Calvary Fellowship Fountain Valley is pleased to offer Family Counseling. In this day and age, there are a number of issues impacting the home from stress to finances to broken communication.
If you are having a rough patch in your relationships or just need some solid Christian advice and encouragement, then make plans now to speak with a licensed family counselor at Calvary Fellowship Fountain Valley. Simply call 719-321-4274 to schedule your appointment now or email Michael H. Snider, MSC, MFCT (Family Counselor).
Conflict resolution in the body of Christ is crucial for several reasons. Avoidance of conflict, with no effort to resolve it, postpones a proper response and exacerbates the problem because conflicts that are allowed to fester unaddressed will always increase and have negative effects on relationships within the body. The goal of conflict resolution is unity, and unity in the church poses a threat to the devil who will use every opportunity to take advantage of unresolved issues, especially those involving anger, bitterness, self-pity, and envy. These emotions are the basis for most church conflicts. Scripture tells us that we are to “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from [us], along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31). Failure to do this results in division in the body of Christ and grief to the Holy Spirit. We are also told that we are not to allow a “root of bitterness” to spring up among us, leading to trouble and defilement (Hebrews 12:15). Clearly, a biblical method of conflict resolution is needed.
Although the verses cited in the first paragraph are the two places that expressly deal with conflict resolution, every letter in the New Testament contains at least one command to believers to live at peace with one another. We are repeatedly instructed to love one another (John 13:34; Romans 12:10), to live in peace and harmony with one another (Romans 15:5; Hebrews 12:14), to settle our differences among ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:11), to be patient, kind and tenderhearted toward one another (1 Corinthians 13:4), to consider others before ourselves (Philippians 2:3), to bear one another’s burdens (Ephesians 4:2), and to rejoice in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). Conflict is the antithesis of Christian behavior as outlined in Scripture.
There are times when, despite all efforts to reconcile, sin issues prevent us from resolving conflict in the church. There are two places in the New Testament that clearly and unambiguously address conflict resolution where sin is involved. The other passage where this is addressed explicitly is Luke 17. In verses 3–4, Jesus says, “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” An essential part of conflict resolution, according to this passage, is forgiveness. Any kind of disciplinary procedure should always have restoration of the sinning person as the ultimate goal.
The reason conflict resolution is so difficult is that we are hesitant to place ourselves in uncomfortable situations. We are also frequently unwilling to humble ourselves enough to admit that we might be wrong or to do what it might take to make amends if we are wrong. Those who do conflict resolution best are often those who would prefer not to confront others about their sin, but still do so out of obedience to God. If the matter is relatively minor, it may be that the best thing to do is to overlook the offense (Proverbs 19:11). If it cannot be overlooked, one must pursue reconciliation. This is such an important issue to God that peace with Him and peace with others are inextricably entwined. We cannot know peace with God unless we are at peace with one another, and we cannot truly know peace with others unless we are at peace with God.
QUESTION: “HOW SHOULD CONFLICT IN THE CHURCH BE HANDLED?”
Answer: There are many areas of a church where conflict can develop. However, most of them tend to fall under one of three categories: conflict due to blatant sin among believers, conflict with leadership, and conflict between believers. Admittedly, many issues can cross over and actually involve two or more of these categories.
Believers who blatantly sin pose a conflict for the church as described in 1 Corinthians 5. 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, but 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 not to 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 (Galatians 6:1). Churches that lovingly discipline sinning individuals will curtail a great deal of conflict in the church.
At times believers 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. This was remedied, and the church grew (Acts 6:7). The early church used a conflict to improve the 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 bloc of “concerned people.” Leadership can help avoid this by leading like selfless, loving shepherds that are examples of servants rather than ones that lord over others (1 Peter 5:1–3). Those who are frustrated should respect the leaders (Hebrews 13:7, 17), be slow to accuse them (1 Timothy 5:19), and speak the truth lovingly to them, not to others about them (Ephesians 4:15). On those occasions when it appears the leader is not responding to the concern, an individual should follow the pattern set down in Matthew 18:15–17 to ensure that there is no confusion as to where each stands.
The Bible warns that people in church may have difficulties 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 (Matthew 18:15–35). God has told us to press toward peace (Romans 12:18; Colossians 3:12–15). It is the responsibility of each believer to seek to resolve a conflict. Some basic steps toward resolution include the following:
1. Develop the proper heart attitude – Meek (Galatians 6:1); Humble (James 4:10); Forgiving (Ephesians 4:31,32); Patient (James 1:19,20).
2. Evaluate your part in the conflict – Matthew 7:1–5 (removing the log from your own eye first is necessary before helping others).
3. Go to the individual (not to others) to voice your concern – Matthew 18:15. This is best done in love (Ephesians 4:15) and not to just get something off your chest. Accusing the person tends to encourage a defensiveness. Therefore, attack the problem rather than the person. This gives the person a better opportunity to clarify the situation or to seek forgiveness for the offense.
4. If the first attempt does not accomplish the needed results, continue with another person or persons that can help with mediation (Matthew 18:16). Remember that your goal is not to win an argument; it 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 issues of conflict should be manageable if the above biblical principles are followed. However, there are times when specific outside counsel may help. We recommend utilizing resources such as the PeaceMaker Ministries – www.hispeace.org.