As long as there are people, there will be conflict. I am 15 years now in student ministry. There is nothing that has opened up my thinking of leaving ministry more than conflict. It has paralyzing venom. Through my networking circles in ministry so often I heard of pastors and ministry leaders pushing up the white flag and called it quits as a direct response to conflict.
Conflict itself is not avoidable. Someone will betray you. Something you said will get blown out of proportion. You will not see things the same way as another staff person. Conflict is often viewed through a very critical and negative lens. I believe though that this inevitable part of our humanity can be a catalyst for good and not devastation. Consider these thoughts as a way of helping us renew our mind to the idea of conflict.
It is easy to point out faults that we see in anything especially people. I have heard several communicators say, “All frustrations are from unmet expectations.” I have learned to whole-heartedly agree with this phrase. When I get frustrated with something or someone, my first reaction must be to look and question myself. Have I put unnecessary expectations on this? Am I frustrated over something that I have not properly communicated? It is not in our nature to assume that problems could be resulting from within us, but wisdom tells us to check there first. Jesus explains this, and it is recorded in both Matthew and Luke’s gospel account. Looking at Matthew 7:1-5. This is a great leadership principle that Jesus gives us. When we look beyond the judgment thoughts here, we see a principle of making sure we check our own lives. The conflict then gets to be a catalyst that exposes our hearts and thoughts.
Conflict can be a clear reminder of the brokenness that is apparent in all of humanity. We are a fallen people, of course, there will be conflict. It is the response to this conflict that will set us apart. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that our battle is not against flesh and blood. Conflict is not us against them. The battle is “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” Conflict should not cause us to run away but remind us of why we run to Jesus. It can be a fuel to remind us of why we do what we do. This is how we can pray for those who persecute us. Conflict can be fuel to remind us what we are fighting against in the efforts to reconcile the world back to our Creator.
As a leader, conflict should be written into your job description. You are a rare person if you thrive in conflict moments. Most of us look to avoid them like a plague. There is wisdom required in knowing when to step in, but the fact is that there are moments that need a leader to navigate. Proverbs 27:5-6 Speaks of how a true leader must love God and love people. Love due also to our brokenness includes conflict. However, when handled through the lens of God’s glory and their good it is effective in restoration. We must not hold back from doing hard things including conflict. Author and communicator Bob Goff would say, “Love Does.”
These three thoughts are easy to write and share but certainly not as easy to live. These are three biblical principles to help when practiced can change everything. Conflict does not have to be a tool used by our enemy for divisive ends. It should not isolate others. It should communicate love and the fact that we are on this journey together. Our battle must be against the real enemy, not one another.
Written by blog contributor:
First Baptist Church on the Square, LaGrange, Georgia