Someone asked me today how I handle conflict in my own life and how I’ve seen it handled in the local church. My answer is below.
As a nonconfrontational person by nature, I typically do everything within my power to avoid a dispute. Even if I’m not directly involved, I try to calm people down and encourage everyone to overlook an offense (Prov. 19:11). If that’s not possible, however, I attempt to hear everyone’s opinion and get to the heart of the disagreement. Whether in my own personal life or in the life of the church, I pray through everything, asking God for discernment and that he glorify himself through the process.
In my own personal life, I approach conflict by owning my share of the blame. I have to admit when I’ve wronged someone, ask them to forgive me, and learn from the painful experience. Moving forward, I pray that my past experiences will help me do better the next time around.
With respect to the local church, here’s what I can say: My time in pastoral ministry has taught me that to some degree conflict is inevitable. Since most churches do not disciple their people in emotional health, many Christians lack self-awareness and do not know how to process their anger and frustration. Giving examples would be rather unedifying.
Additionally, people in our churches lack both listening and communication skills. In my experience, most people refuse to confront their anger or grief, opting instead to hold everything in–which usually results in either an outburst of anger or passive-aggressive behavior. We have not taught our people how to process and communicate their frustrations in a healthy, redemptive, Christlike manner.
At the church I serve, we are seeking to disciple people in the area of emotional health. Thankfully, our associate pastor, Vinnie Cappetta, is committed to doing this. Our prayer is that people will resolve conflict in healthy ways, learn how to communicate with each other better, and ultimately thrive in all of their relationships.