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SUMMARy: Resolving interpersonal conflicts in the church
Wherever there are people, there will be problems. In the face of all kinds of sensitive challenges, the actions of church leaders prove the reality of their faith and commitment to God and his people. Actions flow from faith.
Church Leader Pearls recognises that there are many occasions where as church leaders, we intermediate in problems in the general society. However, we have our fair share of people problems in the church. Moses did and so too the disciples (Exodus 18:13-26; Acts 6:3-5).
Often we do not have the luxury of knowing in advance, what a problem between individuals in the church is, so we have little time to think about it. The beauty is that most times, we are external to the problems of the laity. This helps because it gives us different levels of thinking and perspectives on the matter.
We all want to present spirit inspired and wise, workable solutions. Often, perfect solutions are not possible immediately or seemingly ever probable. Not every problem has a ready, perfect solution. An irreconcilable disagreement might lead to going different ways (Amos 3:3; Acts 15:36-41). Yet we must seriously continue to strive for reconciliation. Half a solution – a Band-Aid solution, might not be the best, but it lets life carry on.
Problems and differences from staff or between laity arise mainly because of a need for recognition, honour, power and reward. As church leaders, we know the theology to explain this; how selfish ambitions can overtake righteousness and God’s will.
That said, often church leaders allow matters to fester even when the Holy Spirit alerts them to brewing troubles. Church Leader Pearls suggests that prevention is better than cure. Still, the scriptures teach us how to use explicit interpersonal skills (2 Tim 3:16), as the necessary work-component to faith. Many false teachings do not recommend the pastor and prayer as the first step in solutions.
These are the kinds of challenges and false teachings churches face. As a servant of the Lord, you have the wisdom to settle a dispute or wrongdoing. Your evaluations in conflict situations are and must remain in the light of scripture.
Point out the person’s fault privately or in the presence of witnesses. Censure the one who infringes, but not in a way that stirs up the wrongdoer’s anger. This will make him or her unyielding and make reconciliation difficult.
Be just and impartial as you listen for the other side of the matter from the relevant party or parties. Be slow to speak and slow to anger. Have faith that God the Holy Spirit will guide you to draw fair conclusions, and discern the right from the wrong. Remember that it is not always a battle between personalities. The culprit often is evil spiritual forces.
As you listen and comment or question, keep praying within, and trust the Lord to help you make the best judgement, and to express it in the best way. Forgive the person when he or she is sorry.
When you are ready to make a ruling or propose a solution, do what is honourable in the sight of God and the Word, and in the interest of all.