Congregational Conflict: Why Don't We Seek Help


by Lester L. Adams

May 2013

Lester L. Adams

              I have done all that I can do to resolve my differences with him.  And it’s time for me to move on... 

   These are the words that a number of people who are in conflict have said to me, when I told them about mediation or offered to help them resolve their conflict.  These are people who are no longer speaking to the person they are at odds with. They have no plans to ever see or deal with the person they have the disagreement with.  But, in many cases, they feel justified in rejecting my help. They tell me that they have done everything within their power to reconcile with the person they are at odds with. They say that they are at peace with their decision to move on.  And they say to me, thanks, but no thanks.

    They claim that they have done all that is in their power to reconcile.  In many cases, this is not true, because they have not sought help to settle their differences.  Why am I raising this issue ?  It is because I see the pain, heartache and turmoil that so many congregation members remain in (sometimes for years) when they allowed their disagreements to remain without getting help.   I have written this article to confront and challenge members in conflict about this misguided logic, so that they will seek the help that they need.  Here are some reasons why we choose not to seek the assistance we need.

We Are Mistaken

     When we say that we have done all that we can, and we have not sought help, we are mistaken because the scriptures encourage us to seek the help of others.  This is what Matthew 18, verse 15-16  says to do if we cannot resolve your differences by private discussion:  “But if he (the person you are at odds with) will not hear you, then take with you one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established”.   At 1st Corinthians chapter 6, verse 4, we are also told to seek help from congregation members: “If then you have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church”.  God gives the people in the congregation we seek assistance from power and wisdom to help us.  

We Are Deceived

    When we say that we are “at peace” with our decision to move on, it is not always true. Very often, we are deceiving ourselves because we are still in great pain and turmoil over the disagreement.  One way to determine or assess whether we are at peace and free of the stress of the conflict is what our response is when the name of the person we are at odds with comes up, or the subject of the conflict is brought up.  If the name or subject makes us intensely angry or upset, and we begin to argue with or snap at our spouse or our children, we are not free or at peace.  The conflict still troubles and torments us. We have unresolved issues. We either need to have further conversations with the person we are at odds with. Or we should seek help to settle the unfinished business through discussion.    

We Are Proud And Blind

     This applies to many of us, who feel that we do not need help from anyone else, or we can handle things ourselves.  Let me be honest. If we could have handled these disagreements ourselves, they would have been resolved. The fact is that we need to admit we need help and seek it because we cannot settle these issues ourselves.  In most cases, because we are so emotionally involved in the conflict, we are blind and cannot see solutions that are right before our eyes.  This is another reason why we need the help of others who can see more clearly than we can.

    Proverbs 13, verse 10 provides us some important wisdom on this subject: “Only by pride comes contention: but with the well advised is wisdom”.  Pride is one of the reasons why we fight with each other.  And our stubbornest is what often keeps us in conflict. But when we humble ourselves and seek help, we are “well advised”.  And we get the wisdom we need to end our disagreements.

Conclusion

   I hope that my words have encouraged you who are in conflict and cannot find your way out,  to seek help from your friends, congregation members, church leaders and others who care for you and want to help you end your pain. At 1st Corinthians chapter 6 verse 5, the apostle Paul makes it clear that God makes this wisdom available to us liberally: “Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you ? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren ?”.  This wisdom available. All that we have to do is open the door and ask for it.  



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Biography




Lester L. Adams is an attorney, a trained mediator and arbitrator, and an ordained minister. Lester has been a mediator and arbitrator with the following panels and organizations: National Association Of Securities Dealers; National Arbitation Forum; Better Business Bureau; New York Stock Exchange; Circuit Court Of Baltimore County, and the Maryland Human Relations Commission. Lester has been an ordained Elder since 1994, and he currently serves in that role in a church called New Covenant Tabernacle. Lester also heads up a non-profit organization called, Pursuing Peace Ministries, a ministry that mediates conflict, and teach, trains, and equips congregations and church leaders how to be in the position to release God's power to make peace. This allows them to more effectively resolve conflict. Over the years some of the teaching series Lester has conducted for congregations include, "Developing Good Relationships In The Church" and "Anger And Conflict".



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