If there’s anything that’s a guarantee in church leadership, it’s conflict and criticism. As the president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources Thom Rainer said it well, “If you are a leader, you will have criticisms. If you don’t have any criticisms, you’re probably not leading.” Therefore, conflict is inevitable when you’re actually doing the hard work.
According to a study done by Focus on the Family, fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to spiritual burnout or contention in their churches.
There is no doubt that the work of leadership in the church is hard. But it is no mere work of fiction… God’s Church was designed to lead. To develop leaders, you must have a strong conviction, a healthy culture, and a simple constructs.
So how should we respond to one another as Christians? Do we embrace one another? Or should we avoid this at all cost?
The book, “Design to Lead” by Eric Geiger comes up with diagnostic elements that will allow church leaders to know where the health of the church lies within internal / external conflict.
1. Constructs without Conviction = Apathy
If a leader is apathetic, it could be they lack a proper sense of conviction. The pastors, the people, everyone has given up on the grand idea of discipling and deploying leaders within their own local context.
2. Constructs without Culture = Exhaustion
If a leader is exhausted, it could be they are not a part of a healthy leadership culture. Every time the team aims to fill the leadership pipeline it feels as if they are pushing a boulder up a hill. An unhealthy culture breeds exhaustion.
3. Conviction without Constructs = Frustration.
If a leader is frustrated, it could be they lack the constructs that are necessary to realize vision. They are merely living in wishful thinking. Many times in the context of church, leaders keep talking (louder and louder) about developing leaders, but nothing happens.
Our lives are filled with the principle of “cause and effect.” However, when it comes to local church ministry, somehow many church leaders have missed the holy cause and the glorious effect that is clearly prescribed in Scripture. If we follow this principles, a church will be growing, “into a mature man with a salute measured by Christ’s fullness.”
Leaders face the brutal facts. People are often ignorant to the biblical approach to ministry/conflict resolution. Leadership is ultimately not about being in charge. It is about taking care of those in your charge; one-person-at-a-time.
Whatever you do, don’t avoid conflict; it’s necessary for a healthy team. As John Wooden said it well, “Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.”
You can complain about the culture of your ministry your first three years, but after that it is a reflection of your leadership.
Unhealthy church culture is ultimately a theological problem. We must get underneath the visible layer of culture, beneath even the stated beliefs of culture, and go all the way to the invisible assumptions held by the church.
As Winston Churchill said it well, “Success is never final; failure is never fatal. It is courage that counts.” The profound condition moves the church to become a people of radical, urgency, unction, and even risk to greatness!
Be the church. Shine your light. Impact your community.
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