Pastor Michael J. Brooks: Great Church Battles | To free
He became a good friend after a mutual friend introduced us. He once told me about his greatest struggle as a pastor.
âEvery three or four years the deacons come by and say, ‘The church is not growing. We think you should go, âhe said. “How am I supposed to take care of my family and keep my sanity?” “
At conferences over the years, I have met two pastors who had been fired three times. I can’t imagine the trauma of this.
A new study from LifeWay Research has found that 69% of evangelical pastors admit to having conflicts in their churches. It’s not surprising ; I thought it could be higher. Each church is made up of individuals with different perspectives, theology, and needs, so conflict is inevitable, just like in marriage. Couples who say they never had a disagreement are rare and probably untrue.
I remember one man who insisted that he and his wife never had an argument. He also insisted that he had a double date with Elvis Presley, so I didn’t know what to make of his claims!
The survey revealed higher incidences of conflict on the proposed changes in the church and on the pastor’s leadership style. Interestingly, theology and politics accounted for only 12% or less of conflicts. One faith leader used to insist that 90 percent of conflicts between churches were not about theology, but rather “who’s going to be boss?” “
Since conflicts between churches are inevitable, the key is how we deal with them.
Jesus taught conflict management in Matthew 18, offering three steps. The first is a private meeting between the two parties. Many conflicts could be resolved there. It takes courage to reach out to another person and humbly ask for forgiveness and restoration. The tendency we have at this early stage is to involve our friends, seek their blessing, and persuade them to be “on our side.”
The second step is to bring in other people as prayer partners and encouragers. Often churches ask their deacons for help if this step is needed.
The final and most difficult step is to bring the matter before the whole assembly, dismissing the culprit if he does not repent.
A church in our metro area did this a few years ago when an official who lost her job due to moral indiscretion refused to repent before the Lord and His church. The man pushed back their pleas. The congregation felt its reputation as a church was in jeopardy and unfortunately took this drastic step.
LifeWay has found that about 10 percent of pastors leave congregational ministry each year, so the attrition rate is relatively low. But leaving the ministry because of a conflict is regrettable and more often than not unnecessary.
I believe that Christians of good will can find a way to avoid church fights. -30-
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.