As much as we would like to believe that we can all get along in the Body of Christ, we all too well know the realities of churches dividing and the cause of Christ being marred. Face it, as a leader you will make decisions with which some will disagree. People may take offense to the way you do things. In some cases, you might not have done anything wrong. But, there will be times you fail. As a leader, you will also be faced with members who might not be offended by you but by others in the Body.
What do you do when conflict surfaces? You can choose to:
- ignore it with the hope it will resolve itself
- confront it face on with full abandonment
- simply pray about it and leave it in the Lord's hands
Be proactive. (Matt. 5:23-24)Don't wait for the offended person to come to you. The verses referenced above apply to if the other person perceives an offense even when you don't see it that way. Seek reconciliation before it escalates. Get in front of problems, before the person has chance to keep mulling it over or gossip about it.
Be a peace-maker. (Rom. 12:16-21; Eph. 4:3)Take every possible measure to bring about a peaceful resolution. In Ephesians 4:2 God exhorts us to "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." If the situation doesn't change, you must know, before God, that you did your part in pursuing peace.
Be process-oriented. (Matt. 18:15-17)Understand that it is not just about confronting or "fixing" a problem. Encourage people to work it out among themselves before you get involved. True reconciliation ... the healing of the relationship ... is the primary objective, not resolving the issues. People do not have to always agree or like something but they must still accept one another in order to be in fellowship.
Be a paraclete. (Phil. 4:2-3)Come alongside of others in the body and help them to work out their differences. Don't wait for their problems to spill over into the body. This includes praying that the the Paraclete with a capital P, the Holy Spirit, does His work in their hearts but also to get involved in practical ways, exhorting and counseling them to work out their differences. Before you get involved, however, be sure to apply Matthew 7:5 to your own life -- "first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
The above measures for conflict management relate to you as a leader but also must be encouraged among the body. Model this approach. Teach this approach. Expect this approach to be practiced.
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