When conflict becomes toxic, it’s usually because it hasn’t been addressed promptly but has been buried and then, as pressure builtds up, it erupts. In Parts 1 and 2 of this blog we have looked at five consequences of avoiding conflict. Today we look at one more.
Avoiding the hard work of correcting sin
Conflict-avoiding churches often empower the most divisive members to wreak havoc. Why
are we often slow to confront people who are causing damage? Well, we know it’s going to hurt, and most of us don’t enjoy inflicting pain. And we may not relish the prospect of arousing the offender’s anger.
But, in spite of the challenges, for the church to be healthy, we must find ways to give and receive correction.
To be healthy, your church needs conflict.
- Every church has defining moments when it must choose between being true to its mission and pleasing people. Obeying God must always trump trying to keep everybody happy.
- The church cannot fulfill its purpose apart from becoming an intimate community, and successfully working through conflict, again and again, is essential to building community.
- All change brings some level of conflict. Working through the conflicts that come with constantly updating ministry will always be part of the cost of ministering effectively in a changing world.
- No ministry team can thrive while sweeping important differences under the rug. To draw out the best in people, the church must offer safe places where everyone knows that differing perspectives are sincerely valued.
- When a church is complacent, the leaders are responsible to “disturb the peace” by spotlighting the gap between what is and what needs to be until the members feel compelled to change.
- Finally, when conflict is fueled by sin, the church must respond graciously and firmly, speaking the truth in love, to restore the one who is sinning and protect and heal the church from the damage caused by the sin.
One translation of Acts 4:32 says that the believers in the Jerusalem church “all felt the same way about everything” (CEV). That is far from true. First Century Christians often disagreed, sometimes passionately. What Acts 4:32 really says is that the believers were “of one heart and soul” (ESV). Their love for each other and their shared purpose inspired them to work through potentially explosive disagreements while respecting each others’ differences, coming up with creative win-win solutions that embodied kingdom values. (See, for example, Acts 6 and 15.)
Such conflict is not the enemy. In fact, it is an absolutely essential to the day-to-day rhythm of life in every healthy church.
May your church be blessed with many life-giving conflicts–and the grace to grow through every one of them.
- Have you see conflict avoidance in your church? In your own relationships?
- What negative consequences have you noticed?
- What could have been gained by working through these conflicts rather than avoiding them?
This post adapted with permission from The More-with-Less Church by Eddy Hall, Ray Bowman, and J. Skipp Machmer (Baker 2014).