Like most Americans, I have watched the standoff in Washington. Trash talk has filled the air waves. Guns seem to have been drawn, and each side is waiting for the other to flinch. Talking and working toward resolution has long passed. Sooner or later, someone will flinch, others will declare victory and any innocents hit in the gunfire will be blamed on the other party.
Shameful behavior for grown, mature, intelligent leaders? Oh yes! I could only wish that this happened at the White House and Capitol building only. Far too often, I find myself greatly grieved that what we see from our national leaders in government is replayed in the church houses across our state.
Nothing troubles me more than to watch the destructive force of church infighting that leaves the church in disarray, sheep scattered and the testimony of the church in the community damaged for years to come. Yet, almost every week, I am alerted to another church that is in turmoil. Be assured, when strife is present in the church, Satan is the only one who wins.
I am reminded that the church is built in the context of sacrifice and love. A cursory reading of I Cor. 13 would bring any and all of us to our knees. Church conflict would be resolved in a healthy way if we just placed into practice this powerful truth revealed as a letter to one of the most immature and conflict ridden churches in Scripture. Love is not mushy. Love can speak the truth, but love is always respectful and is willing to defer to others when it is for the common good.
When conflict comes to the church, people often say, “I’m just going to give them a piece of my mind about ____!” I always want to say, “Don’t do it. You cannot afford to lose one brain cell!” It would do us all good, when we find ourselves embroiled in a conflict with brothers and sisters in the church, to seek the mind of Christ rather than sharing a piece of our mind. Your mind will most often display rancor and anger. The mind of Christ will lead to peace and restoration.
One of the prime mistakes when trouble comes knocking at the church is the sincere effort to apply a “business model” for resolving acrimony. I study business principles all the time, and have learned much from them. Some things can translate into good methods for church polity and practice; however, never forget the church is not a business, but the body of Christ. The church is the family of God. Bottom lines are not bottom lines. Measures of success used in a business may fall tremendously short when applied to the work of the church. Church conflict that leaves spiritual wounded lying in the aisles denies the reality of the power of the love of Christ. No business model can fix that.
Do you remember the old phrase, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”? Here is a good antidote to church conflict—focus on reaching people. When a church is focused on building a great Sunday School, witnessing of the power and grace of God and seeing people saved and baptized, there is little time for fussin’ and fightin’.