HOW SHOULD WE HANDLE CONFLICT IN THE CHURCH?
Conflict can develop in many areas of the church. Most conflicts fall into one of three categories: (1) conflict due to blatant sin among believers; (2) conflict with leadership; and (3) conflict between believers. Admittedly, many issues can cross over and involve two or more of these categories.
As described in 1 Corinthians 5, believers who blatantly sin pose a problem for the church. The church that does not deal with sin among the members will open the door to more problems. The church is not called to be judgmental of unbelievers; the church is expected to confront and restore believers who are unrepentant of sins such as those listed in 1 Corinthians 5:11: “Anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler.” Such individuals are to not be accepted by the church until they are willing to repent. Matthew 18:15-17 provides a concise procedure for the confrontation and restoration of a believer. Confrontation should be done carefully, meekly, and with the goal of restoration (Gal. 6:1). Churches that lovingly discipline sinners will curtail a great deal of conflict in the church.
At times a believer might not be content with the direction or actions of church leaders. This was the case early in the history of the church (Acts 6:1-7). Complaints about the lack of care of a certain group in the church were taken up with the leaders. The problem was remedied, and the church grew (verse 7). The early church used conflict to improve its ministry. However, when churches do not have a clear process for dealing with such concerns, people tend to create their own platforms. Individuals may begin polling others in the church, get involved in gossip, or even develop a block of “concerned people.” Leadership can help avoid this by acting as selfless, loving, servantlike shepherds rather than leaders who lord over others (1 Pet. 5:1-3). Those who are frustrated should respect their leaders (Heb. 13:7, 17), be slow to accuse them (1 Tim. 5:19), and speak the truth lovingly to them, not to others about them (Eph. 4:15). When it appears that a leader is not responding to a concern, a person should follow the pattern outlined in Matthew 18:15-17 to ensure that there is no confusion as to where each stands.
The Bible warns that people in the church may have difficulty with conflict. Some conflict is due to pride and selfishness (James 4:1-10). Some conflicts come about because of offenses that have not been forgiven (Matt. 18:15-35). God has told us to press toward peace (Rom. 12:18; Col. 3:12- 15). It is the responsibility of each believer to seek to resolve conflict. Some basic steps toward resolution include:
1. Developing the proper heart attitude:
a. Meek (Gal. 6:1)
b. Humble (James 4:10)
c. Forgiving (Eph. 4:31, 32)
d. Patient (James 1:19, 20)
2. Evaluating your part in the conflict. You must remove the log from your own eye before helping others (Matt. 7:1-5).
3. Going to the individual (not to others) to voice your concern (Matt. 18:15). This is best done in love (Eph. 4:15), not just to get something off your chest. Making an accusation tends to encourage defensiveness; therefore, attack the problem instead of the person. This gives the person a better opportunity to clarify the situation or seek forgiveness for the offense.
4. Trying again (if the first attempt was unsuccessful) with another person or persons who can help with mediation (Matt. 18:16). Remember that your goal is not to win an argument; the goal is to win your fellow believer to reconciliation; therefore, choose people who can help you resolve the conflict.
Conflict is best handled when individuals prayerfully and humbly focus on loving others with the intent of restoring relationships. Most conflict issues should be manageable if the biblical principles outlined above are followed.
This article was taken and adapted from GotQuestion.org