In fact, the church can often be a place of mortal combat between those who make up the fellowship. Growing up as a “preacher’s kid” introduced me to the reality that one does not escape conflict just by stepping through the doors of a church building. When you walk into a church you walk into the presence of varied personalities. Now it would be our hope that all those personalities in the church would be strong, mature Christians. This is not the case.
Most churches are made up of every type of person you can imagine. Conflict arises due to the fact that most congregations are not equipped to deal with the various levels of maturity within the congregation. To deal with conflict and address it before it gets too far out of hand you need to recognize the characteristics of those who make up your church.
All churches have some non-Christians within the congregation. They may attend faithfully and they may participate in all the affairs of the church but there has never been a time of “true conversion” in their life. Just because their name is on the church role does not mean much if they have not given their life to Christ. What is really dangerous is if a “non-Christian” is given a leadership role in the church and the justification is, “Well, he’s a good person, he attends well and he even gives money to the church.” If this is the case in your fellowship just get ready for conflict to explode somewhere down the line or if non-Christians gain the majority of leadership roles, spiritual death of the fellowship will take place.
The Baby Christian
Conflict shows up if you allow a baby Christian (a newborn) to take a leadership role that should only be given to a mature believer. No one would allow a baby to drive their car unless they have a strong desire for a severe accident. Babies are to be nurtured, fed and watched over carefully. It takes time to become a leader. Christians have to grow up to become healthy leaders!
The Adolescence/Teenage Christian
Not too long ago my wife came across a study that showed that the human brain does not completely mature until after the age of 21. We have raised three children. I believe every word of this study. Spiritual growth and maturity is much like human growth. It is a big mistake to place a new and growing Christian in significant leadership roles. Many times the ministry of a fellowship will be destroyed not by an evil heart but an immature mind. Spiritual maturity is essential for productive church growth. It can be observed that the reason some congregations do not flourish is due to the maturity or lack of maturity that some church leaders possess.
The Retired Christian
Some church members have thrown in the towel. “It is time for the young people of the church to take over.” is their theme. This is an extremely sad philosophy and theology. Conflict will evolve in any congregation in which the seasoned veterans of the Faith have retired. There is not a retirement schedule in the work of the Kingdom. When someone comes to the place in their Christian journey that they basically quit, it pushes them into the next characteristic - The Dead Christian. This characteristic speaks for itself. If a believer refuses to be used after a period of time a spiritual funeral will take place whether they admit it or not!
The Maturing/Adult Christian
These are those who bring a wealth of wisdom into any congregation. They are the ones who can help any fellowship avoid the blasts of conflict. These mature people do not desire to see conflict however, when trouble arises they are determined to move the fellowship to the other side in a healthy fashion. A mature leader has learned how to deal with diversity. In fact, they recognize differing personalities and opinions as a wealth of possibilities and resources.
Where are you in your Christian journey?