The conflict in Christendom’s local churches is legendry. While many local assemblies are thriving and are pleasing to the Lord, others have become battlegrounds between contending camps as individuals jockey for power and position, however that is defined.
When an inquiry is made as to why there is so much tension in Christendom, how conflict might be biblically resolved, and what will bring God’s blessings, some guiding truths emerge.
First, if a church would be blessed of God, let it be organized along Scriptural principles and New Testament practices. In many congregations, a secular model for church government has replaced a biblical model. The church is run as a business with Standing Committees, a Board of Directors, and an Executive Officer. An established budget is embraced with little flexibility. The calendar year follows secular holidays and events. Being so well organized, who really needs the guidance of the Holy Spirit? After offering a nod to God in prayer, the business meeting begins, only to degenerate into a free for all for the strongest personality to prevail as to what will be done.
Many congregates have attended one or two church board meetings and vowed never to return to another one. They feel the evil spirit that is let loose after the word, “Amen” is uttered. Good people want nothing more to do with leadership that snipes and snarls at one another. It is the nature of a sheep to be meek and mild. It is the nature of a wolf to devour. Sheep naturally flee from wolves.
Church Board members might like to ask, for the sake of discussion, “Pastor, do we have a true biblical model for church government?” “What chapter and verse can be appealed to for the way we are organized?”
Dear people, God has a right to organize His church according to gospel terms. To be blessed of the Lord and resolve conflict according to gospel terms, let the church government reflect and honor a biblical model.
Second, if a local church would be blessed of God let co-operation be preferred and practiced instead of competition. It is a fact of human nature that people love to get territorial. One lady wants to do the bulletin. Another lady wants to do the bulletin. Rather than getting together to see how they can work together, one lady will get angry, bitter, and resentful. Then, she will make her unhappiness known.
Women engaging in spiritual catfights have been going on since the days of the apostle Paul. Writing to the Philippians, the apostle said, “I beseech Euodias [Odious], and beseech Syntyche, [Soon-Touchy] that they be of the same mind in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2).
Some men are no better. Individuals who have no voice outside the church find they can prevail in a small group setting. Either through money, longevity, or the force of their will, there are men who seek to dominate others. The arrogance of such individuals is so great they will even oppose the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The apostle John experienced the power of a strong personality named Diotrephes. “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not” (3 John 9). If a congregation wants peace and unity then a spirit of co-operation must consciously replace a contentious spirit. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3).
A third way to be blessed by God is to consistently exalt the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is to have the preeminence in preaching and teaching. A God centered theology should replace a man centered theology. Plain and simple speech should replace general platitudes. The Scriptures should be thoroughly exegeted and not simply alluded to. Individuals must be called upon to repent and pleaded with to bow before the Lordship of Christ. A historic faith must replace a contemporary faith which says in essence, “It is all about me and my needs.” Free grace is to be preached over free will for the will of the natural man is in bondage to sin and needs to be set free from the law of sin and death. Let the congregation rise up to say, “Sir, we would see Jesus” (John 12:21). When that happens, heaven will open and glory will come down. “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
A fourth way to be blessed of God is to love like Jesus. Oh, there is a lot of talk about love in many local churches, but much of the talk is meaningless chatter if people do not forgive. Part of forgiving is to relinquish the past. “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
One primary pathway to being blessed by the Lord is self-examination. The Bible says, “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged” (1 Corinthians 11:31). If a congregation would be blessed of God then let individuals stand in judgment upon themselves. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
Unfortunately, divisions have to happen for a divine pruning to take place. This is taught in 1 Corinthians 11:19: “For there must be also heresies [divisions] among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.”
From time to time the Lord allows division in a congregation in order to test for approval those who want to be part of a biblically structured church. The Lord is looking for a co-operative people who long for a God-centered theology while walking in love.