Difficult people in the church (and my temptation to be such a fraud re: gospel relationships …)

(This is a repost from my personal blog …)

Yesterday was a particularly great day for me—at first.

We still had friends over from a sleepover and the crafts, creative play, and laughs were rolling right along. My  husband, Fred, and I were communicating well, working as a team, and enjoying each other. I was greatly edified by my time in the Word and prayer. And I was enjoying meeting all sorts of new people due to The Gospel Coalition’s generous retweet of our family’s $100 in peacemaking resources giveaway.

Ahhhh … grace, the gospel, unity in relationships. Hooray!

But then. Then I received a call from a dear friend in my church who was facing a particularly painful and difficult conflict in our church. She had left a voicemail and since I was in such a promoting-of-peacemaking place, my first instinct was to, of course, ignore the call and not deal with it.

Nice, eh? Can you say peace-faking on the ol’ Slippery Slope of Conflict? That was me. But thankfully, God pressed into my heart and crushed my bones as in the day of summer (Psalm 32:3-4). I repented of my selfishness and called my friend.

It was a hard call, but a good one. By the end we were both rejoicing in all that God has done for us through the finished work of Christ. Our friendship had deepened. And we had a plan for how she was going to address this difficult relationship:

  • Pray and praise
  • Remember the gospel
  • Never gossip; always think about that which is good, true, noble, lovely, excellent, praiseworthy
  • Do good (to those who hate her), bless (those who curse her), love (even her enemy)
  • Reach out for help to her elder and our church’s peacemaking team
  • Pray some more

I’m so glad that God gave me the grace to repent, make the call, and serve. What a privilege it is to play even a tiny role in promoting “the unity of the saints through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).

For the glory of the Lamb,
Tara B.

One thing I reviewed before I made the call was my absolute favorite CCEF article: Helping “Difficult” People in Your Church. I wish I could staple that thing to my forehead until I have internalized all of its wisdom.


About Tara Barthel

Tara Klena Barthel formerly served as the Director of the Institute for Christian Conciliation. As such, she oversaw hundreds of conciliation cases (including conflicted church interventions) through the international network of trained conciliators. Tara also provided oversight and leadership for all advanced conciliator training. Currently, she serves her family as a homemaker while occasionally accepting cases as a mediator, arbitrator, and conflicted church intervention team member. Currently enrolled at Reformed Theological Seminary and pursuing her Master's Degree in Religion, Tara consults with businesses and ministries on the legal risk management issues attendant to conflict; designs and presents custom training on biblical conflict resolution for churches, missions agencies, and parachurch organizations; speaks frequently at women’s conferences and retreats; and is currently working on many new writing projects. Tara is the author of the Living the Gospel in Relationships video series and co-author of Peacemaking Women—Biblical Hope for Resolving Conflict (Baker Books, 2005), and Redeeming Church Conflicts--Turning Crisis into Compassion and Care (Baker Books, 2012; second imprint Hendrickson Publishers 2016). Prior to moving to Billings, Montana to join the staff of Peacemaker Ministries, Tara worked as an attorney and business consultant in Chicago. Tara earned her law degree and M.B.A. from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and her B.A. in psychology from Augustana College (Illinois).
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2 Responses to Difficult people in the church (and my temptation to be such a fraud re: gospel relationships …)

  1. Annette Friesen says:

    Tara this was an exceptionally special post. Thank you for your faithfulness.

  2. Tara Barthel says:

    Thanks, Annette!

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