Thursday, March 31, 2011

Conflict: Part 5 - Resolution in Church World

Resolution in Church World

The ways conflict is resolved as discussed in the previous section all involved a third party intervening and driving a solution home. Interestingly, Gangel’s first remarks on how to handle conflict suggest diplomacy and negotiation.[1] Gangel rightly states that walking away from a problem or pretending it does not exist is not a solution and that confronting the problem must take place. This is the approach used by Christ.

We see twice in Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus addressed the issue of conflicts caused either by others offending or being offended by those early Christians. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23-24 NKJV). Jesus again addresses this type of conflict. ““If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector” (Matt. 18:15-17 NIV84).

It is interesting that Christ’s instruction began with those in conflict first trying to work their differences out between them before involving outside parties. It is equally interesting in Matthew 5:23-24 Christ was more concerned with the resolution of conflicted relationships than He was with religious practices. Notice also in both passages that Christ instructs believers to go to his brother. It does not matter who committed the perceived offence! The believer is to go to his brother regardless of the circumstances from which the conflict arose. This is a stark difference to the secular response to conflict in which someone in a leadership position initiated the conflict resolution.

This notion of confrontation is again taught as a biblical behavior in Paul’s epistle to Philemon.[2] “Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus—I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.)” (Phm. 8-11). Paul could have commanded Philemon yet he chose not to do so. He instead chose a gentle approach to make his case for Onesimus.[3] Yet in each instance, the approach is the same; address conflict directly and personally.

[1] Gangel, Kenneth O. Team Leadership in Christian Ministry. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1970, 1974, 1981, 1997), 190.

[2] Ibid, 192.

[3] Ibid.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Conflict: Part 4 - Resolution in the Secular World


As stated previously, not all conflict is negative. In fact, some conflict and tension is actually desirable if it is positive. If an organization, including a church, do not regularly and thoroughly challenge what they are doing then it is unlikely they will keep up with a changing world.[1] This failure to adapt is one of the primary reasons businesses fail or decline. This is not to say a level of conflict where there is bitterness and deep resentment is desired. [2] This positive conflict must be handled appropriately for it to be beneficial. There are a number of ways this is accomplished in church world though the author’s preference is decidedly similar to the approach of the Apostle Paul when he instructed Timothy to preach the Word regardless of what the people want to hear (2 Tim.4:1-4).[3] In the church we are to remain biblical in our approach.

On the other end of the spectrum is negative conflict. Since some positive conflict is desirable when handled correctly, it is negative conflict requires some sort of action and ultimately a resolution. Exactly what form that resolution should take depends in part on the context in which one is discussing conflict; the secular world or church world. A brief review of both positions follows.

Resolution in the Secular World

Conflict is said to be resolved when a situation in which the underlying reasons for the destructive conflict are eliminated. [4] Conflict resolution techniques in practice in the secular world vary from direct and indirect action by those in positions of authority to negotiated settlements. Direct approaches to conflict management and resolution include problem solving, avoidance, smoothing, authoritative command, and compromise.[5]

Indirect approaches include reducing interdependence where action is taken to reduce or even eliminate the required contact between conflicted parties. Another indirect approach is an appeal to the common goals of conflicting parties. In this approach the goals of those in conflict are elevated thereby increasing the awareness of the parties’ interdependence in achieving those goals. In doing so, disputes are put into perspective.[6]

Finally, there is negotiation which is the process of making joint decisions when the parties involved have different outcome preferences. There are a number of strategies and techniques employed in negotiation but all involve compromise wherein each party receives something for which they are bargaining but none of the parties receive everything they are seeking. It is worth noting that conflict is not truly resolved until the underlying substantive and emotional reasons for the conflict are identified and dealt with. This is not always possible but the negotiation process allows for all parties to get something.

[1] Dobson, Edward G., Speed B. Leas, and Marshall Shelley. Mastering Conflict & Controversy. (Portland: Multnomah Press, 1992), 29.

[2] Ibid, 31.

[3] MacArthur, John. "A Challenge For Christian Communicators." The Master's Seminary Journal, 2006: 7-15.

[4] Schermerhorn, Jr., John R., James G. Hunt, and Richard N. Osborn. Organizational Behavior, 8th Ed. (Danvers, MA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2003), 382.

[5] Robbins, Stephen P. Organizational Behavior 9th Ed. (Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2001), 392-395.

[6] Schermerhorn, Jr., John R. et al. Organizational Behavior, 8th Ed., 385.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Conflict: Part 3 - Different Types of Conflict

Different Types of Conflict
        There is more than one type of conflict. It also bears mentioning that conflict need not always be a negative occurrence. Functional conflict actually serves to support the goals of the group and improve its performance.[1] In the case of church world this can translate into reaching better decisions about how to allocate limited funds available for ministry. We find a biblical example of this in the Book of Acts. Paul and Barnabas had a “sharp disagreement” (Acts 15:37-39 ESV) and parted ways yet we know that the ministries of both men successfully continued. The conflict between Paul and Barnabas could have become dysfunctional and hindered the ministry of both yet they each put the disagreement behind them and carried on the work of the Lord.[2]
In contract, dysfunctional conflict hinders the group, diverts energies and resources, promotes interpersonal hostilities, and overall creates a negative environment. Where functional, or constructive, conflict may serve to bring problems to the surface where they can be addressed, dysfunctional, or destructive, conflict yields results that work against the group or church.
        There are two types of conflict that will be discussed here: substantive conflict and emotional conflict. Substantive conflict is a fundamental disagreement concerning the ends or goals and the means for their accomplishment.[3] In the secular world this might be something like a disagreement over a marketing strategy to be used in bring a new product to market or which capital project shall receive funding and which will be declined. In church world this can be something such as which translation of the Bible should be used in the pulpit or hermeneutical disagreements of a passage of Scripture. The main point is that this type of conflict is rooted in a disagreement for reasons other than emotional ones. Are doing this or are we doing that? Are we paying for this or are we paying for that? Deeply held views in support of opposing positions for various reasons are indicative of substantive conflict.
        Emotional conflict involves interpersonal difficulties that arise over feelings of anger, mistrust, dislike, fear and resentment. This could also be referred to as personality clashes.[4] Superior-subordinate relationships in both the secular and church world are common. Specifically in the church this type of conflict can arise when there are significant changes to programming or style of music that create resentment and anger over the changes. In fact, change throws people off balance and creates questions about direction. Conflict accelerates as change accelerates.[5]
There are different subcategories of conflict such as task conflict, relationship conflict, and process conflict. These subcategories, while certainly holding some interest for the author, simply break into smaller pieces the discussion of substantive and emotional conflict. They bear mentioning simply for the purpose of acknowledging them from the research conducted.

[1] Robbins, Stephen P. Organizational Behavior 9th Ed. (Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2001), 385-387.
[2] Goodall, Wayde I. Conflict Management for Church Leaders. (Springfield, MO: Global University, 2006), 18.
[3] Schermerhorn, Jr., John R., James G. Hunt, and Richard N. Osborn. Organizational Behavior, 8th Ed. (Danvers, MA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2003), 379.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Gangel, Kenneth O. Team Leadership in Christian Ministry. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1970, 1974, 1981, 1997), 188.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Conflict: Part 2 - Definitions


Exactly what is conflict? According to Oxford Dictionary, conflict is a serious disagreement or argument, a prolonged armed struggle, or an incompatibility between opinions, principles, et cetera.[1] The noun is via Latin conflictus meaning a contest.[2] Dictionary definitions are fine as a starting point but often do not provide the insight necessary to explain what different people groups mean when they use the term.

Secular Definition

Conflict occurs whenever disagreements exist in a social situation over substantive issues or when emotional antagonisms create friction between individuals or groups.[3] This definition is good but perhaps overly broad. Another definition states that conflict is a process that begins when one party perceives that another party has negatively affected, or is about to negatively affect, something that the first party cares about.[4] Both definitions are broad yet encompass the wide range of conflicts experienced in organizations such as incompatibility of goals, differences over interpretations of facts and disagreements based on behavioral expectations. Such definitions are flexible enough to cover the wide range of conflict levels from acts of violence to more subtle disagreements.[5] Both are better referred to as descriptions than definitions.

Church Definition

Conflict is a struggle over values and ideas, or perhaps power and resources.[6] Other definitions of conflict include a problem that interferes with the accomplishment of purposes and the active striving for one’s own preferred outcome which, if attained, precludes the attainment by others of their own preferred outcome, thereby producing hostility.[7]

In reviewing the way the world defines conflict and the way the church does, there does not seem to be much difference save the fact that definitions from secular sources abound while those from Christian sources are notably scarcer. It is fortunate that the definitions and descriptions from the secular world appear to be applicable to church world as well. If conflict is more or less defined in the same way, perhaps the types of conflict are different. One thing that is clear about conflict; two or more people are necessary to have a conflict.

[1] Soanes, Catherine, and Angus Stevenson. Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Schermerhorn, Jr., John R., James G. Hunt, and Richard N. Osborn. Organizational Behavior, 8th Ed. (Danvers, MA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2003), 378.

[4] Robbins, Stephen P. Organizational Behavior 9th Ed. (Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2001), 383-84.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Gangel, Kenneth O. Team Leadership in Christian Ministry. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1970, 1974, 1981, 1997), 186-87.

[7] Goodall, Wayde I. Conflict Management for Church Leaders. (Springfield, MO: Global University, 2006), 17.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Conflict: Part 1 - Introduction

**This series originated as an assignment for my studies at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary**


The topic at hand is something close to the heart of the author. Having been party to a significant conflict that is still fresh in this seminarian’s memory, it seemed a topic in need of a thorough examination. The opportunity to do so academically employing previous education along with the lessons learned in the current class is counted as a blessing.

Even the closest of friends have disagreements from time to time. Generally these are small things that are worked through. Then there are the larger things that create a great deal of anguish. Such things occur in life be it personal, secular, or within the church. Simply put, conflict is a part of life. There is no shortage of things about which there is conflict in the world. A brief time spent with the local, national, or international news quickly reveals the conflict swirling around us each day.

Here conflict will be discussed from two perspectives; conflict in the secular world and conflict in Christian faith communities which will be referred to as church world. In doing so, the similarities and differences can be compared and contrasted. A key strength of this approach will be to leverage the things that the church can learn from those in the secular community who study conflict academically. Much like conflict itself, there is no shortage of definitions for conflict.[1] Several of these will be considered before arriving at a definition that will be used throughout when considering conflict in church world.

Different types of conflict will be briefly considered before moving on to resolving conflict. Again, the way conflict is resolved in the secular world will be considered and then how conflict in the church should be addressed biblically including the use of church discipline. It comes as no surprise that the Bible has much to say on this topic. Leaders must approach conflict with humility, in and through prayer, and in a biblical way. Doing so will not resolve all conflict to the satisfaction of those involved but it will be pleasing to the Lord.

[1] Robbins, Stephen P. Organizational Behavior 9th Ed. (Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2001), 383.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Visitors to Chris Sanchez Blogs

I have just finished up my most recent class and wanted to let my readers know I am working on some new posts. You should see them in the coming days as I get back on track with the blog. Please forgive my lack of attention these last few weeks!

I wanted to share something with you all. Over the last 30 days there have been over 800 visitors to the site from 34 countries around the world! I have to tell you that I am stunned and very humbled. Technology has made the world a small place indeed!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Paul's Letter to the Phillipians

Paul’s relationship with the church at Philippi was always close and cordial. Paul established the church at Philippi during his second missionary journey. This church had on at least two occasions helped Paul financially before Philippians was written[1] and having heard of his confinement in Rome, the church sent Epaphroditus with another gift. Philippians is a thank-you letter for that gift and is the most personal letter Paul wrote to a church. Paul may have been subjected to some criticism for keeping Epaphroditus with him instead of sending Epaphroditus back to Philippi sooner. Paul made certain the Philippians knew that Epaphroditus has accomplished his task and was in danger at times for having done so.[2] Another reason for writing may have been to prepare the Philippians for Timothy’s arrival. Perhaps the Philippians did not know Timothy well and Paul sought to ensure Timothy would receive a warm welcome.[3]

As previously stated, it is believed that Philippians was written during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome. To say this is settled scholarship is far from the truth. Strong arguments can be made that Paul may have been imprisoned during his three years in Ephesus and may have written one or more of the so-called Prison Epistles during this period. 2 Corinthians 11:23, written towards the end of Paul’s stay in Ephesus, informs us that by comparison with other Christian workers he had experienced ‘far greater labours, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death’. In I Corinthians 15:32 Paul wrote that he ‘fought with beasts at Ephesus’, a phrase which was probably not meant to be understood literally, but as a figure of speech could easily describe a trial preceding imprisonment. Again, 2 Corinthians 1:8 speaks of ‘the affliction we experienced in Asia’, the Roman province of which Ephesus was the capital, while in Romans 16:7, written shortly after he left Ephesus, Paul refers to two people as ‘my fellow prisoners’.

Other evidence that Paul was imprisoned at Ephesus is to be found in the Latin introductions to New Testament books that were written in the second century under the influence of the Gnostic Marcion. The second-century Acts of Paul includes the account of an imprisonment at Ephesus, followed by an encounter with lions in the arena, from which Paul was delivered by supernatural intervention. While these last pieces of evidence are of variable quality, the combination of such information with the clues provided by Paul’s own writings makes it quite likely that he did suffer a period of imprisonment during his three-year stay in Ephesus.[4]

As with many of Paul’s other letters, he confronts opponents in Philippians. It is possible that Paul was dealing with more than one problem in the church.[5] There may have been members of the church that were making life difficult for Paul but Paul later refers to these people as opposing the church itself.[6] In 3:1-6 Paul seems to be addressing the recurring issue of Judiazers followed in verses 18-20 where there are those who pretend to practice perfectionism and libertinism.[7] As we have come to expect during our study of Paul, he confronts these opponents directly and sternly.

[1] Phil 4:6

[2] Carson, D A, and Douglas J Moo. An Introduction to The New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 507.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Drane, John William: Introducing the New Testament. Completely rev. and updated. Oxford : Lion Publishing plc, 2000, S. 365.

[5] Lea, Thomas D., and David Alan Black. The New Testament: It's Background And Message (2nd ed). (Nashville: Broadman & Hollman Publishers, 2003), 444.

[6] Phil 1:28-29

[7] Lea, Thomas D., and David Alan Black. The New Testament: It's Background And Message (2nd ed). (Nashville: Broadman & Hollman Publishers, 2003), 444.