by | May 9, 2024 | Forgiveness, Gossip, Leadership, Ministry Leader, Pastor, Unity

A few weeks ago we began addressing the topic of conflict. For a lot of people, the tendency will be “I hate conflict” so the temptation to merely scroll past posts and podcasts on this subject is real. If you are one of those people, you probably refer to yourself as “non-confrontational” and just the mere idea of dealing with conflict is enough to make you break out in hives.

But conflict, especially in leadership, is unavoidable. We don’t really avoid conflict; we merely postpone it. And when we postpone it, we always are forced to deal with it in greater proportion.

If you’re leading in ministry, conflict is a messy part of the program.

Even Jesus knew this to be true. In Matthew 18:5, He said, “If your brother sins against you, go, and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” Learning to relate to one another as believers is a lifelong process as we continue to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. In the meantime, in our imperfection, relational wounds happen. Therefore, Jesus urges us to fix them before they become irreparable.

One of the pitfalls of postponing conflict . . . it often leads to gossip.

Jesus in Matthew 18 indicates that the offended party has the responsibility to initiate communication with the person who offended, instead of gathering advice and intel from others first. Going to the person who hurt you instead of bringing it up in a prayer meeting. Going to the source instead of asking everyone in your social circle if you’re thinking right about the offense.

The longer I’m a Christian, it is more apparent to me that the most egregious sin in the Church isn’t (insert whatever the huge moral panic that looms large in society) . . . it’s gossip. And at its core gossip stems from unresolved conflict.

Jesus felt so strongly about this that He even instructed us to halt our worship with God until we resolve our issues. He said, “Therefore if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your them; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24.

Our friend Jay Fowler offers practical tools we can utilize when walking out Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 18:

  • If you are the person who was offended: 
    • Go to your offender face to face. Talk directly to the person who hurt you. Avoid the urge to bring others in on the hurt.
    • Go humbly. Be willing to admit to your part in the conflict.
    • Go ready to forgive.
    • NOTE: If the harm done to you was physical in nature, do not go to them alone. Refuse to put yourself into a dangerous situation. Get to a coach or a counselor who can strategize with you regarding next steps.
  • If you are the person who has done the offending: 
    • Take the initiative to restore the relationship.
    • Practice graciousness.
    • Genuinely admit your part in the problem.
    • Apologize, and commit to never saying or doing that thing again. Apologizing for the same transgression over and over again gets old fast.
  • If you are someone being gossiped to about an outside conflict: 
    • You can ask: “Have you had a chance to talk with them about this?”
    • You might add, “I don’t want to be in a triangle on this.”
    • If they persist in gossiping to you, you can add something like, “Go talk with him or her as soon as possible.  I will be praying for you. At the end of the week, I will check in with you to see if you had a chance to talk to talk to them yet. If you did not, I will tell that person know that he/she needs to talk with you. I will not tell them what you said, only that there is an issue that needs to be resolved.”

Pursuing unity is demanding work. But it is worth the effort. The Bible tells us that where unity exists, there God commands His blessing (Psalm 133).

Addressing conflict with grace and truth is a skill that in many ways dictates the size of responsibility God can entrust to you. It is so important, that a bit later in Matthew 18 Jeus says, “For where two or three are gathered in My name, there I am in the midst of them.” He’s not talking about a prayer meeting or a worship service—He’s talking about the power unity brings to a family, a church, or any organization for that matter.

It’s our sense that if the Church gets this unity thing right, it will become the unstoppable force Jesus has always meant for it to be. And you dear leader, get to pave the way.

We’re rooting and praying for you,

John & Jaime