Conflict is unavoidable and knowing what to do to bring about reconciliation and unity again is not always simple. Here are a few ideas that may assist you in getting started in helping people to become ready for reconciliation. Fresh Start can help you and your church in discovering an effective process for reconciliation. For more information about our mediation ministry give us a call today. (970) 454.5550
Conflict is inevitable.
A quick glance at these three texts illustrates that the finest and most spiritual can find themselves in the midst of dispute. Philippians 4:1, Acts 15:36, Acts 15:1
Like the rolling tide, recurring disagreements consistently wash up on the beach of interpersonal relationships and unless the individuals are anchored in the Word of God and a personal walk with God, it is easy to be washed out into the endless sea of bitterness, dissention, hurt, anger and revenge.
There will always be disagreement. Some people like the color blue while others like the color red and yet other like the color yellow. Many of you reading this do not like blue, red or yellow, but a totally different color.
To stop or to prevent disagreements would require that our world would become bland and dull. The uniqueness of personality, preference, gifting and culture help make our world not only more colorful, but more complete.
If everyone in the world were a hammer, how would we go about smoothing out rough edges? Or if everyone in the world were sand paper, how would be go about shaping exquisite designs?
In a letter written to the church in Corinth, God gives us invaluable insights into how we should see relationships within the church. Clues of God’s creativity, diversity and unity all come squirting out at us from this sponge of scripture.
14For the body is not one member, but many. 15If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. 19If they were all one member, where would the body be? 20But now there are many members, but one body. 21And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; 23and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, 24whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
27Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. 28And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. 29All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? 30All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? 31But earnestly desire the greater gifts.
Fact one. The church is made up of a lot of different people with different gifts, different positions, different roles, different experiences, different ways of communicating, different ways of learning, different abilities, different levels of skill development, different cultures and different…………….well, just different.
Fact two. God anticipated that with all these differences there would be disagreement. So, He gave us some a goal to work toward, a game plan to follow and a place to practice.
The goal is unity within the diversity, game plan is the teaching of Jesus Christ, and the place of practice is the church. If we cannot make unity within diversity happen within the church, we will not have much of a chance to make it happen in the world in which we are to be light and salt.
While Satan and the sin nature of mankind work overtime at creating disunity, God is asking the church to work overtime toward unity in Christ. Christ is to unity in the church what gravity is to stability on earth. If we violate the law of gravity, it can be very disastrous and if we violate the laws of Christ (Matthew 28:19-20) it is equally disastrous.
A person can say, “I don’t care what science says about the law of gravity, I’m going to jump from the top floor of this one-hundred story building anyway”! We all know the outcome of that decision. Likewise a person can say, “I don’t care what Jesus taught, I’m going to live the way I choose”! The result of such a choice creates chaos in the congregation.
To put it another way, Christ’s teachings is our compass but when we no longer calibrate our relationships and conduct by His teaching we will become l marooned in the jungle of life and begin to sink in the quicksand of endless conflict.
Conflict is never private.
From time to time I hear people say, “This disagreement is just between the two of us and it has nothing to do with the church”. That’s like a person who eats an onion in private and hopes he can keep it a secret when he greets his guests who come over to his home for an evening of fellowship. Just as there is a lingering odor from onion eating, so there are lingering effects from all disagreements that evolve into disputes and dissention.
If disputes, disagreements and conflicts are allowed to run wild within a relationship or church, they become more destructive as time goes on. Unlike a tornado that eventually breaks up and dissipates; most unchecked conflicts will continue to leave a path of destruction for many years. Newer believers will often learn and perpetuate these bad behaviors and older believers will often become cynical and jaded.
Some people will choose up sides while others will try to stay neutral, but many will seek a safe haven somewhere else. Many churches, wanting to appear loving will tolerate disputes thinking that their tolerance is a sign of maturity and compassion. This is a grave mistake because what the church actually does is create a climate wherein dysfunctional relationships are tolerated and replicated. In settings like this the tough love of accountability, care-fronting and reconciliation are imperative. We should not confuse sentimentality as being true Biblical love.
What to do.
When conflict is swirling between two or more persons in a church, what steps should we take to work toward a solution?
God has set in place a picture of reconciliation which embodies both a process and an experience of restoration.
The process of reconciliation could be best illustrated through agricultural axioms. We all know that before a farmer can harvest a crop he must plow the soil, cultivate the soil, plant the seed, and then wait for the laws of God to activate the soil and seed through sun and rain to produce growth and fruit.
If we study the process of God reconciling His creation with Himself, we can see that it involved many generations of cultivation and seed sewing before Christ came with the final act of reconciliation. (II Corinthians 5:18)
In most cases, it takes time to bring about reconciliation. When two or more persons have been separated or alienated though conflict it is highly unlikely that an immediate solution will be found and accepted. Because we live in a day of fast food and instant oatmeal, we sometimes think that there is some magic wand we can wave that will set everything right in just one moment. This is rarely the case.
What you are holding in your hands is one approach to a process that has been designed specifically to help people become ready for reconciliation.
Trying to bring two or more persons together without some preliminary soil cultivation and seeding of the heart and mind will often result in people hiding behind hardened excuses.
Trying to jump into reconciliation without any preparatory work is like jumping into lake Michigan during the middle of January or trying to harvest corn when you haven’t plowed the ground or sowed any seed.
If the peacemaker can envision a process similar to farming, the outcomes will be more likely honoring to God and helpful for the local church. Someone once said that jumping to conclusions is the only exercise that some people get. For the peacemaker, this is not a good exercise approach. Take your time. Spent time in prayer preparing your own heart and perspective. Spend time in Bible study discovering God’s view of things. Spend time gathering all the information needed for an enlightened decision-making process. Spend time in coaching and counseling people and lead them through a process that God will help you design and through which God will work all things together for His glory and the good of the church.
What are the issues? How deep and widespread are the issues? During this period the peacemaker seeks to determine the key issues and the peacemaker legitimizes private and public disclosure of the issues. How ready are all the persons involved to resolve this dispute? How can we move them closer to a resolution? During this period you are seeking to replace the weeds of carnal thinking with the seeds of spiritual thinking.
- Personal assessment through an reconciliation opinionnaire
- Interviews and discussions with all people involved
- Personal introspection through prayer assignments.
- Personal insights through devotional reading assignment
Seed sowing activities
During this period the peacemaker leads the congregation through small groups and family gatherings to acknowledge openly the issues and addresses them through biblical themes. What new behaviors need to be taught from the Word of God? What new ways of relating to one another need to be discussed?
- Group Bible studies with a peacemaker
- Group prayer times
- Personal Bible Studies
- Introduce new behaviors for handling conflict
Allowing time for the Holy Spirit to convict and the Word of God to influence lives is imperative. How much time does the church need to assimilate new truth into their hearts and lives? What else needs to happen in order to move people toward a resolution?
- Personal prayer assignments growing out of the learning
- Continued one on one coaching and counseling times if needed.
Now is the time to settle the matters and put them under the blood of Christ. We are now calling people to obedience to Jesus Christ. Peacemaker brings the factions together for confession and reconciliation
- Peacemaker bring individuals together for reconciliation
- Peacemaker brings the church family together for a solemn assembly
- Extended family members who have left the church may need to be brought back into the circle of confession and forgiveness.
Preserving the Fruit
Follow up on each person’s decision and how they are approaching new situations of conflict is important.
- Systems of accountability need to be considered
- A covenant of accountability could be used
Copyright © 2003 Fresh Start Ministries
Last modified: 06/25/05