Following Christ through the conflict

Conflicts are prevalent within and outside the church, and we often feel ill-equipped to handle them. Due to limited conflict resolution tools, we either avoid or intensify these tensions.

But, Christ provides a blueprint for addressing conflicts in Matthew 18:15-20. And each step draws us closer to one another rather than creating division.

In the text, Christ instructs us, as people of faith, to go directly to the person we are arguing with and work together to find a solution. This step draws us closer to one another and allows us to gain greater insight and understanding. It humanizes our issue and asks us to commit to the work of health and wholeness. 

What happens more often is that tension arises, and we retreat to our camps. We ‘other’ the individuals on the opposite side of the issue, drawing lines in the sand. When that happens, we make it harder to find lasting and meaningful solutions to our problems. We lose the ability to view our issues from any lens other than our own.

If the struggle persists, Christ then invites us to seek out support from an outside perspective, one who can draw us closer to each other through careful guidance. In each step toward resolution, Jesus calls us to remain focused on building connections with others instead of shutting them out. 

Even if an outside party cannot help to resolve our tensions, Jesus teaches us that we should seek support from our church. We should look for resources and tools to aid us in our pursuit of harmony.

Available from MinistryMatters

This step is why my co-authors and I wrote Calm: How to End Destructive Conflict in Your Church. We heard the call from church leaders that they were overwhelmed by how to navigate conflict, and they felt unprepared. Therefore, we spent time in careful prayer and consideration, designing a guide for addressing congregational conflicts no matter the issue or the size of the struggle. 

Our book is for anyone seeking a step-by-step resource for addressing an active conflict or a study tool to help your church develop healthy resolution skills. Each module we outline follows Christ’s teachings that we can work through even the most demanding challenges through deeper connection.  

Consider this scenario that is playing out in churches across the county. Members are tense and frustrated after the pandemic. There isn’t enough money or people to conduct church as we once knew; therefore, we are grieving. Ministry leaders argue over how the church should allocate its limited resources, turning members against one another in their campaigns to fund and staff the children’s program, congregational care, or hospitality ministry. This situation drains church leaders and leaves little room for innovation. 

Churches who have used the guidance of Calm have spent time in intentional community with one another, identified assets for ministry, and focused their efforts on exciting paths forward that breathe new life into their congregation. They stopped bickering over the most essential ministry and began working together to solve their challenges. 

You may use the book differently. Perhaps your congregants are struggling over launching a contemporary worship service or even debating the current denominational struggle with disaffiliation and its impacts on a local level. Regardless of the cause of conflict, Calm is one resource for you to follow Christ’s teachings and create deeper connections that lead to healthy congregations.

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