Many church leaders assume conflict is simply built into their ministries. In fact, it has become such a regular part of pastoral work that people frequently joke about its pervasiveness in ministry. The good news is conflict doesn't need to overwhelm your life.
There is hope.
God has a lot to say about quarrelling in the church and in our families. In His Word, we find six principles that will help you de-escalate conflict wherever you find it.
Understand How Destructive Conflict Is
"The fool who provokes his family to anger and resentment will finally have nothing worthwhile left" (Prov. 11:29, TLB).
There is a real cost to conflict. Quarreling is a big deal to God. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible mentions the topic more than 75 times. At least six times, God says not to quarrel. He knows that it will destroy everything we hold dear if we don't get a handle on it.
It shouldn't surprise us that as Paul was passing on ministry wisdom to Timothy, he tells him: "Remind everyone about these things, and command them in God's presence to stop fighting over words. Such arguments are useless, and they can ruin those who hear them" (2 Tim. 2:14, NLT). The Bible makes it clear that we should play a proactive role in reducing conflict.
Ask God for Forgiveness
"Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief" (James 4:8b-9a, NLT).
You can't minimize your part in the quarrels that happen in your church and in your family. James points out that you must recognize your role in the conflict. Stop making excuses, and ask God for the power to change.
Don't Expect Other People to Fulfill Needs Only God Can Fulfill
"You quarrel and fight. You don't have the things you want, because you don't pray for them" (James 4:2b GW).
Asking other people to do what only God can do will set you and them up for massive frustration. In fact, it's a major cause of conflict, particularly in marriage. No one can (or should) meet all your needs.
Instead, James tells us to look to God to meet the most important needs of our lives. Prayerlessness leads to conflict.
Choose Humility Over Anger
"As the Scriptures say, 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.' So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:6b-7, NLT).
God has declared war on ego, arrogance and selfishness. Anytime pride gets a hold of our lives, we can guarantee we're working in opposition to God.
If you want God's help to reduce conflict in your life, start with humility. When you're humble, you'll get along better with your staff, your congregation and your family.
Recognize the Unseen Spiritual War Behind the Scenes
"Humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7).
Satan wants to damage all of your relationships. He's ready to supply you with an arsenal of hurtful words the moment you get into a quarrel, which will only escalate your conflict to places you don't intend. That's why it's critical you resist him if you want to dial back the conflict in your life.
Be aware that Satan has a plan to attack you when you're at your weakest and to push you to act emotionally rather than logically.
The Bible tells us, "Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you" (Eph. 4:31-32, NLT).
Hang those verses on your mirror or your refrigerator. Commit them to memory if you can. When you feel yourself being pushed to the edge emotionally in conflict, remind yourself of these wise words.
Talk to God Silently During Your Quarrel
"Come near to God, and God will come near to you" (James 4:8, NCV).
As you're headed into conflict, talk to God silently about it. James gives us a wonderful promise that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. Lean on that promise when you're in the middle of conflict. Once you realize you're starting to get irritable, pause and ask God for help.
If you're in the middle of a season of conflict in your church or in your family, don't give up! God stands ready and able to help.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church, one of America's largest and most influential churches. He is the author of the New York Times' bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book The Purpose Driven Church was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. Pastor Rick started The PEACE Plan to show the local church how God works through ordinary people to address the five global giants of spiritual emptiness, self-serving leadership, poverty, disease and illiteracy. You can listen to Daily Hope, Pastor Rick's daily 25-minute audio teaching, or sign up for his free daily devotionals at pastorrick.com. He is also the founder of pastors.com, a global online community created to encourage pastors.
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