If you’re in community, your likely to experience conflict.
Conflict is healthy for any growing organization, church, marriage, and friendship. To not have conflict probably means that passivity has taken residency in your conversations. We are all allowed to have have our needs met and challenged.
What happens when we disagree with our Church? Let’s explore 4 questions.
1. Is this personal conflict or communal conflict?
In Philippians 4:1-4, Paul pleads with Euodia and Syntyche to get along. There is personal conflict between two ladies. Paul asks the church’s leaders and members to come alongside them.
Spiritual formation is critical to your personal conflict. Are you taking the inward journey? Why do you care about the issues that you keep bringing up? How many people need to know your bent towards other things? I know a lot of Christian who do a lot of stuff. I don’t know many Christians are focusing on being at peace.
In Leviticus 4, Moses writes that the entire Israelite community is guilty of sin when the High Priest sins. Sin/Conflict/Tension is personal, but it’s also communal. It’s not just your conflict, but it’s our conflict.
Are the issues you are feeling/thinking through also being felt by others? By others, I don’t mean your friends. That’s easy to leave a church if your friends feel the same way. Do people outside of your circle feel and express the same thoughts and feelings? That might be worth exploring. When an issue is disrupting an entire congregation, you might be stepping into an unhealthy congregation.
2. Is this a problem to solve or a tension to manage?
Problem To Solve
There are multiple ways to approach conflict. This is necessary, because you won’t get the same result if you use the same approach.
A problem to solve is something that must be “figured out.” Your personal, theological, ethical, preferences and bents have been violated, called into question, or aren’t valued. This is something where you feel like the church has crossed one of your personal boundaries.
Are you the one that’s supposed to “figure out” the problem? Are your church leaders supposed to “figure out” this problem?
Tension To Manage
A tension to manage is a conflict that doesn’t need to be solved now or possibly ever. This conflict doesn’t cross any of your boundaries. You are ok with this.
If it’s something to manage, the inward journey is critical. It means you don’t have control of how something may be decided upon, managed, or executed. If that sits well with you, then growth happens when you decide to not jab at it or passive aggressively get others on your side. Your spirit is at peace.
3. Is this a conflict of Theology or a Conflict of Proxy?
In any discussion, on theology, there are open-handed and close-handed positions.
Open handed issues are issues that you believe strongly, but are open to discussion and seeing where others land. These are different for different people. These conversations are fun (for me), because they can be heated and intense debates, but at the end you are ok with having your views moved or remain the same.
Close-handed issues are issues you believe strongly about and are not willing to change your position. For a lot of Christians, these are issues like: Is The Bible true? Did Jesus actually live? Did Jesus rise from the dead? Is Jesus the only way to heaven?
You need to know what are your open and close-handed issues. Churches need to know theirs too. Every church as a right to their own beliefs about Scripture and its theology.
What gets a lot of churches, in trouble, is when they don’t have an official position on a given issue. If there is an issue you care about, What is your church’s official position? If your church doesn’t have any official position, set up a meeting and explore it.
Proxy is often the reason why most people leave their church. It’s not such much their church’s beliefs as much as it the way people live. They don’t like how they are treated or how things operate.
There are a lot of great churches whom have deep convictions about theology. However, they are not willing to invite discussions with people on the “fringes of society.” They will talk about suffering, but they are not quick to help with rocky marriages. They may say everyone is welcome, but only to a certain point of comfort.
Are you someone who prefers a more “conservative approach to theology” and a more “liberal approach to loving people” or is it vice versa or something else? How you sit with those questions might help you decide if your among the right community of believers.
4. Is this a conflict for decision making rights or reconciliation?
Decision Making Rights
Every church should know why they exist….beyond the great commission. Loving everybody is a great mission, but everybody isn’t everybody. We are all different people with different preferences, dreams, and hopes.
If your church has a mission, vision, and values to reach a specific target audience, allow them to do this. It’s a heavy weight to hear from the Lord. A church shouldn’t change who they are and what they do to win everybody. It’s impossible. Jesus didn’t win everyone, neither will his churches. Sometimes people have their minds made up.
If you disagree with a church’s mission, vision, and values and it crosses your personal, theological, and practical beliefs, it may be time to go.
The high note of the Gospel is reconciliation – enemies of God to peace with God. It’s hard to seek peace if we haven’t taken the inward journey. If your goal is a curiosity that leads to peace and understanding, you should remain. You should stay even if it’s not something completely the way you would do church. If it doesn’t violate those personal beliefs and actions, stay with your church family. You have a Kingdom to gain, community to extend, and depth to growth into.