By Aaron Earls
“I’m done. I’m sick and tired of all the fighting in church.”
Most Christians have said, or at least thought, that at one point or another. I know I’ve seen enough church fights to last me a lifetime.
While we all long for the day when those conflicts will be no more, what do we do in the meantime?
God allows us to go through them. The same was true for the early church. So there must be something that we can draw from them.
He promised to work all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, so what good can come out of a church conflict?
I actually think there are at least three positives that can come from a conflict within a church.
1. Our lives are smoothed and shaped
In Acts 6, a conflict arose because the Greek widows in the church felt they were not being taken care of as the Hebrew widows were. This was an opportunity for the apostles to further clarify their God-given tasks. Deacons were established to serve the church, while the apostles focused on prayer and preaching.
In my own life, Christ used church members making false accusations against me in order to refine His plan for me. There have also been times when God has used those conflicts to remind me of how much I am in need of humility.
Conflict can serve as sandpaper to further shape the call God has placed on our lives, as well as to smooth out the rough patches of our personality that have yet to be conformed to the image of Christ.
2. New ministries are birthed and sent out
At the end of Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas disagree over taking Mark with them on their next missionary journey. Paul refused to give him a second chance after he had deserted them the first time. Barnabas felt he could be useful and had grown. The could not agree, so they separated and formed two missionary teams.
No one wants to be a part of a church split or a divisive conflict between two influential leaders. However, good can come out of it. Recently, I saw God use what amounted to a church split to begin a new work and further the work of an already growing church.
Sometimes, conflicts cannot be avoided because of differing ministry and personality styles. But those moments can be sparks that God uses to birth new ministries and expand His Kingdom.
3. Right theology is defended and upheld
In Galatians 2, Paul recounts a time when he publicly rebuked Peter, who was in sin and teaching wrong theology with his lifestyle. The only way to avoid conflict in this situation would have been for Paul to ignore the false message that Peter was giving through his avoidance of eating with Gentiles.
As a teenager, I remember a large fight that saw several prominent families leave our church. They left because our pastor was going to allow a friend of mine, who happened to be black, join the church. Living a biblically consistent life required a conflict in this instance.
Occasionally, wrong theology and the resulting actions must be confronted. God is honored when His people stand for His truth, even if conflict is the inevitable result.
The benefits give us perspective
Church conflicts exist because of sin. There is no way around that. But that does not prohibit God from working in the midst of those times. He is in the sin-conquering, redemption business.
We should not seek to create conflict – it will arrive on its own. But when it does come, we can trust that Christ can and will use it for our good and His glory.
That may not make it any easier to deal with in the moment, but it can provide us some perspective when we are faced with conflict in our church we didn’t want.
Aaron Earls is the online editor of Facts & Trends.