Posts Tagged ‘pastors and church conflict’

Like you, I’ve heard a lot in the past few days about U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Like you, I have some personal opinions about the wisdom of exchanging five terrorist leaders for the sergeant.

Like you, I wonder why Sgt. Bergdahl ended up being captured by the Haqqani network.

And like you, I don’t know whether Sgt. Bergdahl is guilty of desertion … or innocent … or something in between.

But I do know this: Sgt. Bergdahl has not yet told his side of the story … and until he does … we need to be very careful about making final judgments.

Why bring this up on a blog devoted to pastors and church conflict?


Several months ago, a friend and colleague sent me an email.

My friend had spent several hours with a pastor who was forced out of a church he had planted.

One of the staff members began spreading a rumor that the pastor and his wife were taking illegal drugs.

Someone called a public meeting.

When the pastor stood up to confront the charges being made about him, those who opposed him stood up and shouted, “You’re lying!”

Because they kept yelling at their pastor, he finally stopped talking and walked out of the church … and resigned soon afterward.

Satan couldn’t have planned it any better.

That pastor – and all pastors – need to be protected by the following safeguards in every church:

First, the pastor has the right to know any charges being made about him.

How many people told that pastor that people were saying he was taking illegal drugs?

My guess: few, if any.

I was recently told for the first time about a charge some people made about me 4 1/2 years ago.

The charge was 100% false, but why wasn’t I told about it sooner?  How many people believe it to this day?

And why wasn’t I ever given a chance to defend myself against that charge?

Second, the pastor has the right to meet with his accusers.

The staff member who made the accusation about drug usage needed to speak with the pastor and his wife before taking his charge to anyone else.

By taking his charge to others first, he could have ruined their reputations and careers.  What if the charge was totally false?

If a similar charge was made against a top leader in a secular corporation … and it proved to be false … the person making the charge would be dismissed and possibly sued for slander.

When people make charges against a pastor … but never make the charges to his face … they almost always exaggerate the charges.  Remember that.

Third, the pastor has the right to see any and all evidence against him.

What kind of evidence did the staff member have that the pastor and his wife were taking drugs?  Blood tests?  Photographs?  Eyewitness accounts?

Or was it all just speculation?

The pastor needed to be presented with all the evidence.

If the evidence was strong, the pastor might have privately asked for forgiveness … or gone into rehab … or resigned on his own … without involving the congregation.

But if the evidence was fabricated … or misinterpreted … then the pastor needed to be able to tell his side of the story.

Otherwise, when we don’t like a pastor, we can just manufacture lies about him, and he’ll be forced to leave … without anyone ever discovering where those lies originated.

Fourth, the pastor should never initially be confronted with a charge in public. 

Why would a staff member take a charge against his pastor public?

To embarrass him?  To humiliate him?  To use the power of the mob?

Yes, yes, and yes … but most of all, to engage in retribution.

Many of the charges that people make against pastors are really punitive in nature.

How can you tell?

Because the people making the charges never talk about restoring their pastor … or redeeming him … but only about removing him.

Where do we ever find that sentiment in the New Testament?

Finally, the pastor should be given due process whenever charges are made against him.

Many … if not most … churches lack such a process.

And even if they do have one, the process (found in church bylaws) is often ignored because people become anxious and overly-emotional.

But it’s critical that a pastor … as well as any spiritual leader … be allowed to have a hearing and tell his version of events.  Proverbs 18:17 says, “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.”

When do church leaders ever question those who make charges against their pastor?

The ethos in most churches is that whenever people make accusations against a pastor, they’re almost always accurate.

But they aren’t … not by a long shot.

In the story about the pastor allegedly taking drugs, why did the pastor’s opponents shout him down when he tried to answer their charges?

Because they didn’t want their pastor to be given due process.  They had already selected themselves as judge, jury, and executioner, and in their eyes, he was guilty.

But if he had been allowed to speak, the truth would have exposed their own guilt and hatred, and they could not allow that to occur.

My prayer for churchgoers everywhere is that whenever they have concerns about their pastor’s character or behavior, they will insist on a fair process rather than immediately declare his innocence or his guilt.


I don’t know the complete truth about Sgt. Bergdahl.  Maybe nobody does right now.

But he shouldn’t be tried in the press, especially when he can’t answer the charges that people are making against him.

In the meantime, I’m going to try and keep an open mind about his guilt or innocence, especially after I read this article today from the pastor of the Bergdahl family:


He will have his day in court.  Then we’ll find out the truth.

But please remember: neither the mainstream media … nor social media … nor your dinner table … constitute a fair and final court.










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How many times have you heard a pastor preach a sermon on conflict management?

It doesn’t happen very often.

And yet when Christians become upset about an issue in their church, they can become irrational … overly emotional … and even engage in nasty, unchristian behavior.

And this can cause people to attack the pastor … leave the church in droves … weaken attendance and giving … and harm the church for years.

And if that happens, it’s too late for a pastor to start preaching about how Christians should handle conflict.

Last year, I preached a sermon titled “Resolving Conflict Biblically.”

After the service, one woman – in her mid-80s – told me that she had attended a well-known megachurch for much of her life.

In fact, her pastor was a household name among Christians.

But she said that my message was the first one she had ever heard on how to resolve church conflict in a biblical manner.

She probably did hear some messages on that topic, and just forgot.

But I believe that pastors need to speak on church conflict one or two Sundays every year.


Let me give you three reasons:

First, pastors need to condition their people that conflict among Christians is inevitable.

If two ministry leaders book the same room at the same time … that’s not unusual.

If a nursery worker doesn’t show up or call on a Sunday morning … that happens.

If a senior complains about not singing any hymns during worship … that’s normal.

These are all minor conflicts.

I believe that most pastors have a high tolerance for minor conflicts.  They don’t get too ruffled by these issues.  They’re occupational hazards.

But to the new believer … or the woman who just lost her job … small issues can quickly seem gigantic.

So a pastor needs to tell his people, “These conflicts happen from time-to-time.  When they do, let’s stay calm.  And here’s how to work them out.”

Do you know how few people learn how to address and resolve conflicts when they’re growing up?

The church can be a great help in this area.

Second, pastors need to empower their congregations to resolve conflict biblically.

When Paul wrote about conflict in 1 and 2 Corinthians, he directed those letters to the entire congregation … not just to church leaders.

He did the same thing with Romans … Galatians … Ephesians … and Philippians.

Paul wrote 9 letters to congregations, and 4 to individuals – including 3  to pastors (Timothy and Titus) – and he obviously believed that the average Christian (not just church leaders) needed instruction on conflict management.

In fact, Paul chose to empower every believer with his writings, saying things like:

I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.  Keep away from them.  Romans 16:17.

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.  1 Corinthians 1:10

If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out of you will be destroyed by each other.  Galatians 5:15

Yes, pastors need to talk about conflict prevention and resolution with church leaders … but with every churchgoer as well … because it’s the responsibility of every Christian to keep their church healthy.

Finally, pastors need to help people face and resolve their own conflicts.

When I was a pastor, there were many times where people came to me … told me about a conflict they were undergoing at the church … and hoped I’d solve it for them.

But my job wasn’t to step in and solve their problems.  That’s dysfunctional behavior.

Instead, I would share with them how to handle the conflict themselves.

Remember the story of Moses in Exodus 18?  The people of Israel brought Moses their problems all day, every day – and it was impacting Moses negatively.  Moses told Jethro his father-in-law:

“… the people come to me to seek God’s will.  Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and laws.”  Exodus 18:15-16

But Jethro saw that this system was wearing Moses out.  Instead, Jethro encouraged Moses in verse 20 to:

“… teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform.”

Then Jethro encouraged Moses to appoint wise judges who would hear the simpler cases, only bringing the more difficult ones directly to Moses … and this system worked beautifully.

How will many people learn to handle conflict in marriage … at work … with their family … and at church … unless their pastor teaches them God’s Word?

When should a pastor preach on conflict?

First, when the church is at peace, and there aren’t any major conflicts.  I always told my congregations, “The best time to prepare for war is during a time of peace.”  Consider it insurance.

Second, consider teaching on conflict one or two Sundays before your church votes on your governing leaders (like elders or deacons) or the annual budget.  Just write it on the calendar … preferably now.

In my last church, I preached on conflict early in November every year.

One year, I thought, “Hey, things are going well.  I’ll preach on something else this time.”

Guess what?  A few months later, major conflict broke out.

Coincidence?  I don’t know … but I’ll always wonder.

One more tip: I believe that every pastor should create a one-page document summarizing what the New Testament says about conflict management and hand this out annually … maybe even putting this document on the church website.

You might call it, “How We Handle Conflict at Our Church.”

Then if conflict does surface, your church has developed ready-made guidelines that any and every believer can implement.

Can you think of any other reasons why pastors need to periodically preach on conflict?


This is the 350th article I’ve published using WordPress.  Thanks so much for reading!

If you’re a pastor or a board member, you might consider printing some articles and distributing them to your staff or board for discussion.  I’m always encouraged when I hear that someone has done just that.

If there are any topics you’d like me to cover, please send me a message at jim@restoringkingdombuilders.org

May God grant you His peace in your home, workplace, and church life!





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