How You Handle Conflict
House churches are both harder and easier than large congregations. They are easier because there are fewer people and fewer formal decision-making processes to deal with. House churches are harder because you will be interacting with other people and the whole group in an intimate (but appropriate) way. Differences of opinion and even differences in values that might stay submerged in larger groups may be much more apparent in your group. How each person and the group handle this will determine the health and vitality of the house church.
Just so we are clear: You will experience conflict in a house church.
At the same time, each house church will be engaging in some kind of public, nonviolent leadership in the larger world. How we handle conflict in the group will give the group practice for handling conflict in this public leadership.
Jesus encouraged his disciples to realize that conflict is a part of Christian community:
15 ‘If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector.Matthew 18:15-17
We tend to be uncomfortable with the last sentence, and rightly so! Remember, however, that the whole point of Matthew is to reach out to and welcome sinners and tax collectors into the community. The last sentence is more about speaking the truth about a willful estrangement than rejecting a person.
Take a few minutes and list some occasions when you have been in conflict with someone. This could be a challenging thing to do, so be nice to yourself.
Here are five approaches to conflict management.
- Competition: A win-lose approach in which we try to win
- Accommodation: A win-lose approach in which we try to lose
- Avoidance: Seeking to ignore the conflict to move on to other issues
- Compromise: A win-a-little-lose-a-little approach
- Collaboration: Seeking the deeper values and more fundamental questions in the conflict to bring about a satisfying result for all parties
Which one do you think you tend to use?
Can you name a time when you used each one?