Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
Conflict is a fact of life. Throughout the Bible, we see God’s people at odds with one another. And we’re no different today. Although there can be many sources of conflict within a church, the issues that most often cause conflict emerge from differences about beliefs, methods, factual data, budgets, values, change, policies, communication, and church government.
As long as people care, there will always be conflicts of this nature. So what’s the secret to resolving such differences? Containment.
CONTAINMENT BY THE BOOK
You can see containment applied in the secular world every day. For example, firemen contain a fire to keep it from destroying an entire building or spreading to other nearby structures. It’s also likely that you practice containment regularly on a personal level: Self-control is containment. Turning the other cheek is containment. Agreeing to disagree is containment. Speaking the truth in love is also containment. Keeping your mouth shut and speak only when you are asked to speak is containment.
Jesus put the principle of containment into powerful words in Matthew 5:23-24 “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” and Matthew 18:15-17,” Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglects to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.” giving us step-by-step guidance that will never become outdated. The core value of this biblical containment principle is that it keeps conflict at the lowest management level and focuses on the primary problem. Church conflicts can be resolved redemptively if leaders will faithfully follow Jesus’ guidelines step by step.
If someone has something against you, go to him (Matthew 5:23-25). If someone has wronged you, Jesus says to make the first step toward reconciliation (Matthew 18:15). Arrange a time and place to meet without surprises. Use wisdom as to whether to go alone or have someone with you.
If the individual will not listen, take others with you (Matthew 18:16). Always take someone all the parties know and respect.
If the person will not listen, tell the church (Matthew 18:17). At this stage and for subsequent action, seek outside intervention, but keep the principle of containment operative here as well. Depending on the nature of the conflict, taking it directly to the church at large may not be wise. Instead, take it to elected leaders: the deacon body or an established committee structure that the constitutional guidelines dictate.
If the individual refuses to listen, “let him be like an unbeliever“ (Matthew 18:17) to motivate and bring him to reconciliation with God and the church. Again, contain. Remove the person from all leadership positions. If that doesn’t work, place him in a watch care ministry. If that fails, follow church policies or constitutional guidelines to revoke his church membership. This is what many leaders do not want to do with members and they eventually fall off by themselves. That way there is no one to blame but yourself.
Redemptive solutions to conflict are motivated by love (Ephesians 4:15,29), driven by a desire for reconciliation (Matthew 5:23-25), and bathed in prayer (James 5:16). Before you confront anyone, purify your motives through prayer.
The basic temperament to be used in solving conflict is found in the Golden Rule (Luke 6:31; Matthew 7:12). Remember, conflict in and of itself isn’t sinful, but a response to it can be. The following scriptural instructions, or as I like to call them, Be-attitudes of the Heart, are clear, concise, and easy to understand.
Be a confessor: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed” (James 5:16).
Be an edifier: “No rotten talk should come from your mouth, but only what is good for the building up of someone in need, in order to give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
Be a restorer: “Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted also” (Galatians 6:1).
Be a forgiver: “And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another just as God also forgave you in Christ” (Ephesians 4:32).
Be a unifier: “Now I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all say the same thing, that there be no divisions among you, and that you be united with the same understanding and the same conviction” (1 Corinthians 1:10).
Be an example: “Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s [will]; not for the money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2-3).
Be a lover: “‘Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another'” (John 13:34).
I do not own the Scriptures but I am a part-taker of these precious words when applied for the proper purpose. If we follow the wors as is written we will walk in the fear of the Lord. When we break the word, trouble meets us at any corner of our life. A man that keepeth his tongue shall save his soul.