Insight: Conflict Can Lead to Multiplication

God Builds Ministry Using our Differences

Insights are short, biblical truths to equip you to lead from your strengths.

Conflict between Christ-followers takes various forms. It is not always destructive.

pointed finger

Image: Gabriel Austin

Consider the conflict between Paul and Barnabas, a formidable ministry team. The two had completed Paul’s first missionary journey (planting new churches and leading many to Christ, Acts 13-14) and provided testimony at the Jerusalem Council (helping to set legalism to rest, Acts 15).

Now a strong disagreement arose between them as they planned a second missionary journey. Barnabas, known as “the son of encouragement,” wanted to take John Mark on the trip. Paul did not, citing John Mark’s previous desertion.

The conflict could have led to division. Instead, it led to multiplication.

Here’s an Insight

Conflict between Christ-followers can be destructive or constructive.

  • Conflict rooted in pride. Over and over, scripture cites personal ambition, envy, and self-interest as destructive.
  • Conflict arising from an error. Jesus teaches that an offended believer must go to the one who has hurt him (Matthew 18) and the more mature should seek to help those newer to the faith when they sin (Galatians 6:1). When handled with grace, this type of conflict can be constructive and lead to restoration.
  • Conflict stemming from God-given differences.  Individual strengths, given to each of us by God, allow that Christ-followers will disagree and calling us to “exercise personal convictions in God’s presence” (Romans 14:22, AMP). When handled respectfully, this kind of conflict can help us to recognize value in others and be constructive.

Conflict Leads to Multiplication

The conflict between Paul and Barnabas was not rooted in pride, offended feelings, or personal sin – but rather different callings, based on each man’s unique strengths.

Barnabas returned to the island of Cyprus, one of the first areas he and Paul had evangelized. He encouraged John Mark by including him and encouraged the Cyprian church plant with a visit. Barnabas invested himself in discipling believers.

Meanwhile, Paul set out to visit other churches planted on the first missionary journey. In Lystra, he recruited young Timothy as a new leader. Paul’s team proceeded to spread the gospel throughout Asia Minor, planting churches at Philippi, Corinth, and Ephesus, among others.

Barnabas used his strengths to encourage and disciple believers. Paul used his strengths to identify and mentor leaders and spread the good news. Both helped build God’s church.

God can use conflict to shine a spotlight on differences between believers – opening the door to multiply ministry and build His Kingdom – when we find value in others’ strengths.

Now How Shall I Live?

Read the account of the conflict between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41). List the strengths you identify in both men.

36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.”

37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark.

38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.

39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus,

40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.

41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Discover your strengths when you take the Leading From Your Strengths profile.

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