A GUEST POST–CHURCH CONFLICT

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This is Derek Elkin’s official image.

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.

REFLECTING ON YESTERDAY’S FOOLISHNESS

So yesterday I preached that great passage from 1 Corinthians.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18, ESV)

Alexamenos Graffiti:  "Alexander worships his god" which is portrayed as a crucified donkey.
Alexamenos Graffiti: “Alexander worships his god” who is portrayed as a crucified donkey.

The sermon juked and jived around the paradox of God’s foolishness compared with the world’s wisdom.  I put on display ancient Roman graffiti, read from Richard Dawkins, and swiped an idea from Tim Keller.

Warp Factor Jesus?  Engage!
Warp Factor Jesus? Engage!

By the way, Tim Keller is Captain Picard.

The real heart of the sermon, at least what I was trying to convey, is that the accepted worldview of most people rotates around power, money, and pleasure.  The wise thing to do, most people think, is to arrange their life so that they have the most power, money, or pleasure, or all three if possible.  There is a possible fourth goal for people today, and that is fame.  People will do anything to be famous, it seems but I think that is really a subset of power and pleasure.  Most people falsely believe that being famous is synonymous with the good life.  I think they are wrong.  The foolish virtues of the cross, of the gospel, are the opposite of these.  The cross calls us to worship (a laying down of power and control), sacrifice (giving away our resources) and love (wanting others to experience pleasure and joy).

I had to keep hacking the sermon like a lumberjack because it was too long.  One of the issues I wanted to address, but just couldn’t is that the power, money, pleasure business makes a mess of the world, but it also makes a mess when the church adopts it as a strategy.  I firmly believe it is the ruination of a local congregation when it begins to make decisions about its ministry based on power (size, influence), money (can we afford it, look how much we have, how much can we get), and pleasure (we do these ministries because we like them).  Time and time again  churches follow the wisdom of this age which is real foolishness.

I know that in the past I have been guilty of this trap in leading our congregation.  Our denomination thrives on telling smaller congregations that they must be bigger (power), take in more money (money), and make people feel relevant (pleasure) and I’ve bought that line far too much.  The longer I do ministry and the more I encounter people in need of spiritual vitality the more I have decided that we don’t need bigger churches with more influence, we need churches that make people spiritually bigger and spiritually connected.

If a church gets bigger doing those things, that is fine.  Likewise, a church does need to be wise about the ways of the world and update its ministry and employ tested and validated methods of reaching and engaging people.  However, the goal–the motive–and the reason–these can never ever be to be bigger, richer, or achieve self-gratification.  When those motives creep, revival and reformation is needed.

BETTER SOLUTIONS TO MINISTRY FUNK

In between putting out brush fires, I read an interesting article today about dealing with ministry funk.  The article is written by super popular and super hip pastor Steven Furtick (How cool is Steven Furtick?  He’s so cool his church is named ‘Elevation’–yeah, he wants you to know you will never be as cool as he is).  Furtick lists four ways to “Beat” ministry funk.  They are

Don’t extrapolate your future based on your funk

Steven Furtick–He’s Got the Funk

Give yourself the advice you’d give someone else

Don’t justify your funk

Work, don’t worry.

These are fine suggestions, I guess.  I mean, they sound rather sterile to me (except #3–that one sounds like the title of a Madonna song from the 1980’s).  Actually, these suggestions sound like mega-church ministry solutions that are supposed to sound important and wise while at the same time using the edgy word “funk.”  It smells market tested.

By way of contrast, let me share some better solutions.  By better I mean solutions designed to make you feel better before the day is over.

#1–Talk to someone else who is smarter, wiser, and more experienced than you.  This is so much better than ‘giving yourself the advice you’d give someone else.’  That’s a terrible idea.  It is probably my own advice that helped land me in the funk to start with.  By the way, if you don’t know someone older, wiser, and smarter then FIND SOMEONE!

#2–Shoot something (not someone–something, on a firing range, with ear muffs).  I find that my .357 is a  most grave and serious funk eliminator.

#3–Get the Led out.  I love all kinds of different music but when I’m in a funk, I need some Led Zeppelin, Guns-N-Roses, Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones.  For an added funk release–listen while taking a walk or working out.  Music is an elixir for depression in general–even King David knew that–but it has a special power over funk.  If you really want to go all out on this option, try listening to Funk Music while trying to get rid of the funk.  We got the funk.

#4–Start something new.  A funk, by definition is a kind of rut.  The best way out of a rut is to do something new.  Write a new article, start reading a new book, brainstorm about a new ministry, make a new friend—the possibilities are endless.

#5–Do something rebellious.  I firmly believe every minister should have a personal little rebellious clone that helps him or her exercise autonomy.  Now, be careful because this is not a condoning of sin, but of rebellion.  I think this is why a lot of the pastors I know ride motorcycles.  It is rebellion.  Grow a beard.  Grow a Grizzly Adams beard!  Wear something different while preaching (two Sundays ago I wore a Hawaiian shirt with sports coat–I was awesome!)  Just do something rebellious.  It will help you feel better about yourself.

#6–I know this is radical, but pray.  If you are in a funk–maybe it was sent by God.  Maybe there is something you need to learn from the funk–something about yourself, your family, your ministry, or about who God is.  It is a sin to believe you should always be happy and feel on top of the world.  God never promised that.  Learn from the dark times as well as the good times.  Embrace the funk as a teacher.

NOTE:  BE CAREFUL IF YOU SAY OUT LOUD THE WORDS “FURTICK” AND “FUNK”.  YOU MIGHT EMBARRASS YOURSELF.  JUST SAYIN.