Last time we talked about irresolvable conflict, and I asserted that three things (not an exhaustive list) can contribute to destructive conflict if left festering and unchecked: a lack of loving communication; a reluctance to compromise on nonessentials; and a failure to conform to Christ and obey His Word.
Resolution cannot take place if the issue on which the quarrel centers is not discussed. This means both parties speaking and listening—not just hearing and certainly not just ranting but genuinely engaging one another in heartfelt and clear communication that seeks understanding.
A gracious spirit is essential when resolving conflict, as is the openness to admit that your perspectives, actions, or thoughts on a certain issue might be wrong.
Several years ago I had a conversation with a church board whose pastor had recently resigned. The reason for the resignation was rooted in a doctrinal difference between the pastor and a few church members, including one member of the board. This doctrinal difference had festered and in the end grew into a full-fledged leadership conflict.
The irony is that the declared reason for the conflict (a doctrinal difference) was not really the root problem. The root of the problem was that someone was not going to get their way.
As I talked with this church board, I realized that the real issue in this church was power and control. The real conflict was not over right doctrine but about who gets to say what right doctrine is.
How does a pastor handle such a conflict? What do you do when conflict arises and no matter how hard you try resolution does not seem possible? Was the pastor right to resign? Were these folks right to push the issue to the point of inflammation? Was there anything that could have been done to alleviate or resolve this conflict? Was this conflict really irresolvable?
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