One of the results of the cosmic rebellion of our first parents was a total breakdown of relationships. We are not only at enmity with God but with one another.
“I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid…Who told you? … Have you eaten from the tree…? The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it…to the woman God said, ‘your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you’….” (Genesis 3:10-19).
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.” (James 4:1-2).
Before we start on a journey to learn how to deal with conflict, let’s lay down 4 foundational principles:
1. Christ Overcomes
Christ overcomes the conflicts in the Church. He is reconciling ALL things (2 Cor. 5:16-19; Col. 1:19,20). You can learn operating principles and ideas for dealing with the inevitability of conflict. Do not lose heart as you struggle through. Christ overcomes the obstacles and conflicts to the Gospel, through the Gospel.
2. Prayer is Foundational
Prayer is the guard against both the enemy’s subtle and not so subtle attacks and the world’s system that hates the church. The spiritual nature of starting a church — to remaining word, mission, and community centered — will be opposed. God answers prayers for peace and reconciliation, because He is the One who has promised to reconcile all things.
3. You Will Encounter Conflict
It is not a matter of if you will encounter conflict, but when you do. One thing I’ve learned over the years of developing new churches is this: the Evil One lies in wait for the most opportune time to pounce. The younger the church, the more destructive the conflict will be. Church plants are exceedingly vulnerable to conflict among the people. It's a high-risk venture. Often there are people involved who left their previous church with unresolved conflict; often there are cultural and/or race barriers that can lead to offenses; there are non-Believers and Believers together in the church; and more and more the political environment is increasingly anti-Church.
4. Ignorance is Not What’s Best
No matter how much you resist dealing with conflict, you must learn to effectively, lovingly, and firmly navigate conflict between people in church, personal conflict others create with you, and the conflict you create with others.
There is only one “magic bullet”: the Gospel. No matter the conflict, God has called you to a ministry of reconciliation with a message of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-19).
Human sheep are dangerous to their shepherds and to the other sheep. Conflict can come in the form of teens and their parents, husbands and wives wanting divorce, and members who are being sued by others outside your church (and want you to intervene).
Unfortunately, most pastors, Church Planters, and Christian leaders are ill equipped or naïve when dealing with conflict in the church. “Pastors list conflict management as the most needed training they lacked in their Bible College or Seminary training” (Alfred Poirier, The Peace Making Pastor). Few people have been given the skills or training needed to deal lovingly with conflict and it might drive you out of ministry.
To begin to explore how the Gospel answers the conflict(s) you will face with others and others will have with one another, download your FREE eBook “Handling Conflict in the Church” today!
If you would like to read the full chapter about dealing with “Conflict in the New Church” from the “Church Planter Field Manual:Climbing” you can download the eBook for just $5 today at http://www.cmmnet.org/communications
The “Church Planter Field Manual: Climbing” is designed to empower leaders to multiply gospel-saturated, missionally-engaged and reproducing churches in their cities or regions. In “Climbing”, you will interact with materials on Building a Launch Team; Designing a Worship Service in your Context; Handling Conflict in a New Church; Planting Generosity; and Missional Engagement part 2. Each chapter is filled with practical ideas and interactive adult learning methods. Order on Amazon today!
No matter your tendencies, your context, or your system, all pastors are called to Shepherd in the following six ways in every stage of church planting:
1. You are called to live your life as a model for others to follow. You model what it means to be a father, husband, or grandfather. You model what it means to work for a living. You model a gospel life of godliness, faithfulness, and obedience to Christ. You model what it means to give generously. You have glorious opportunities to repent well and to “live a life of love.”
Very few people (especially people in their 20’s and 30’s) have had worthy models of a man aggressively living out the implications of the Gospel. Very few know what it is to be really cared for and to be known, loved, confronted, forgiven, authentic, and accountable.
2. You are called to protect from false teaching. Paul warned the elders at Ephesus that wolves, thieves, and false teachers would come in and ravage the people. People in the church are often clueless. Without a Shepherd-Leader, they will often fall away—“scatter” as Jesus put it.
3. You have been commanded to care. Jesus Christ, the Chief Shepherd, cared for his people. So must Church Planters. “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care” (1 Peter 5:2).
4. You and your leaders must be personally involved in the lives of your people. No one leads from a distance. Don’t presume that if you preach well, you are going to lead well. “Shepherding involves a personal relationship with specific people placed under our care by God himself. We must know them personally, extensively and intimately to ensure their spiritual health” (Thomas & Wood, Gospel Coach).
5. You will need God to provide faithful, available, and teachable people to assist you with Shepherding. “Jesus was moved with compassion because the crowds were harassed. He told his disciples, ‘Ask (beg) the Lord of the Harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’” (Matt. 9:35-38). As God brings people alongside you to work in the harvest, it is critical that you show them Jesus’ heart for the crowds.
6. You will modify and improve your Shepherding systems as you go. Interaction and brainstorming will give the team agreed upon direction and expectations for Shepherding the crowd God sends you.
Are you training people in your Church Plant to help Shepherd others?
As you start the planting process and start gathering people, you will see the need to develop a temporary organization for shepherding that shares the work of shepherding. But what are you training people to do?
“A Gospel Shepherd brings all the issues, questions, needs, problems, or solutions to orbit around the sense of a Gospel dynamic, which he applies to each situation, because the Gospel is the ultimate solution for every problem” (Thomas & Wood, Gospel Coach, Zondervan 2012).
At CMM, we suggest both informal and organized discussions and training centered on (1) Knowing, (2) Feeding, (3) Leading, and (4) Protecting God’s people through the Gospel.
Click here to download your FREE eBook on the “Shepherding Principles”.
Dr. Tom Wood
I've been in the Church Planting business my entire career. I want you to know, you don't have to plant a church alone!