Into Thy Word -
Most of the conflict we experience in life comes from our selfish desires that insists on our own way over and against others. So we are posed to pounce on each other to get our way, while our Lord looks sadly on our pettiness and calls us to walk above, but do we listen? Desiring something is not necessarily wrong, but when we do not trust our Lord for it, then we have a problem. The Bible calls us to come before a Holy God by what Christ has done and resulting with a fountain of Living Water that it is our Lord. We are to rely on Him and not our inclinations. When we do, conflict is sure to erupt. When we walk in faith and realize our position before our Lord Jesus Christ, then we should bypass our self-will and yield to His.
My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. (Jeremiah 2:13)
We need to realize how evil we are when we fight with each other because of our personal agendas and desires! It is God alone who provides us the Living Waters. So why do we persist in digging our own wells only to bring up dirt that is useless and worthless?
Jesus answered her, If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water. (John 4:10)
We can earn nothing on our own, and centrally our salvation is a gift from God, so our behaviors with each other must reflect this undeserved gift that we received free. The free does not mean to engage in war with each other, but pursue peace and love.
So what do we do? How can we restrain our desire to manipulate and control, to be aggressors instead of repairs of relationships? Simply by realizing whom we are before a Holy God and our undeserving gift! Primary conflict is in ourselves, so we need to control the sin that encroaches us, as Cain failed to do. We must discern between what we desire and what is provided to us. We need to discern between our goals and what the will of the Lord is. We need to discern between what we want and what God wants! Then the conflicts and diseases of distraction that leads to destruction will cease! Our Lord already won the ultimate conflict of good vs. evil, of rebellion vs. sovereignty.
Remember that love covers a multitude of sins, so what shall we do? LOVE. The love that Christ had for us when we did not deserve it, and the response of the love we should have for each other. Jesus let go of His place with the Father. Something that we could not conceive, the precious position He gave up for a mission to redeem us. If we pursued the model that Christ laid before us, how much conflict would we have? Practically none! How could we fight with each other when we are each focused on our Lord and each others interests? How can we carry on conflicts with each other when we take a deep introspective look into our desires and compare them to the Scriptures? Our focus must not be in our self-awareness, but what Christ has done as a template in our behaviors and actions! By being a true example of our Lord will neuter most conflicts. Intrapersonal conflict will be dissolved because our self-desires will be focused on our Lord, so there will be no conflict with our self-desires. Interpersonal conflict will cease because we will be a community of believers on the same page, especially because we have each others interests in mind and are willing to follow the Biblical precepts to solving conflict. So what we are left with is substantive conflicts between beliefs. When we are a community of believers with a high view of the Scriptures, then we will eliminate most of them. So the conflicts will be between believers and aberrant and cult groups, and the minor theological distinctions can be an agree to disagree venue.
Have a Contract with the Congregation
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:29-32)
Most people and church leaders do not like to confront and Im definitely one of them, but it is a necessity for a healthy church. The biggest reason why people do not like to confront is fear. Fear of the consequences that it will blow up in our face, Fear of losing the relationship, fear of being misunderstood and what our motives are, fear of hurting their feelings, and fear of being the bad cop. So why are you afraid? When we have a plan that is endorsed by the leadership and then it is communicated to the congregation, then the fear shall fall. Our fears will turn to the love of the duty. We still may not like it, but it is a chore that can be done without the fear and intimidation as it is associated with.
One of the best ways to prevent conflict is to have a contract with the congregation. All you need to do is draw up a form that everyone agrees to at membership and signs. Keep it simple and straight forward, laying out the responsibility to be a follower of Jesus Christ and to model His character, so gossip, slander will not be tolerated. Then describe the conflict resolution process and the Scriptures behind it. Some congregations have their vision on it too, although this should only be done if the vision is Scripture based, and not personality driven. Learning to control conflict is a key aspect of leadership. Having a process to deal with conflict is key to a healthy church. This will eliminate most, if not all, conflict as long as the church leaders are following it too.
The next step in preventing conflict is to create a church environment that fosters encouragement and growth. This will mute most grounds that start conflict. The pastor should be open (to a degree) to their failures and the congregation should be accepting, then the spirit of humbleness will overtake pride, the main instigator of conflict. Being open about our failures will encourage others to do so, so when someone is going through a tough time, they will feel secure in the knowledge they are not alone.
This is a delicate process, because human pride and our sinful nature will take a persons openness as a weakness and a sign to attack. Like a predator devouring a wounded animal. Christians have the habit of shooting their wounded. So we need to take this in baby steps, and be discerning on how and what you do share. I have seen to many good pastors be torn down by ravenous congregations, because they sensed blood in the water, and not the hope of Christ.
We need to communicate those attitudes of love and care to the people God has entrusted to us. So we make disciples of Christ and not sharks looking for a meal. We can do this by giving praise and encouragement whenever possible, both publicly and privately. Encouragement goes to those who we feel are biting our hand, the people who do not show love themselves and may seem undeceiving, but in Gods eyes so are we! We are to give encouragement to people of and with different opinions and perspectives, at the same time keeping them on the Biblical track (Remember the Priesthood of all Believers!). We must be encouragers to all the people, not just those who we like, and it cannot be phony. It must be real in our hearts, if not, you are in the wrong business! So get right with your relationship with Christ first, and if you cannot, then seek help. The church does not need phonies, people will see right through you and your effectiveness will be more negative for the kingdom of God than positive.
We need to be on the lookout for bad attitudes and get to the people as soon as possible with a loving arm of encouragement. By putting out the fires as they begin to smoke will cease the coming war in its tracks. A good leader is diligent and watchful! It is a necessary aspect of leadership to expose the political games people do! We must go to those people, listen to them and seek to find an answer before they arm for war. How can we come to a understanding and solution rather than dividing
? Political coalitions, variant agendas, power struggles and prejudices must be in the gun sites of the leadership! And then we can have a healthy church, free of conflict, that is modeling the purpose that Christ has set for us. Then the witness is what Christ has done and not the misguided actions of Christians. Maybe then the Great Commission will be filled!
Here is an example of a contract with the congregation:
"Having received Christ as my Lord and Savior and been baptized,
and being in agreement with the Vineyard's statements, strategy and
structure, I now feel led by the Holy Spirit to unite myself with
the Vineyard Church family. In doing so, I commit myself to God and
to the other members to do the following:
I will protect the UNITY of my church
. . . by acting in love toward other members
. . . by refusing to gossip
. . . by following the leaders
"So let us concentrate on the things which make for
harmony, and on the growth of our fellowship together."
"Live in complete harmony with each other - each
with the attitude of Christ toward each other." Romans 15:5
"Have a sincere love for your fellow believers, love
one another earnestly with all your hearts." I Peter 1:22
"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your
mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up
according to their needs . . . " Ephesians 4:29
"Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.
They keep watch over you as men who must give an account . . .
Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden,
for that would be no advantage to you." Hebrews 13:17
(From Vineyard Christian Fellowship of San Luis Obispo, Ca)
Ó R.J. Krejcir 1998, 2001 excerpt from the upcoming book Pew Sitting
Into Thy Word Ministries