Monday, February 18, 2008

Let's Talk (about what's happening here)

Sometime ago, a man from my church lashed out against me in a rather venomous and unbiblical fashion. My inclination initially was to rely on our deacon group to respond to this fellow, rather than taking any steps myself to come to my own defense. However, our deacons did not react in the manner I thought they should. The deacons did formulate a plan to confront the man; still, there wasn't exactly an overwhelming sense of "hey, we all agree, this is what we need to do here!"

Ironically, a day or so later, I received a phone call from a fellow pastor who found himself facing a situation nearly identical to ours. He told me how disappointed he was in his deacons for not "supporting" him. But as we talked things through, it became apparent that both of our deacon groups were in fact very willing to show their support for us. We both were assured of this based on the high caliber of men we know our deacons to be. Nevertheless, what also became clear is that our deacons did not know how to do what we were expecting them to do. And we had to be careful not to misinterpret their lack of action as something more nefarious. We both realized instead how we needed to begin training our deacons (and others among our leadership) how to respond biblically in cases such as the ones before us.

When conflict erupts, it is tempting to think we need to begin talking with our counterparts about the issues and interests at stake immediately. However, the reality is, neither our counterparts nor the other stakeholders in the conflict may be ready to begin interacting biblically. We also may not be ready. The entire group of conflict participants and stakeholders may need to spend some time learning or reviewing biblical commands and principles regarding how to behave with respect to the particulars of the conflict at hand.

So sometimes when conflict confronts us, instead our being too quick to say simply to our counterparts, "Let's talk...", it would be better to say to everyone involved, "Before we go to work on this, let's talk about what's happening here and about what direction the Bible provides for addressing issues like this."

Application and Discussion Questions:
1. Have you ever been involved in a conflict in response to which good people did not seem to know what to do? Or in response to which good people did not seem to know what to do and therefore they did nothing? Describe what happened.
2. What exactly might a pastor or Christian leader do to train others in biblically resolving conflict?
3. Read Exodus 18:1-27. How does Jethro's advice to Moses relate to the issue of training people what to do or not do in response to conflict. Note especially verse 18-19.
4. What other Scriptures apply to this topic?

Note: For more information on the process of biblical same-mindedness, check out "Where Do We Go From Here: The Path To Biblically Resolving Conflict" by Randal L. Gilmore. Available here.


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