Updated: May 11, 2021
By Deborah Bell
(Lead Apostle DGAN Global Network and DGFC churches)
(Originally posted 20 January, 2015)
How do we deal with conflict in the body of Christ, the Church? What does the Word of
God say about it? If we know, how many leaders or peers actually use the word for conflict Resolution? Conflict resolution was established in the word of God, for the people of God, long before any department of Human Resources was in place.
When we stray from the word, we stray from the GOD of the word.
What do you do when you are faced with conflict in your church environment or any
situation that would affect you or your ministry?
I believe one of the greatest skills lacking in both the Marketplace and the Church is
proper communication. If you have an issue, or if conflict arises, talk to each other!
Communication is a very big part of the formula, when it comes to building a healthy body of Christ.
I believe the church is first a community of believers. Barna research shows that most people 78% of people view church as a community. In any given community, we are dealing with people from every side of life, rich poor, abused, neglected, rejected, spoilt, the sick and the list goes on. To say the least, it’s complicated! Therefore problems or conflicts or are bound to arise, warranted or not. So much of how we “see” is what we perceive not always what actually is.
The Church is no different. Like in any community or family, similar issues can and will arise in the Church. At at some point or other, there will be conflict in a team, no matter how “angelic” people profess to be. Sometimes that’s half the problem.:) What would be “first prize”, is if the Church handled conflict well, better than our secular counterparts. Why? Because we have Christ in us, who transforms our thinking, our hearts, our love for one another, right?
So it is imperative that we learn both as leaders and peers to deal with conflict in respectful open safe dialogue, and that our churches create the right environment for God’s Word to have the last say with all parties feeling that they are in a safe space. But the key to any conflict resolution is first off, COMMUNICATION!
Here is the key passage we are called to use for conflict resolution, found in the book of
Matt. 18:15-17 “If your brother or sister sins against you, go and show them their fault, just
between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. (16) But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. (17) If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church;a and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. (NIV)
There is often too much assumption going on in the body of Christ and not enough talking to each other or sharing the truth in love. Ensuring all parties feeling safe to openly share, is vital to avoid a breakdown in our teams, our relationships, our friendships and with our loved ones. That doesn’t mean everyone will share but it helps the process!
Here are the remaining four steps to guide us through the process:
5. If there is any need for resolution, always check what the word of God has to say
about it first. Then work it out in love according to the word. (Matt 18:15-17). If you are
wrong confess and make right. There isn’t room for “passive aggressive” behaviour.
Passive aggressive behaviour, is much like a Cold War; and I’ve found it happens in
churches a lot! Simply put, it’s when people continue to pretend that nothing is wrong,
trying to keep up a smile and the “right Christian appearance”, when in fact that is the last
thing they really feel like doing. They might be polite, act “normally”, appear okay, but
inside they could be really upset or have an issue about something or someone, but will not express it; so it comes out in other ways (explained in wikipedia description below). This is such damaging behaviour and leads to confusion for those parties involved, especially when the parties involved are aware there is a problem but it is swept under the carpet, so to speak.
Sometimes others are not aware there is an issue at all with a person that displays passive aggressive behaviour. Often, only that person/s is aware of something being “wrong” but they choose not to share or resolve or discuss it. It’s dangerously unhealthy behaviour in a team because it leads to assumptions. Wrong perceptions form, and then resentment sets in without any dialogue about the actual facts. Of course that is a “breeding ground” of a stronghold for the enemy. We should be conduits of God’s love and power and have sound minds, not conduits of the enemy!
Passive-aggressive behaviuor is the indirect expression of hostility; such as through
procrastination, sarcasm, stubbornness, sullenness, resistance to fulfil tasks or deliberate or repeated failure to accomplish requested tasks for which one is (often explicitly) responsible.
Behaviours: Learned helplessness, procrastination, stubbornness, resentment. (From Wikipedia).
6. Teach people to share in a healthy way about their conflicts and issues, and teach
them how to handle conflict in love. It is much easier if people have an awareness of what the word teaches us to do in these situations as men and women of God. If the world can get it right, surely the body of Christ, which is empowered by the power of Holy Spirit can get it right!
7. Freely you have received, so freely you must give (Matt.10:8). That means we give of
ourselves without expectation of reciprocation. If people refuse to receive you, or what
you have to say, pray for them but leave them in peace and love, and shake the dust off
your feet and walk away. (Matt 10:11-14).
There’s that idiom: You can take a horse to the water but you can’t make it drink. (I’m
hearing some of you say that. Right?) Dialogue can only happen between at least two
parties. If only one party is willing, it’s a stalemate. Pray and ask Holy Spirit to give you ears to hear what Holy Spirit is saying and then pray the same for those you are attempting to have dialogue with. Pray for God’s love and presence to permeate the conversation, no matter how difficult. Then, you must entrust them to the Lord.
Why do we “shake the dust off our feet”? If there is a situation that you have no power over to change, and you’ve sincerely prayed about resolving it but the other party will not
participate, you can no longer spend time on a “dead end” scenario. You can continue to
pray and trust God but the rest is up to those you are praying for. The scripture in
Matt.18:17 about being treated as a “tax collector” is in essence to understand that once
you’ve done everything you can, it’s out of your hands. You have to let people be if they
don’t want help, dialogue, counsel etc. No counsellor, even in the secular profession, will
undertake to continue earnestly assisting someone that will not help themselves to work
towards their healing. (Perhaps some that will take your money, but that’s about it.)
8. Let the goal be to reach Unity in Christ. Our attitude should be one of “Together we can do this”. This takes maturity and a desire on both parties sides, to achieve this. There is no place for arrogance, pride, or stubborn heartedness (root of pride), in the body of Christ. God calls us to be united as one, just as Jesus Christ and our heavenly Parent, God are as one. It is only the fleshly person that seeks to get their own way without being reasonable.
Often it is because the people you are addressing might have already decided that they
want other things above the LORD. Although they would never think this or say this, when
people move from their first love they move into flesh, and it can often be impossible to
find a unity in that. Of course there are may scriptures we can quote here but I encourage
you to look them up and read them.
Most people leave churches for the most part because of some or other “offence”.
Whether or not the offence is real or justified and they never discuss it, they make
assumptions which get worse when it is not discussed to clarify and in their minds can build up all sorts of other things. Research shows that people generally are prone to be more defensive and are offended more, when they have not experienced healing in specific areas which affect how they perceive other people, or perhaps they refuse to
acknowledge they need any healing at all. Right there, you have a stronghold for the enemy to dwell in.
Jas 4:1-3 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? (2) You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. (3) When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
Do what you can; after that it takes two parties to pull together, not one. If people are not
willing to talk, sadly, it could mean they are not invested or do not share the same values
you place on the importance of the relationship or the significance of the family of God.
Pray for them and then let Holy Spirit speak to them and leave them in God’s care.
These are very basic steps and there are many others. We must also remember that as
leaders, or general members of any church, everyone is an individual, and no matter what
the “formulation” used for one situation, it may not suit another. But above all, as I’ve
mentioned several times, our guide must always be to look at what the Word of God says,
before making final decisions or having opinions on anything. Use the first few points to
write your own explanation after studying this for yourself in the word of God.
Apostle Deborah Bell