I received so many responses to my last post on the Top Five Reasons Churches Don’t Grow that I could probably blog a new post on any one of the comments and have almost a month’s worth of writing.
However, a comment from TF brought back a flood of thoughts that I thought I’d share. His/her question was about whether there could be “unspoken” conflict in a church – and that the pastor maintained a mantra of the importance of unity rather than dealing with unresolved and unspoken conflict. You know, you don’t want to open that “can of worms.”
Unspoken conflict, which is a euphemism for unresolved conflict, is literally killing churches. Indeed, many churches operate under an illusion of “unity and harmony.” The congregation, particularly the leadership, make heroic attempts to cover up, tuck under their sleeves, and practice mis-direction and sleight of hand to try and convince the “audience” that all is well. It’s much like Jeremiah’s comment that they say “Peace, Peace” when there is no peace. Let me be less than nice for a moment and call it like it is. Congregational leaders who are making these attempts are guilty of promulgating and perpetuating a lie – and a congregation that is living a lie isn’t likely to be visited with many blessings. Those of the congregation who are a part of the unspoken, unresolved conflict need to take seriously Paul’s admonition in 2 Corinthians 13:5 (“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.”). I refuse to enter a debate about the definition of a Christian, but someone who claims to be a Christ follower who doesn’t behave like a Christian, who either refuses to reconcile with another or who perpetuates a lie isn’t likely to pass the 2 Cor 13:5 test.
So, here’s the thing. If you’re a part of a congregation that refuses to deal with unresolved conflict … if your leadership continues to indulge in the fantasy and delusion that conflict will resolve itself if left alone … and if you’ve approached leadership about the issue (you’re held to Matthew 18:15-17 too) and have been blown off, then it’s time for you to find a congregation that’s not living a lie.
If you’re a part of the conflict, whether it’s your fault or not, it’s time to put your discipleship into action. Put Matthew 5:23-24 or Matthew 18:15-17 into practice.
And if you’re a leader who’s helping to “smooth over” unresolved conflict and you’re not getting any results, step up and be a leader … put Matthew 18:15-17 into play from the first “If” to the last “then.” If that means the church loses a couple of members, then so be it. To paraphrase one of Jesus’ sayings, “Better to lose a church member than the whole body to be cast out.”