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Posts Tagged ‘pastors teaching on church conflict’

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.

Why?

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?

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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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