Most church “fights” I experienced as a pastor had nothing to do with preservation of doctrinal purity, or concern for missional direction. Instead, it was caused by such earth shattering problems such as:
Who used the kitchen and left it dirty.
*Who could use the kitchen in the first place (notice a trend here?)
Problems arose because of facility issues, personal worship preferences and leadership infighting. Thom Rainier lists 10 issues that cause conflict in a church. Here are three of the ten: (for complete list, see power point, it’s included for free here http://www.slideshare.net/RogerHernandez6/things-we-fight-about )
1. Worship wars- One or more factions in the church want the music just the way they like it. Any deviation is met with anger and demands for change. The order of service must remain constant. Certain instrumentation is required while others are prohibited.
2. Facility focus- Facility focus. The church facilities develop iconic status. One of the highest priorities in the church is the protection and preservation of rooms, furniture, and other visible parts of the church’s buildings and grounds.
3. Evangelistic apathy– Very few members share their faith on a regular basis. More are concerned about their own needs rather than the greatest eternal needs of the world and community in which they live. Thom Rainer: I Am a Church Member (p. 38).
Here are three suggestions to navigate church conflict:
1. The objective is unity, not peace (or absence of conflict).
Read these words slowly: Conflict. Is. Inevitable. It will happen. The objective is not to be conflict-free, but to fight fair, when we do fight. In the Bible, peace is a by-product of something else, not a goal in itself. CS Lewis calls this the “law of the first things”. He says, search for the primary, receive the secondary for free. Search for the secondary, you lose the primary AND secondary. This is the goal:
“Healthy conflict is the ability to disagree with you, without letting go of your hand”
2. Take practical steps in resolving it.
Three tips for conflict resolution:
a. Ask, don’t interpret, assume or take for granted. Don’t read into it, or guess. Ask.
b. Pray before. (We end fights like we start them.) Prayer in the beginning defuses and acts as a wet blanket on a fire that’s about to get bigger.
c. Concentrate. Stick to the real problem and stick to one problem at a time. Resist the temptation to try and solve other problems. This requires discipline. Also, many times what you think is the problem is not really the problem. Peel the layers and go to the root.
3. The less we share, the more we fight.
The amount of unhealthy conflict in a church is inversely proportional to the mission focus of said church. Usually the ones that do the least, demand the most. The goal, then, should not be for the leader to continually play the “fireman or firewoman” role, but to keep the church’s mission constantly before the people. The more people are involved in the purpose of the church, the less petty arguments and crazy fights will occur.
How can we pray for you and your church? DM me and we will.