Where does one even begin when there is so much hurt and fear in our church conflict?

Q. I am not in leadership but I can see how avoiding conflict is hurting the church as a whole and more specifically individuals. It is hard to pinpoint the cause and effect, but what I see happening is that rather than confronting issues people are just ignored and not validated or acknowledged. This causes a lot of hurt because it is those that are tight with leadership or have compatible personalities that get the “ministry” while very needy ones are left on their own and even criticized. Where does one even begin? Our women have done the peacemaking study and some groups have done the church one. It seems everyone is afraid …

A. Dear Helen, Your question is “where does even one begin?” The answer is “it begins with you doing the next right thing.” Church conflicts always look and feel like the situation you describe at your church. You express in your comments and question a loss of hope. As a Christian you have no right to lose hope! Read again Romans 5:1 through 5: “…we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us…” And, Romans 15:1 through 6: “… everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Now, what do you do with your hope founded on this truth of God’s Word? You do the next right thing! The next right thing to do is to get to work being a personal peacemaker. You can’t solve all of your church’s problems. God doesn’t ask you to even try to do that. What he asks you to do is practice your faith by modeling the hope you have in him through your words and actions as you take every thought captive to him by being a light of hope, peace, and love in a dark place where those in your circle of influence can begin to see your model of joy even in conflict. One person doing the next right thing can influence an entire church. You can be that person! As you bring an eternal perspective to the situation at your church and embrace what God is calling you to as a faithful instrument in his hands you can be the catalyst that begins the revolution of hope at your church. And, you can encourage your friends to do the same thing… the next right thing as God’s eternal children. And, you mention “fear”: remember “.. perfect love drives out fear… (1 John 4:18).” You love by doing the next right thing and there is no need to fear any man. God has given you a magnificent opportunity to trust and obey him. Seize it with courage and calm and you will be a blessing and be blessed.

– Dave Edling


About David V. Edling

Dave Edling is an experienced Christian conciliator who has worked with many conflicted churches. During his decade of service on the senior staff of Peacemaker Ministries, he participated in over 200 mediation and arbitration cases and worked with nearly twenty thousand Christians engaged in conflicts affecting churches of almost every denomination. Dave holds several graduate degrees in addition to his Bachelor of Science degree from Oregon State University. They are: Master of Arts in Human Behavior, United States International University (now Alliant International University); Juris Doctor, California Western School of Law; Master of Arts in Religion, Westminster Seminary California; and Master of Arts in Biblical Conflict Resolution, Birmingham Theological Seminary. Dave has served as a trustee on the Board of Directors for Covenant College and Westminster Seminary California and has taught in the Doctor of Ministry programs for Reformed Theological Seminary, Mid-Western Baptist Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary. In addition, Dave has been a lecturer in practical theology for several other Christian colleges and seminaries.
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