Archive for April, 2018

Biblical Conflict Strategy – A Requirement for a Healthy Church

Thus far, we’ve considered the kind of people that we need for a healthy church, but before we leave this discussion, we must consider how those people interact with each other–specifically, how do they respond when difficulty arises.

Unresolved conflict is the bane of many unhealthy congregations. Issues hang in the air like a heavy fog. In such places, olefactory fatigue has set in. This odd condition is what occurs when you’ve smelled something for so long that you can’t smell it anymore. And in many unhealthy churches, the stench of unresolved conflict has been there so long that we are barely aware of how it wafts through the sanctuary. We just know that brother so-and-so doesn’t speak to certain people, and so we try not to corner him with his “enemies” having given up on fixing this long ago. Instead, we pretend there’s no problem and we smile for our guests, hoping they don’t discover what’s seething beneath our congregational surface.

Doesn’t work. Guests in your church can smell that something’s up, and they aren’t as willing to live in the smell of stories they weren’t here to experience or get used to.

So every church needs a conflict strategy–and the good news is that Jesus gave us one. In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus explains that if a brother has offended us or fallen into sin, we run toward him, not away from him. We look to restore him directly, and if our efforts don’t succeed, we engage the help of friends and leaders. The goal is to resolve and rescue, to put an end to the issue in as healthy a manner as possible.

Unfortunately, many people run the wrong direction. They don’t go toward the one in need. Instead they go to others, whispering about the offense or trying to build a coalition on their side of the conflict. And in so doing, they enlarge the issue until it would take a meeting with hundreds to finally put the matter to rest.

A biblical conflict strategy limits the number who are involved or even aware of the matter to those who have been directly affected. Others don’t need to know or be involved. The fewer people who must live with the issue, the greater the potential for healthy resolution. That’s why Jesus’ first step is toward the one who has offended us.

Pastors in healthy churches preach on healthy conflict strategies frequently. They know that if they can equip their people to run in the right direction in conflict, healthy relationships will result. And, the pastor won’t be needed to referee or solve an escalating conflict nearly as often. I preached from Matthew 18 once a year, using new approaches each time to hide my repetitive focus. Once I tackled this with puppets on mic stands. People found the blue puppet’s divisive behavior appalling and felt sorry for the offending green puppet, laughing their way to truth, at least until they realized how often they’d been that blue guy.

The point is, as a ministry leader the subject of healthy strategies for conflict must have significant focus in your congregation if you’re going to have a healthy church. Matthew 18’s wisdom can only be experienced with intentional effort. And when what we learn on Sundays leaks into our family life on Mondays, well, you may just cut your pastoral counseling time in half.

Healthy churches are growing healthy people and there may be no place where that’s more evident than in the management of conflict.

Outward-Focused Ministries – A Requirement for a Healthy Church

April 2, 2018 1 comment

When I was a kid, I liked playing with baseball cards, watching television or reading a good book, but my dad wasn’t always on board with my preferred ways to spend my leisure time. He would come home from work and tell me to “Go outside!” Now, he wasn’t trying to get rid of me, but he was convinced that fresh air was healthy for every boy. So I would reluctantly obey, and soon find myself have a great time with the neighbor kids.

Most of us have heard or even used the Dead Sea illustration. We know that while water flows into that sea, it has no means of flowing out. So the water sits, accumulates all of its salt in that one place–and nothing can live in it. Hence the name–Dead Sea. The water needs to “get outside” but it can’t and it doesn’t.

Too many churches are functioning in a similar fashion. While the occasional potential for new life flows in, all the activity is inside–no ministry flows outside the walls. The result? Dead Church.

If you want a healthy church, then outward focus is your recipe. The more we aim our ministries and our people into the community, the healthier and more effective our church will become. Inward focus fills the church with disease. Like the Sea, if the salt stays put, it just accumulates until even what’s inside begins to die.

But an outward-focused church constantly lives in the mission of Jesus. They encounter the brokenness of their community and connect with the needs that surround them–just like Jesus did. They can’t help but give their resources to help others, because the compassion of Christ is growing within them. They are becoming servants, because they are encountering the need to serve.

Outward-focused churches quarrel less and give more. When you’re making a difference, you don’t need to sit around and grumble at one another. Instead, you see opportunities for impact and can’t help but want to give to help.

Think of it this way: If you stopped by your grandmother’s house and found her yard had grown to knee-deep levels, you’d run home and get your mower. Well, when people reach into their community and encounter needs they have the means to meet, they give what they have to help get the job done. Churches on a mission have a way of attracting people who are looking for a mission.

So, what if you took some of your best ministries outside your four walls? What if you let your best Sunday school teacher take a quarter off so she could teach a parenting class on Thursday nights in a nearby community building? What if you took your excellent musicians and held a mini-concert in a local park? What if you aimed your church’s excellent cooks toward the local elementary school and filled the teacher’s lounge with their best baked goods? Take what you do well, and go outside with it.

When we begin to flow out into our community, something wonderful happens–we get healthier inside the church. People begin to rediscover purpose and God is able to use us to impact others, just as He intended when He established His Church.

So if you want a healthy church, go play outside.