Let’s face reality. The church has always had conflict, and it always will. Why? First of all, God uses conflict to help us grow. Second, there are no perfect Christians. Finally, God uses conflict and trials to test the authenticity of our faith. If you think you’ve discovered a church without conflict, look deeper. Some churches are little more than a concert venue where people come to be entertained by the gifted professionals whom the people have come to see. I’m not criticizing them. They have conflict too, you just don’t see because you’re not connected. If you choose to get connected, sooner or later, somebody is not going to like the way you’re doing something, and you will experience conflict. Criticism is our nature; but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is unavoidable. It can help us grow.
If you think these big name pastors, recording artist, authors, and youth workers don’t experience conflict, ask them. Better yet, just look their name up on social media or Google. They all have conflict. The better they are, the more criticism they face. THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS. Many are focusing on the wrong things. Church is not about being entertained; it’s about fellowship and service; and service always invited conflict. Conflict is not a sign you are wrong any more than popularity is a sign you are right. God calls us to go deeper. God calls us to get connected. God calls us to serve. And yes, God calls us to be persecuted.
The road of righteousness is not the road of least resistance. If you are not experiencing resistance, you are not growing. People are under the illusion that following God is about peace. The peace the Bible is talking about is inner peace, not the absence of conflict. Think about it. Just look up peace in the concordance. When Paul writes about peace, for instance, he wasn’t experiencing peace outwardly; several times he was writing from prison (Eph. 2:14-17; Phil. 4:7). As he faced the end of his life, Paul wrote, “In fact, EVERYONE WHO WANTS TO LIVE A GODLY LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS will BE PERSECUTED (2 Tim. 3:12).” Did you notice that “everyone”? Persecution verifies your faith. It is a way of knowing if your faith is real. If you can’t endure persecution, your faith is not been verified. “If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.).”
We may disagree on the rudimentary elements of our faith, but rest assured your faith is genuine when you are willing to die for it. You can be wrong and still be genuine. If our salvation was dependent about being right on every doctrinal issue, we are all in a lot of trouble. Most of us have no idea what we are talking about because we only hear one side of the issue. But if you love God enough to die for him, and you are earnestly seeking him with all your heart, mind, and strength; I’m confident in saying that you are closer to God than those who may know more than you but are unwilling to surrender. You will never truly know if you love God until your faith threatens your life and welfare.
The church is not meant to be free from conflict. If it is unreasonable to expect a conflict free marriage, it is all the more unreasonable to expect a conflict free church. In marriage, as time goes on things may get easier as you adjust to each other and grow together. In a church, if it is growing, there is constant influx of people with different levels of maturity and perspectives. We are called to be patient with each other. We are called to love each other; but we shouldn’t expect that love to be reciprocated. If you do, you will be disappointed. You are called to be faithful regardless of what others do.
In dying churches, there may be an absence of conflict, but that is not a good thing. People have been taught to conform instead of search. New members are rare and if they don’t conform, the church will spit them out. Preacher’s who don’t conform are silenced and fired. In such churches, members have stopped caring. They sit in the pews and even though they disagree, they maintain their silence because they fear conflict. Because of their fear of conflict, the church will resist change, and as a result will die. If this ever to be changed, it will be changed through conflict.
So many people try to choose the path of least resistance. When they experience trouble, they evacuate. This is true in other relationships as well. If we are unwilling to experience conflict in relationships, we will end up alone; and many are just that: alone. That is why there are so many divorces. That is why there are so many churches. That is why there so few long term friendships. And that is why people are so lonely. We need to work through conflict, not avoid it. It is foolish to give up on marriage after a few arguments, and it is foolish to give up on the church because of conflict. We will never grow spiritually until we can work through conflict.
If you’ve read this and agree, please share. Please also feel free to comment.