Conflict; no one really likes it, but it’s unavoidable. And although it would be nice for the Church to be exempt from conflict, we are not. Actually, churches run into a lot of conflict. But conflict isn’t always a bad thing; if resolved correctly, conflict can be strengthening to relationships and organizations. It can also improve the way we function, and call us higher in our sanctification.
What are the top 10 ways to manage conflict in the local church? 1-10
Jesus actually knew that conflict was inevitable for us all, so He spoke about it and taught us what to do. There are also many verses that teach us the right thing to do when in conflict. Additionally, there are practical tools that people can use when in conflict. We will discuss all of this throughout the post.
First, we must start with the Biblical basis of resolving conflict. Jesus lays it out pretty clearly for us.
Biblical Basis to Resolve Conflict
Luckily for us, Jesus gave us the proper steps to resolve conflict in the local church. This is because He knew that it would happen, and He wants us to follow Godly-conduct in this situation. In the quotes below, we find Jesus’ words. Here we will find the 3 steps to take when having a conflict with a brother or sister in Christ.
- Address your brother alone, addressing his fault. Ask him to listen to you, to change, and repent. If he does, then the conflict is resolved.
- If your brother does not listen, then bring others into the situation. Call the brother to Biblical standards, call him higher with at least one other church member .
- Then, if the brother still does not respond, you are to bring the issue to the church, specifically the church leaders. If they are being sinful or immoral and still doesn’t listen to the reproach of others, then they are no longer a brother to the body of Christ.
15 ‘If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector…’
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’
22 Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times…
35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.’— Matthew 18:15-17,21-22,35
1. Seek out Reconciliation and Resolution
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.— Colossians 3:13
Our primary goal when in conflict with a local church member is to seek out reconciliation and resolution. Reconciliation will come from forgiving the other person, this is especially important if we have felt hurt or grieved. On the same note, sitting with unforgiveness will not lead to a proper, Godly resolution. When we forgive, there will not only be a resolution between people, but also a resolution within our hearts.
The goal must be a resolution from both parties for the desired outcome to take place. We can only do this if we are unified, even if there are small disagreements along the way.
We are not to fight over who is right and wrong, but to work together collaboratively to make the church a more powerful place, used to reveal Christ to the world.
2. Invite Leadership’s Advice and Involvement
For lack of guidance a nation falls,— Proverbs 11:14
but victory is won through many advisers.
This proverb is very important to pay attention to when it comes to conflict. The writer of Proverbs is urging us to look at guidance and leadership. He says that guidance is so important that even an entire nation can fall without it. It is wise to seek leadership.
We can apply this knowledge to conflict. When in conflict, we will be able to find victory, which is resolution, through having many advisors and leaders involved.
3. Remain Humble
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.— Philippians 2:3
This is by far one of the most important actions to resolve conflict in the church. It takes humility to accomplish any other step in this list. I cannot stress enough just how important humility is.
Typically when there is conflict, we become defensive of our own thoughts or views, or we believe our way is right. But during this time, we must remember that we are called to be like Christ, and He was humble to the point of death. He truly died to Himself, and we must follow suit daily.
When following all of the points in this post, remember that you must be humble, or there will never be the proper resolution.
4. Listen to the Their Point of View
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.— James 1:19
Listening is a powerful tool that is often overlooked. As believers, we are called to listen to others. We should always be quick to listen, and slow to speak. Therefore, during a conflict, let us remember that it is better to hear rather than to be heard. It shows humility and understanding, and it also will expose one’s sins.
As we are listening, let us be corrected and admonished for the sake of our own sanctification. This is apart of being in the body of Christ, we are corrected by our own mistakes for the betterment of our souls.
5. Have a Neutral Meditator
But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.— Matthew 18:16
Jesus made it very clear in His instructions that meditators are helpful when present. Community is very important, and so is accountability, so meditators are a great way to go when resolving conflict. There is accountability in having meditators along with you because your actions and words will be confirmed by others.
6. As With Any Conflict, Take Responsibility
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.— Proverbs 28:13
During the conflict, if you have had any transgression against another person, you are to confess this. God knows our hearts, and He knows when we are concealing the truth from Him and others.
He will bestow mercy upon those who are repentant in heart; His mercy causes the repentant to prosper.
Take responsibility for your wrongdoings and shortcomings, because it will show your humility, while also strengthening the reconciliation between you and others involved.
Here is quote from Charles Spurgeon to help us understand Biblical repentance,
Repentance is a discovery of the evil of sin, a mourning that we have committed it, a resolution to forsake it. It is, in fact, a change of mind of a very deep and practical character, which makes the man love what once he hated, and hate what once he loved.
7. Schedule a Time to Talk
This is a very practical tip and may be obvious to some but not to others. It is important to schedule a time to talk, because it shows that you are being intentional with the situation, rather than passive.
In our culture, when we schedule a meeting, it typically means that there is importance and value to the meeting. When you take this step, it will show that you truly care about making things right and that you would like to address the situation in a practical manner.
When one merely steps aside and waits for the “right time” to talk, feelings and emotions may fester and brew causing bitterness to rise up, or even worse, the conversation and resolution may never happen.
8. Do Not Gossip or Slander
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.— Ephesians 4:29
During the conflict, it is easy to fall into the trap of gossiping or slandering of others. We often do this because we think that it will make us feel better in some way, but it is actually just hurtful to ourselves and others.
Paul his very clear in his teaching found in Ephesians, that we are to not let unwholesome talk about others come from us. This word unwholesome means rotten, bad, and worthless. There is no need for it in the body of Christ, because it produces nothing that is worthy.
We are to do the opposite, which would be to uplift our brothers and sisters with words of edification. When we are obedient to this, we will be building up the church and those who are a part of it, including the people that we have conflict with. This is pleasing to God.
9. Pray for Your Enemy
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.— Matthew 5:44
Jesus is very clear in His teachings; we are to love and pray for our enemies. This is by far one of the most difficult tasks we can accomplish as Christians, but it is a true act of humility and love.
In Luke 6:27-28, we find Jesus saying, “’But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.'”
In the church, we may have enemies, but that does not mean that we are not to love them and prefer them. Jesus would tell you to turn the other cheek and to treat them the way you would want to be treated.
Although this is hard, we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us be humble and to serve, rather than to be served concerning our brothers and sisters in the church.
10. Consider Yourself a Servant
And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John.
And Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.
But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,
and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’— Mark 10:41-45
When we serve our enemies, Jesus blesses us. This is because Jesus was a servant to us, and when we work as He did, we are blessed. In this passage of Scripture, we find Jesus explaining that He came to serve others, and that those who serve are the greatest in Heaven.
With this in mind, we have to remember that we are to serve others also, and this includes those who we are in conflict with. Amidst the conflict, ask Jesus how you can be a servant to others, rather than someone who wants to be served. Our actions will speak of love and humility as we choose to serve.
Why It Matters
Below, we will discuss why resolving conflict in the Church truly matters. We will start by examining the statistics of conflict in the church to understand the weightiness of conflict, as well as to see how very common it is.
But most importantly, we will discuss why resolving conflict matters to God. This is most important because ultimately we answer to Him, and He so desires us to love one another. God first loved us, so we are to love (1 John 4:19). Loving each other by resolving conflict is obedience towards Him.
The statistics cannot be overlooked; conflict is a huge issue in local churches across the world.
Here are some surprising statistics:
- 25% of churches experienced conflict in the last
two years that resulted in people leaving
- 1,500 pastors leave the church every month
because of conflict, burnout or moral failure.
- Only 1 in 20 pastors serve as pastors until
- Every year more than 19,000 congregations
experience major conflict.
- During the last 5 years 75% of churches in
America has experienced conflict; 25% of which
indicate the conflict was severe enough to
permanently impact church life.
(Sources: Duke University’s National Congregations Study 2006-2007; David A. Roozen, American Congregations 2008, Cooperative Congregational Studies
With these statistics in mind, we obviously could all use resources to help with inner church conflict. It is devastating to know that so many church conflicts are not resolved, with the result of people leaving the church.
It Matters to God
Jesus always taught us to love one another, and He especially wants the church to love those in the church because that is the mark of His disciples. He says so in John 13.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”— John 13:34-35
Jesus says that our love for one another will be our mark to the rest of the world. If we do not love those in the body of Christ, how will the world know that we follow Jesus and why should we tell the world to love if we do not? The world should be so awed by our love for one another that they know we are different.
Does this mean that we cannot have conflict? Absolutely not. Even Jesus predicted our conflicts as we saw in Matthew 18. So, if we still are to have conflict, that leaves us with the question of how we are to love through conflict.
We love through conflict by practicing humility, servanthood, selflessness, ad sacrifice. Jesus said in John 13:34 that we are to love each other in the same way that He loved us. That means we are to lay down our lives for one another, to prefer one another, and to always turn the other cheek.
If you would like a list of what love is, and what love is not, look to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7; “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Use this verse to compare your actions to when in conflict, and ask yourself if you are loving.