- 1 Dealing with Conflict: Within the Membership.
Dealing with Conflict: Within the Membership.
By way of introduction let me relate a bit of my personal opinion of having had fights (differences of opinions, because spiritual people never admit they “fight” or get mad) with other Christians over the years. When I felt I was most right in a matter and had to oppose someone else, I found that God seemed to chastise both of us. Neither got away clean. The only ones who get away clean (no punishment) in church fights are the devils kids, because God generally doesn’t whip them at the moment (that is coming for them). So in any church fight, both parties get the experience of divine rebuke and chastisement, both parties “lose”, the testimony of God’s people and of God gets a black eye, and the whole thing is usually a big mess.
One of the important understandings here is that this is what church fights are supposed to be, a big disastrous mess. Church fights go directly against the will of God, and therefore are provoked by the Devil, and they accomplish his purpose, not God’s purpose.
Let’s start by backing up a little bit. If the church members are good, faithful, obedient Christians, these problems would not happen. Unfortunately we have churches filled with people which are not good, faithful, obedient Christians. Let’s start by laying some blame around.
First problem behind fighting members (between themselves, this page doesn’t deal with conflict between pastor and sheep) is probably a lot of unsaved church members. One of the fundamental planks of a Baptist church is that the membership has to be saved. So there we have failed from the start gate. Secondly we have failed because as Pastors we have presumed that our people come to us saying they are saved, or supposedly get converted under our ministries, and again we suppose they are saved when they are not. Their lives reveal the true carnality or their unsaved condition. This focus is that preachers should always preach on salvation regularly to the home folk. You never know when you will uncover a false “Christian.”
Additionally we should understand that many churches (1) do not explain simply and clearly the plan of salvation and this causes confusion or simply put, the unsaved don’t get saved. (2) They do not pray for the salvation of their people as if everything depended on a true conversion. (3) The preaching in general does not convict of sin. In our day, we are constantly being bombarded by fellow ministers and our people who want designer churches. They want it to be nice and pleasant, when God has given us a commission to communicate and implement God’s will which is contrary and offensive to man’s will. We side with the one that has all the money, our rich members. Well that causes a lot of problems.
I think the heat from pulpit, and the integrity of the leaders, especially the pastor is a great culprit in not facing the unsaved and dealing with them such that they get saved.
Most of the serious church fights turn around key individuals that are just unsaved rascals. When these unsaved rascals are big tithers, or are assistant pastors, deacons, elders, or (put in your control person word here), then the pastor will fight until he blue in the face and not get anywhere. Every new pastor entering a new church situation should preach hot and heavy (and for a good long time) on salvation.
I am beginning to get the idea that instead of a church, we run a kindergarten. At least the maturity level of the people I have to deal with seems to be on that level. Another image of this problem is that we have a Chinese church. We have to deal with everything and everybody with chopsticks (long distance and never up close and personal) or everybody gets mad.
One of the tactics of Satan is to constantly insert key people into the church (key in the sense of donating money, having control in some way, or key because of their talent or ministry) which are immature, and which upsets the order of things.
As a pastor, I have come to the position where I will work as long and hard with any of my people as is necessary, but if they want to destroy our order, they can just get mad and leave. We can survive without prima donas.
Here comes the bad news. There is no way to deal with immature Christians except to press them with what makes us all grow up. We must be responsible and handle problems. We must study and learn by error and tribulation, and there is no way around it.
I think that a large part of our churches problems today is that we have stopped being in the business of molding character. Quite frankly, few churches preach against sin. Among those few that do, most take it to a legalistic position, where pure scriptural principles are not really the end result but some norm or standard that we can use to prove our own spirituality over the world. An example in case is pants on women. Most churches could care less about women (and what about men’s?) appearance. But among those that do preach something, the norm and majority are very simply, “Women, don’t use pants.” Is that really stated in Scripture? No it is not. The scriptural principle is for all (men and women) to be modest. While an application of that principle MAY BE that women should not use pants, that application is not unilaterally and exclusively the principle.
Women can wear indecent blouses, mini-skirts, and tight fitting, hip and chest hugging clothes and technically “not wear pants” but they are indecent anyway. So the error here is not in preaching on modesty, but in equating modesty with anything else but modesty. You have to preach the Bible, the whole Bible, leaving nothing off, adding nothing, and changing nothing. Pants is an interpretation that should be made on an individual person level. What should be preached is modesty. The whole issue is to not use your appearance and body to call attention to yourself (as a woman or as a man).
These biblical principles rarely find home in our preaching. We constantly see from small kids to teens to adults that chose and wear their clothes as a definition of their character (this is fine, as long as they fit within Scripture). Rather that please God and be modest, humble, meek, etc. we find people going to the opposite position. They want to impress other people with themselves on a carnal, outward, fleshly level.
Preaching against sin needs to be done carefully, but constantly. The preacher must analyze and look at the attitudes that cause sin, and find the remedy for these problems in Scripture. Do women understand how their attractive appearance, especially in being sensual, carnal, rousing romance causes men to sin in their minds? Do women really fit the humble servant motiff of good Christians when they are seeking the opposite?
Sin fighting must be done such that our thoughts and topics are not directed by what benefits us economically. Many churches don’t preach against sin because they would lose their people. This is a problem, working the ministry for the wages of Baal. Many churches and ministers fit that exactly. Just try to suggest that they change something wrong that the church unilaterally holds
I wish I had unlimited wisdom here, but I don’t. In my experience, it seems like Satan will always infiltrate in our church problem people. Therefore I think some things need to be kept very much in mind here.
1. Church is where we fix people’s problems, therefore don’t get upset by people with problems.
When I say this, I mean that a church is like a hospital. Sick people come in to get well. Doctors and nurses come in to participate in that process. If you put a guard at the door that turns away all sick people, you defeat your purpose of existing. Therefore both you (pastor), your leadership team (deacons, teachers, assistant pastors, leaders, etc), and your members need to understand that we receive problem people.
2. Healthy people in exemplary positions help fix problems, and sick people in the public light cause a lot of people to be contaminated with their sickness.
I firmly believe that God has laid down strict standards for all those in ministry or positions of leadership exactly because of this principle. We tend to blindly (like sheep) follow our leaders. Unspiritual, immature, or contentious leaders cause or project into their people their spiritual character. These problems are just the fruit of what you have been sowing for a good while.
But just remember that this is not at all balanced or “just” as the world might would see it. As a good pastor, I can be a good spiritual example for x years, and nobody will follow my example. But let one single falter, slip, or lax moment pass, everybody will observe it, remark on it (i.e. gossip it to the entire world, saved or unsaved), and then use it as an excuse for them to likewise do stupid sinful things. Don’t let this get you discouraged. This is the way these things work, get used to it, and be excessive at not doing anything that would spot your testimony. Always err on the side of you being on the losing side of things because of your testimony. Cut 10% or 20% off the price of things you sell so nobody can talk about your greediness. Forgive, forgive, and then forgive some more.
Let me elaborate even more here. You as pastor present God’s will to these people, and God requires you to be a living example. Therefore most pastors do not usually trip up in public. But the process within your people is like this. They constantly here your preaching standards, and they cannot comply in their personal lives. What happens, they try to put away the conflict and their failure from their minds. God constantly returns their thoughts to what and how they do not comply with God’s will. This makes a tremendous spiritual pressure in their lives (conviction). Most of your people are experts at never letting this conviction show, and never changing anything. One slip up on your part (or anyone in the pulpit view) is justification for these people that nobody can live the Christian life really, and so they get some relief by “enjoying” your sinning. They will get mad if it is against them, but there is a relief from this spiritual pressure by attacking and relating the sins of others. This should not be, but it is kind of a relief of the pressure that any good pastor puts on them. This also destroys or sets back the work of God in them that you are trying to do.