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 ministry 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!
You don’t have to face challenges in church ministry alone. A CMM Gospel Coach can help guide you and your church through a process of identifying and implementing practical, measurable, gospel-focused ministry practices that sharpen the God given mission and improve the health of the local church. Learn more today about church coaching!
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!