Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What Causes Church Conflicts?

What causes church conflicts? This is a really good article addressing that question.

Years ago, I received training to be a conflict resolution consultant for the Northwestern Ohio Synod (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). The training came from someone with The Alban Institute and it was very good. This article, from the Billy Graham web site, succinctly summarizes major issues that give rise to congregational conflicts.

Conflict--or disagreement, it should be remembered, isn't inherently bad. I like the old saying: If two people agree on everything, at least one of them is irrelevant. If conflict is approached with love, it can be a time of growth for all involved, no matter what the resolution.

That was certainly the case with the first recorded church fight. It was over how Gentile believers in Christ were to be admitted into the fellowship of the Church, which up to that point, saw itself as a sect of Judaism. According to some scholars, there were at least four major groupings within the fledgling Church, each with their own views on the subject of Gentile assimilation and other subjects. Strong-minded people with strong opinions made their opinions known.

But that conflict didn't kill the Church. Instead, at a council in Jerusalem, informal representatives of the various groups met, prayed, and set out a new policy. They didn't depart from what God has revealed, not only in Christ, but in Old Testament times. God's character and will never change. But they were open to seeing old truths in new ways and so, found a solution.

Reliance on God's gracious love, shared even as we present the conflicting views to which we believe God and God's Word have taken us, is the key to resolving conflicts. I've seen that repeatedly in my 26 years as a pastor and student of Christ's Church.

And by the way, in reference to the teaser with which the article on church conflicts begins, I do know of a congregation that saw members leave because they didn't like the color of the carpeting selected for a new sanctuary. That is what I'd call majoring in the minors!

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