Conflict, Part 1: When You’re Challenged, How Do You Respond?
Even Jesus faced conflict, both internally (the disciples were experts at sniping and one-upmanship) and externally (Jewish leaders questioned Jesus’ tactics and motivation.)
So when you’re challenged, confronted, opposed, pressured, or intimidated, how do you respond?
Don and Mark served together at a sizable church for years – Don as lead pastor and Mark as executive pastor. The two regularly found themselves at a crossroads. Don would cast vision for his next great idea. Mark always seemed to be the first to ask tough questions, blowing holes in Don’s “great” idea. Don began to wonder if Mark was really on his team and if they really shared the same goals.
If you’ve been in ministry for any length of time, I am sure you can relate.
The Real Issue is Not Conflict
This type of conflict is common between ministry leaders. Don’t think you are the only one who is frustrated with this kind of situation. What most don’t understand – and what I help them to see – is that their core issue is not about learning to resolve conflict (a negative approach.) Rather, the issue is learning to lead from their strengths and help others do the same (a positive approach.) Why would God create Don and Mark so differently, place them together in ministry, and pray for them to thrive, unless it was possible?
It’s Not Such a Mystery: Understanding the Law of Differences
Just as there are scientific laws which govern our physical world (such as the Law of Gravity), there are spiritual principles which govern relationships.
1 Corinthians 12:12-27 explains it beautifully using the metaphor of the human body, God’s ultimate creation. “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body” (1 Corinthians 12:12, NIV). Like parts in the human body, different people combine together to make a ministry unit.
But look a little closer. Study your eyes … and then your ears. They don’t have much in common other than they are part of your head. Taken by themselves, they may even be considered peculiar. But “If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?” (1 Corinthians 12:17). God manages to put all those odd parts together to bring value to the whole.
He does the same with people. The Law of Differences is based on these simple truths:
- God only creates good things.
- God creates each individual uniquely with specific strengths, gifts, and abilities.
- Differences are good because God ordains them.
Where’s the Mystery?
God’s approach to conflict is much different than ours. Our human tendency is to try to “judge” each others’ differences or compete with each other. Yet God is able to take a curious collection of differences and blend them into a well-functioning unit. His intent is to allow our unique strengths to contribute value, making the whole greater than the sum of our parts.
It’s an exciting task in which we’re privileged to play a role. That’s what happened to Don and Mark. Over the next three articles I’ll share the practical steps they took as they worked to understand each other. As you walk alongside these two leaders, the clues you find can help solve your own mystery of differences … and even change the way you do ministry.