The picture of a happy and unified church is one that sings of what the church should be. Often when looking from the outside, it may also be what people see. Imagine being new to the church, all you see is smiling faces that greet you and welcome you in.
You see those who have been friends for a while greet each other and excitedly talk about the week that they have just had. You then sing together, listen to God’s word and pray together. But it doesn’t just end there. You may be invited to a after church lunch or a small group which happens during the week. At every point, you are greeted by warm and happy people.
However, now you have been in the church for a few years and along the way you have started serving on a team and you spend time seeing the behind the scenes not just the Sunday service. You may come across conflict and think wow this is not like a Sunday morning.
You may wonder if conflict is healthy for the church or whether it further divides the body of Christ. But here’s a new question… is the church perfect?
When conflicts arise
The church whilst it is called to teach, encourage and reflect the word of God, at the end of the day it is made up of flawed humans. Due to this, no matter how hard we may try to be happy and loving all the time, conflict is bound to happen. So how do we manage it?
It’s good to note that there is healthy conflict and unhealthy conflict. Both of which we are bound to see at some point and time within people that we may interact with. Unhealthy conflict is usually called gossip, exclusion and bullying, whilst healthy conflict involves dealing with disagreements and opposing viewpoints.
Healthy conflict, whilst uncomfortable, usually results in better outcomes, whether that be understanding new views, challenging the status quo, or changing how things are done within the church. Unhealthy conflict on the other hand, leads to hurt people who draw away from the church and others.
So how do we deal with conflict when we see it, experience it or hear it in the church:
If it’s unhealthy conflict:
#1 When you see or hear it: stand up to gossip or unhealthy comments. Being silent about it is allowing the conflict to grow.
#2 If you experience it: Prayer for the person causing it, talk to the person who is involved and see if you can discuss how you feel. Seek support from those you consider wise counsel or with your eldership.
If it’s healthy conflict:
If you see it, hear it or experience it: Be open minded, consider opposing views. Share your own thoughts. Discuss it with the eldership if it challenges views or actions of the church. Pray about it.
Remember that we are all flawed, but as the body of Christ we are to hold one another accountable for the actions and words. Healthy conflict builds the church stronger and unifies the people. Unhealthy conflict breaks down the church and divides the people.
Like any other relationships with people, we are called to love our neighbours. But also in order to sharpen those we walk with (Proverbs chapter 27, verse 17), we are called to keep them accountable with love.
Araina Kazia Pereira from Wellington, New Zealand is a published writer having written for various outlets and most recently joining as a Press Service International young writer. She enjoys asking the big questions and writing about the challenging questions that she has wrestled with in her own journey, as well as her learnings along the way. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.