Resolving Church Conflicts

Years ago, I came across a very helpful idea regarding marriage, but I think it is equally applicable to church conflicts between different people. Here it is adapted to a conflict in the church:

When two people in a church are upset with each other, usually there is plenty to point to on both sides. But pointing at another hardly solves any problems. To solve problems the two should begin by pointing at themselves. Scripture says the one must take the log out of his own eye before he is able to see clearly enough to remove the splinter from another (Matthew 7:3-5). That is exactly where so many go wrong, like in this husband and wife picture:There’s no communication when two people are squared off against one another. How do they get communication started? Two people communicate when they walk and work unitedly in the same direction, but how do they get moving in the same direction. They start by turning the attack from persons to a problem. When they focus on something outside of themselves, they take away the blame, and thus diffuse the animosity.But how can quarreling individuals begin to expend their energy on solving problems God’s way instead of continuing along the destructive course of tearing each other and their Church apart? That is the question! It’s very hard to agree to looking at the problem when there is so little agreement to begin with. It seems like evading to one or the other.

The answer is: through the right kind of communication. That is the only answer. They must begin by focusing in the same direction even if it’s not on the problem yet. Either one may do this by focusing on himself first.The other’s already focusing on you, so all you have to do is get lined up alongside the person as they focus on you. Then look at your own log first. Then for the first time in a long while the two will be focusing in the same direction. It is truly amazing how much instant agreement you can get from a person who previously may have disagreed with you concerning nearly everything under the sun, when you begin to say, “I have wronged you”. Then specifically and sincerely ask forgiveness. Or if you don’t know what you have done, humbly and without defensiveness say, “How have I wronged you?” And ask open questions to try and understand. That is where reconciliation often must begin. You never ought to begin by taking the lid off the other fellow’s trash can until you have cleaned out the garbage in your own can first. That is where communication begins. *

I have used this in a number of different church conflicts I have been in. Often when I confess to them and sincerely ask for forgiveness, they do the same. And the reconciliation happens. Or after I ask, “Help me to see where I have wronged you?” and I come to understand it from their perspective, they often will ask me the same thing. Then we are not only reconciled, but we are solving the real underlying problems.

* Adapted from Christian Living in the Home by Jay Adams, Presbyterian and Reformed, Nutley, NJ, copyright 1972, p. 33-35





Before You Hit Send


[The following email is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event.]

To: Pastor

Re: What you are about to do.

Dear Pastor,

I couldn’t help but see the draft of the email you wrote to that woman today. Are you really sure you want to begin an affair with her? Hasn’t the flirting already gone too far? Do you really want to do this?

images-1Before you hit send… think of the sweet bride you married at the altar. Remember on that glorious day, you promised to love her in sickness and in health, for better and for worse, till death do you part. How it will break her heart! Sure, she’s not all that she used to be. Not as attractive, not as attentive, but neither are you, right? If there’s a coldness and distance in your relationship from the years of fighting, aren’t you at least partly responsible? It’s not really such a good excuse, is it? What’s that you always say in marriage counseling? “It takes two to tango.”

Think of your kids; do you want them to have this picture in their minds whenever they see you? Is this a good example for your son? Do you want him to think he is free to do this with his new girlfriend because “well, Dad did it?” How about your young, pure and innocent daughter, imagine how she will rebuff your fatherly affection, “Eeew”!

Family splitAnd what will this do to your whole family? “But it’s just one time,” you say, “not a biggie.” How many men have you counseled who said the same thing, only to become deeply entwined in an extramarital affair to the demise of their marriages and the destruction of their families? You know how powerfully addictive illicit sex is. It’s as if you are taking that family photo and you are ripping it right down the middle.

And of course there is the dear woman you are taking advantage of. She worships the ground you walk on, doesn’t she? It’s so nice to have her fawning over you. One time in bed with her would be heaven, you say. Hey, think about what you’re taking from her and the hell you are creating for her and her already struggling family. Just to meet your own desires. And if her hubby finds out, don’t you think he will go through the roof? You will certainly hear about it. And then what about her kids? They are still in grade school. What would a broken family do to them?

1_19_Home_When_Preachers_Suffer_from_Pulpit_Anxiety__413640232And you know the story with the church. These people trust you and have followed your instructions about marriage. You even performed the marriages of many of them. You are letting them down BIG TIME. There’s no way to keep it a secret especially in our social media world. You will have to stand before them some Sunday and admit what you have done. How many of your colleagues in ministry have done the same thing! Not only are they out of the church, but in most instances they are out of the ministry. So then everything you have worked for these last years – all down the drain. Just when you are really understanding their struggles and hardships. Just when you could really connect with them.

Most of all there is your relationship with the Lord. You know what its like to try to operate without his power. You’re good, but not that good. Picture him, a tear in his eye, a compassionate look on his face, whispering, “Come back to me, come back now, please”. You can run right into his arms right now and know his Psalm 52 forgiveness. It’s his love that can fill the loneliness and isolation at the heart of this temptation. Yes, he will forgive you after the fact, but it would be so much easier now, knowing his love at this very moment.


So… won’t you delete that email now? Tell her your flirting was wrong and kindly but definitely cut it off. Then begin rebuilding your marriage with your wife. Won’t you … for her sake… for your kids… the church… the Lord.

Won’t you?

Signed: Your Conscience