Derek Elkins wrote today’s blog post. Derek and I are both founding “Bards” at Bardandbook.com where we write and publish, along with many others. He sent me this yesterday as a reflection on a troubling situation he’d observed at a distance. Check out Derek’s Amazon page by clicking here.
So, it’s happened to all of us at one time or another as Christians. Some friend of yours finds a discrepancy or something the pastor or staff of your church has done that is either what they consider unbiblical or just rubs them the wrong way. They want to leave the church. They want to shout the pastor’s sins from the rooftops to anyone that will listen. What do you do?
First, don’t get involved in spreading gossip. If someone has a problem with church leadership, it may be that they are telling you to get you on their side. But the problem is that in church conflict it’s not us against them: it’s everyone against Satan. He wants disorder. He wants chaos. He’d love it if we were at each other’s throats because then we’re ineffectual and doing his job for him. Satan doesn’t have to fight if we’re too busy tearing ourselves apart.
Second, encourage them above anything else to go to the other person and talk directly to them. After all, what’s the most important thing? We need to bring glory to God in every circumstance. His image is far more important than proving ourselves right. His glory is more important than making sure we get a fair hearing. It’s better that I get smacked down seventy-seven times than I drag God’s name through the mud.
Third, make sure we all get the logs out of our eyes. In other words, let’s make sure that we’re right with God before accusing someone else of being wrong. If you keep encountering conflict after conflict, maybe the problem is you. Don’t even start to accuse someone else of wrongdoing until you’re absolutely sure that it’s not you that’s at fault. What’s the point of starting the Matthew 18 process if the real problem is not being addressed?
Now, all of this works toward the Matthew 18 principle until we get to the point that we can’t just throw the pastor or a leader out of the church if we’ve confronted him and brought along another and he still doesn’t repent. Is it our position to remove leadership anyway or is that more the right of the One who put him there in the first place? And we also have the command that we must place ourselves under those God has placed over us. How do we reconcile and where do we go from there…after we’ve examined ourselves, prayed fervently and we have no other options?
Speaking biblically, David had some big problems with an authority figure and he waited until God took care of the matter. Of course, he did a lot of running away in the meantime while he waited for God to bring judgment. But if that’s how the man after God’s own heart acted, who are we to say it’s wrong?
We also have the example of Paul and Barnabas who got into a pretty serious argument over the usefulness of one of their helpers. They parted ways but continued to serve God and increase His kingdom. Basically they compromised and parted in a way that didn’t drag down God’s name. It’s a little thing we call compromise and keeping the God thing the main thing.
Now sometimes God uses conflict to push people into different ministry paths. In my mind, it’s probably a last resort thing as I’m sure He’d rather people just did what they were supposed to in the first place. But sometimes God uses conflict to incite other ways to reach people or serve Him that wouldn’t otherwise be reached or served. Sometimes leadership start to think that their church is the only one that can accomplish God’s will or sometimes those God called to ministry don’t want to leave the comfort behind. It happens. Just don’t cry too hard when God has to shake things up a bit. After all, you drove Him to it.
It’s important to remember that conflict can be a good thing. It can extend God’s kingdom, it can help us understand another’s point of view, or it can bring about much needed change and a new fervency to seek God. But conflict that puts God or the church in a bad light is never a good thing. Remember, it’s not about what’s best for us, it’s about what’s best for God.