Pastors are not immune to church conflict. In fact, I would say we are “immunocompromised” when it comes to church conflict. You don’t have to be in ministry very long before you will experience some kind of disagreement, disunity, conflict of visions, personality disorders, or downright wickedness.
Here are some things I learned about church conflict while serving as a pastor:
- Conflict is inevitable. It’s just a matter of time before something comes up and you find yourself in direct conflict with a church leader or member.
- Conflict should be a signal to pray. I know it sounds trite but God often uses conflict to get our attention and drive us to prayer.
- Conflicts can have positive effects on the church. If we are patient and humble, God can use conflict to reveal His will more clearly. The conflict can be God’s signal to wait, or to change direction, or to correct a priority.
- Pastors need thick skins and calm minds to navigate through the highly charged emotions of church conflict. But if we are willing to listen, ask questions, and seek to understand, sometimes we can have a good outcome that will turn enemies into allies
- Conflicts are rarely what they seem. There are usually underlying issues that are causing conflict. Again, patience and a desire to understand can help us get to the bottom of it.
- Don’t let the conflict be about your pride. If you get your sense of value from what you do rather than from who you are in Christ, you are likely to find yourself in a defensive mode. Conflicts challenge us to examine our lives and if we are insecure, they will bring us into a position of anger and unrest. Humbly seeking God’s truth about ourselves and the situation can bring a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
- Waiting 24 hours to respond can bring resolution to many conflicts. I’ve made this a practice for many years and it has proven invaluable. When you feel compelled to respond to a situation, ask yourself if you can wait 24 hours. This will give you time to pray, seek God for wisdom, and give an opportunity for it to work out its own way. Many issues will be resolved by simply waiting 24 hours to respond.
- Sweeping conflict under the rug will only work for a short period of time. Eventually, you will have to address the problem. Honesty, humility, and openness are the best postures for resolving conflict.
- Seek counsel from a trusted friend or advisor. They may have experience that will benefit you. They may have wisdom to share that will benefit you. They may be willing to pray with you for a resolution of the conflict.
- Trust your sovereign Father. He is fully in control of all situations. He is fully aware of everything that is taking place. He loves you deeply. He cares for you completely. He wants you to grow through the conflict. You really can trust HIM.
Pastors, you are not alone. Reach out to us at careforpastors.org and allow us to walk with you through your church conflict.