“Conflict” simply seeing the word causes many of us to have vivid flashbacks. Very few individuals enjoy conflict. Those who do, I would call demented. Those of us who serve as leaders in the work of ministry are especially prone to finding ourselves in conflict. One would wonder why we have to deal with so much conflict in the church of all places. We expect conflict outside the church, but in the sacred body of Christ? Why? Very simply, we are dealing with conflicted people; people who may have been transformed by the Gospel of Christ, but instead of allowing themselves to be Spirit-led have chosen to be driven by the casualty of the flesh. In other cases, they have for various reasons chosen to wear the label of Christian, without experiencing the transforming power of Christ. In either case, these “conflicted” people are going to bring conflict into the church.
The lightening rod of the church conflict is usually…the Pastor. I must admit that sometimes the originator of the conflict is the Pastor; the reason may be either of the two previous factors. Typically the conflict comes from individuals who seem to have extra-biblical insight to how church should be done; a two-word summary would be “my way.” Any deviation from this model is confronted either covertly with behind the scene secret meetings disguised as meetings of individuals deeply concerned for the Pastor or the direction the church is going. Individuals in these meetings are carefully selected to leverage as much weight as possible to ensure the pastor and/or the church gets back on track. Or depending on the status and power of the person who has revelation insight into the Ecclesiastical structure of the church, the confrontation may come as an overt attack directed at the Pastor that says “shape up or ship out.” The preferred scenario at this point is to ship out.
I have been the recipient of both the covert and overt approach, so speaking from first-hand experience, I know the feelings of rejection, betrayal, deceit, broken trust and I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Sleep and appetite are replaced with insomnia and a strange knot in the stomach that robs one of any desire to eat or any other pleasures. All options of relief are explored it nowhere but in the mind. Decisions must be made. Do I stay and fight or do I pack a U-Haul and slip away into the night. The latter certainly has the most appeal and would be much easier than the former. But rarely does God call us to take the easy path. Easy does little to conform us to the image of Jesus.
It is during these times of conflict that Romans 8:28 can become what one Pastor calls “a soft pillow for a troubled heart.” We don’t have to like what is going on or understand, but when we grasp the truth that our heavenly Father is in the process of working all things for our good, even the hurt and pain, things can begin to take on a new perspective. We are suddenly faced with the reality that this is not being “done to me,” but “for me” which calls for the submission mirrored by the Lord Jesus “Father not my will but yours be done.” Easy, no, but right is never easy.
Our Father never intends for us to go through conflict alone. We have the Holy Spirit to comfort, guide, and when necessary convict. I don’t believe that our help stops there. Remember when Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane, He took with Him that inter-circle of trusted friends. They didn’t turn out to be much help, but the point of surrounding ourselves with others is still there.
My encouragement is, don’t face conflict alone, seek the guidance of the Spirit, but also seek the counsel of trusted individuals that are confidential and which you can bare your heart