When our Fall Compass magazine arrived in offices and homes, I received the following email from one of our readers. It is a talent to point out an error in such a loving way. I found it very humorous and it made my day.
“I had a good laugh this afternoon as I read the latest issue of the QuietWaters Compass. On page 4, in the article on Sacred Discontent, your subhead about two-thirds of the way down the third column says: Duel Nature of the Church. While it’s true that some churches face conflict between congregation and pastor, I haven’t heard anything lately about the preacher and an elder settling their differences with pistols at 10 paces or with drawn swords. But who knows, it could happen! Anyway, thanks for all you do.”
We all face conflict in different ways – some good and some not so good.
A while back Dave Ragsdale, QuietWaters’ Director of Counseling, used the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) to test the styles of conflict management of an elder board. The results of the test indicated that the conflict style of everyone on this elder board was avoidance. The result was that they didn’t want to address anything that might result in a conflict. No pistols at 10 paces or drawn swords, nothing got done.
Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Rigores, Honduras with Living Waters International to help dig a water well. While there I had the privilege of getting to know a pastor in the village where we dug the well. One day I was able to ask him about his ministry through a translator.
As part of the conversation he shared that once he had been hurt by one of the congregation members. He was told by the Lord to wait four days. After those four days, the person who had hurt him died.
I don’t know how to interpret his experience, but it was his way of dealing with conflict in the church.
He was very serious, but in the midst of that seriousness I had a humorous thought. If every pastor was able to deal with conflict in the church in that manner, QuietWaters would have a lot less to do.
In just this year alone, over 20% of those attending a QuietWaters Leadership Counseling Intensive were here to address a conflict.
We find conflict throughout the Bible. One example is Euodia and Syntyche. Remember Paul saying, “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.” Philippians 4:2 (NIV)
In a survey of pastors, Richard A. Blackmon found that 40% of pastors experience a “serious relational conflict at least once a month.”
How often do you experience a “serious relational conflict?”
Since conflicts take many forms, I don’t have an easy solution that I can state in this article. I only hope to normalize conflict so that you know you’re not alone. However, I will say that conflicts unaddressed lead to even greater harm.
Let me share with you what I call ‘Six Heart Disciplines for Handling Conflict’ that I found in reading Philippians 4.
1. Plead for reconciliation.
2. Maintain unity in the congregation.
3. Rejoice in the Lord always.
4. Be gentle.
5. Replace anxiety with prayers of thanksgiving.
6. Focus on the good.
Take some time right now to ask the Lord what you should do with your most recent conflict. Then take action to address that conflict without pistols at 10 paces or drawn swords.