I have not been to church in a long time, and I miss the people.
In honesty, and stating the obvious for those who know me, I have strong feelings regarding the conduct of a church. I have not fit in well with trying to be part of leadership. I become overwhelmed with the politics, behind the scenes discussions, and more so, the lack of truthfulness. By lack of truthfulness, I am not referring to lying, I am referring to the discouragement of forthright discussion; as if a passionate discussion is to be avoided, or expressing an opinion that may hurt someone’s feelings is not appropriate, or how one should avoid the appearance of rocking the boat. That’s not me. I am not fearful of open candid discussion, I am not fearful of being stubborn, and so most see these traits as incompatible with church leadership. Generally speaking, churches prefer a smooth calm road to mediocrity over a difficult path to prosperity. Sound familiar (Matthew 7:13)?
Church leadership is better served by embracing conflict and stubbornness. We will see how when these two traits are combined, they can lead to better leadership and allow the churches to reverse the downward trend.
There are many stories in the Bible that teach us that Jesus was in conflict. When Jesus spoke, He caused an uproar among the church leadership, turmoil with Roman authorities, and yes, He made people very uncomfortable. Jesus was constantly in conflict with socially acceptable beliefs of the time. The most notable is when Jesus claimed He was the son of God (imagine the gasps when He made this statement). Or Noah and the boat he built that caused conflict among those dwelling in the area, or John the Baptist causing conflict with the local authorities. And so if conflict was an integral part of Jesus ministry, then let us accept that conflict is a positive trait within a church’s ministry.
Would you call Jesus stubborn? Was John the Baptist or Noah stubborn? Before you answer no, consider the definition of the word stubborn: “having or showing dogged determination not to change one’s attitude or position on something, especially in spite of good arguments or reasons to do so.” So yes, Jesus was stubborn. There were many good arguments put forth to convince Jesus to retract His claims, but Jesus did not yield. Jesus is right now in conflict with Evil; Evil coerces all of us to commit sinful actions thereby providing many good reasons for Jesus to give up on us (Isaiah 64:6), however, Jesus is absolutely stubborn for your soul. John the Baptist was in conflict and he was provided good reasons to stop; but yet he was stubborn and did not allow the local authorities to stop him from baptizing and announcing the coming of Christ. Noah, stubborn, an absolutely stubborn attitude towards building a boat on a hill in the middle of nowhere in spite of those ridiculing him for doing what they perceived as stupid.
Good reasons might be good reasons in the eyes of one person, but these reasons may not be enough to justify another to change their course of action. What one sees as stubbornness the other person sees truth in their cause. As Christians, we are to remain steadfast in our belief in Jesus even when the world proclaims good reasons to walk away. We are to have a stubborn faith in Christ.
So therefore, if conflict and stubbornness are traits of Christ, then these traits are to be adored from our brothers and sisters in Christ. If church leadership is unwilling to cause conflict, or be stubborn with their views, then leadership is lacking. Avoiding conflict allows the person with a powerful personality to become the decision maker. Decisions aren’t supposed to be made by one person. So it is better to have two people who are in a determined conflict over what they feel is correct, then a dozen people who say nothing and walk away unscathed. When two people are in conflict on how to best further the cause of Christ, then a great decision is about to be made!
Now, with everything that has been said, there is one major item that must exist for prosperity to begin; a church must have a purposeful conflict resolution program in place as a top priority. Without proper conflict resolution, those in leadership will become frustrated, quiet, passive, and eventually no longer willing to be involved.
It is important to understand that those who have strong feelings aren’t always looking to “be right”. What they desire most is acknowledgement of their perspective through unbiased discussion. Conflict resolution is the art of acknowledging different views, it allows one to hear valid input from their peers, it allows one to amicably concede their position, or at the very least, it provides an opportunity for one to express their Love towards another by accepting and supporting another person’s perspective. The sad part is I’ve never experienced a church that has a purposeful well defined conflict resolution process in place. It is badly needed.
So how does a church employ a comprehensive conflict resolution program? Look no further than the Bible. Jesus provides the answers. All one has to do is search online on how Jesus teaches about conflict resolution; there are many resources within the Bible, and also many who study the topic at a professional level.
We are to love one another as Christ calls us to do. We owe it to each other to provide proper conflict resolution as a great lesson, not only within a church, but also with many aspects of our personal life. Our marriage, our relationships with our children, and our relationships with our coworkers all will benefit. We are to learn how to concede and still be willing to Love one another, willing to continue to worship and move the church forward to conduct itself as if Christ were sitting in the room with us pondering two wonderful conflicting opinions.