
FOUR RULES FOR A “FAIR FIGHT”
When it becomes obvious that there are major differences of opinion and the road to resolution is going to be a long and difficult one, remember these four rules for a “fair fight.” I most often share these with married couples who have communication problems; however, they are certainly applicable to such intense situations as difficult church board and committee meetings.
1. Stick to the subject. Don’t dig up last month’s garbage.
2. Don’t “fight” dirty. Don’t say things that are primarily designed to express your anger and hurt the other person. This makes your job more difficult and produces memories that are hard to erase.
3. Learn how to negotiate. Make the department, program, congregation, and the body of Christ the real winners. Put their needs ahead of your need to win. This doesn’t mean you go 50/50 all the time. Sometimes you will have to go 60/40, 80/20, or even 90/10. Of course, not every decision can be reached through compromise, but be willing to use it whenever and wherever it works.
4. Stay good humored. Learn to see your disagreements in light of that little transitional phrase from the Gospels: “It came to pass.” Remember, the vast majority of your differences will “come to pass.”