At that bottom of this App there are general descriptions of both the Conflict Resolution Strategies and the Conflict Styles. Once you have processed through your results, begin to work through the content below.
Is it possible to have an organization where there is no conflict? Would such an organization be healthy? Have you ever experienced conflict in the church? What was it like? What did you learn? What would you do differently/same?
Conflict is normal in any human relationship and the church is no exception. The ideal of perpetual peace in the church – without conflict – is unscriptural and unrealistic. Differing viewpoints are perfectly normal. But how we handle conflict is absolutely critical to the survival of Christ’s church and specifically applying it to our local context is paramount to our effectiveness in communicating with our generation the good news about Jesus. Look at Paul’s stern warning to the church in Galatia …
"If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other." Galatians 5:15 (NIV)
Jesus left us with clear instructions regarding how we are to love one another. So the moments of confrontation and conflict we experience are to be surrounded by an atmosphere of love and encouragement. Love often expresses itself in honest confrontation. Differences of opinion do not necessarily equate with an absence of love.
What causes conflict between people? What causes conflict in the body of Christ?
Conflicts occur because people choose to look at matters in different ways, not necessarily because those matters are the way people choose to see them.
What would a Biblically harmonious organization look like?
A systematic study of the New Testament helps us to get a picture of what that kind of a community would look like. Consider six basic guidelines we’re given that will result in a harmonious church. As leaders, if we will remain committed to these principles that when conflict arises … and it will … we will be able to successfully navigate through those difficult waters.
1. Leaders should ruthlessly pursue meekness (power under control).
Jesus, Paul and Peter clearly affirmed the value of being meek ...
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5 (NIV)
"Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited." Romans 12:16 (NIV)
"All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'" 1 Peter 5:5 (NIV)
2. Leaders should continually work toward commonground.
" ... Be at peace with each other." Mark 9:50 (NIV)
"Live in peace with each other." 1 Thessalonians 5:13 (NIV)
"I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord." Philippians 4:2 (NIV)
Reflection: Am I quick to make a move toward compromise?
3. Leaders should focus on our own deficiencies rather than on the shortcomings of others.
"Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way." Romans 14:13 (NIV)
Reflection: Am I known for pointing out the areas of weakness in others?
4. Leaders should avoid verbalattacks on one another.
Have any of you ever been on the receiving end of a verbal onslaught? What was it like? How did you respond?
"Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it." James 4:11 (NIV)
"Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!" James 5:9 (NIV)
How do we get to the point of verbal barrages? We don’t start with the mouth. Actually our downfall begins in our thought life. After we have thought and pondered and considered and contemplated then we are all messed up in our minds. Then our mouth takes over and we get into all sorts of trouble.
"If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless." James 1:26 (NIV)
"We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check." James 3:2 (NIV)
"Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark." James 3:5 (NIV)
"Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it." 1 Peter 3:10-11 (NIV)
"Words kill, words give life; they're either poison or fruit—you choose." Proverbs 18:21 (MSG)
How do I communicate in an effective manner when I’m under pressure?
1. Try to use more I statements than you statements.
I feel we should get start on …
I think it would be good for the church if we …
You make me so angry.
You always want the decisions to go your way.
When we talk about this subject, I tend to feel angry because …
2. Give supportive feedback when people are willing to express their thoughts.
I’m glad you feel secure enough to express your feelings …
Thank you for sharing your ideas and feelings …
You are a valuable member of this team …
3. Watch for a message about the message.
As I was praying the other night the Lord spoke to me about this …
4. Flag unnecessary provocative words.
You’re wrong about that.
It might be viewed from this point of view …
It occurred to me that another way of looking at it might be …
Reflection: Do I have control of my mouth? Is there a tendency for me to tear others down?
5. Leaders should pursue and demonstrate forgiveness.
"Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others." Colossians 3:13 (TLB)
The act of forgiveness is the action that God took which heals our broken relationship with Him. It is by the act of forgiveness that we are reconciled with God, that is, able to remain in relationship to Him despite our imperfection. Forgiveness allows us to live beyond the power of the past (sin), into a gracious future relationship with God.
Just as God's definite act of forgiveness arose out of His love for us, so out of our love for one another can we choose to let forgiveness be an active part of all our relationships. Forgiveness will allow your relationship to survive the imperfection of each of its members.
To forgive in our human relationships does not mean to forget that an event occurred. Many events leave wounds that turn into healthy scar tissue. The scar is still there, the event of the wounding may be remembered, but you no longer have to pamper the wound. It has healed, the scar tissue which has grown is stronger than the original flesh, and you can go on living without regard to that wound. By the same token, if a situation should arise that is similar to the situation which caused the first wound, it will be recognized.
"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)
"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." James 5:16 (NIV)
Reflection: Can I admit when I'm wrong? Do I seek to reconcile my relationships in a timely manner? Am I too hardhearted when others ask for my forgiveness?
6. Leaders need to exemplify benevolence.
"Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else." 1 Thessalonians 5:15 (NIV)
Reflection: Is my heart tender to others who are hurting or in need?
Those six guidelines will help us to maintain an atmosphere that when conflict arises it can be managed in a healthy manner. With this backdrop in place let’s turn our attention to the early church. I want us to peek in on the first conflict that arose in that first century church. How did they handle confrontation and were they successful?
To begin with, we need to understand that in the early church disputings and complaints were not considered unchristian or unspiritual. We need to learn to tolerate the tension and discomfort that are created when people with honest differences are brought together. In the constructive management of conflict, the goal is always restoration of unity. The devil doesn’t fear a large church; he fears a united church.
Nothing neutralizes the power of the church like destructive conflict. And nothing unites it like creative conflict. The early church came out of Acts 6 stronger and I believe that if we'll apply the principles we’re about to examine that when conflict arises we can grow stronger as well.
"In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, 'It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.' This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith." Acts 6:1-7 (NIV)
What options did the early church leaders have when the complaint arose?
1. Ignore the problem = “lose/win” situation.
• Hope it will go away.
2. Live with the problem = “lose/lose” situation.
• No one is satisfied.
3. Go to war over the problem = “win/lose” situation.
• Fight to the finish. Someone wins … someone loses.
4. Work through the problem = “win/win” situation.
• Honestly, civilly, air our their feelings in an atmosphere w/o fear of judgment as they work toward a mutual agreement.
Notice how the apostles approached this conflict. They followed a simple, three-step process for handling the issue that we can all learn to apply in our own lives.
Step One: Desensitization - Allow the issue to be aired.
The widows were allowed to air their complaints, desensitizing the conflict.
" ... so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other." 1 Corinthians 12:25 (NIV)
Illustration: “Have You Thrown Any Darts?”
“A busy day is ahead. Let me not waste any of it in gossip. Lord, if I begin to talk in a way that tears down another person, remind me of your command to 'love my neighbor'. Replace my destructive words with those that are positive and helpful, or, if I can't do that, help me to say nothing at all!” (Unknown)
Reflection: Am I approachable? Can others come to me if they need to voice an injustice?
Once the issue has been brought to the forefront there must be a time of …
Step Two: Deliberation – Allow for a mature discussion of the issue.
Let me illustrate this second step by examining another instance in the early church when a conflict arose …
"The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, 'You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.' Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened: 'I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds of the air. Then I heard a voice telling me, 'Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.' "I replied, 'Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.' 'The voice spoke from heaven a second time, 'Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.' This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again. 'Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man's house. He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, 'Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.' 'As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?' When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, 'So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.'" Acts 11:1-18 (NIV)
What does a mature “fight” look like?
1. The focus is on the problem, not the person.
Don’t use unfair tactics: bringing up the past, raising voice, sarcasm, etc.
2. All parties are working toward a compromise.
3. Everyone is actively listening.
4. Words like always and never are avoided.
5. Those involved are able to maintain a sense of humor.
When we’re working through conflict it is critical that we do so when we are emotionally, physically and spiritually healthy. When we lack health in those areas we are prone to lash out quicker than when we are well-balanced.
Likewise, we must learn to pick our battles. For those of you in the room who have dominating personalities … you don't have to win every time!
Further, our discussions must be permeated with patience. The fact of the matter is that everyone is right in his or her own eyes. Therefore we must allow time for those with opposing views to have time to adjust to change.
Finally, our deliberations have to be bathed in prayer. If we will remain on our knees it will keep us from stumbling.
Maturity never shows itself any brighter than when it shines in the midst of conflict. The mature person sees that God specializes in managing messes. Instead of focusing on the mess, the mature person sees what good and creative things God can bring out of it. God is the master of peace in the midst of chaos. Any crisis we face will not be the first one He’s ever had to manage.
Reflection: Would others who have been in conflict with me say that I handled it with maturity? In what areas do I need to improve to become a more mature negotiator? What am I blind to that God wants me to see? What am I missing?
Here are a few thoughts to help you mature …
People hurt you because they are hurting.
No one got up in the morning to make your day miserable.
It would be nice if everyone liked you, but it’s not necessary.
If being perfect got Jesus crucified, what is the likelihood you will get through life without pain?
“Every trial, every test, every difficulty and seemingly wrong experience through which you may have to pass, is only another opportunity granted to you of conquering an evil thing and bringing out of it something to the lasting praise and glory of God.” (Hannah Hurnard)
After the issue is made known and the deliberations have come to a close there must be a …
Step Three: Decision
"Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: 'Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.' This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the brothers very glad. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them. Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, 'The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.' The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: 'Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.' The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. When they finished, James spoke up: 'Brothers, listen to me. Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: ''After this I will return and rebuild David's fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things' that have been known for ages.' It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.' Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers. With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings. We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul-- men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell. The men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers. After spending some time there, they were sent off by the brothers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord." Acts 15:1-36 (NIV)
Perhaps the most creative resolution is to try to find an integration of as many different points of view as possible. Creative integration would be the optimum way of managing conflict: devising a new approach that no one coming into the meeting had really seen, but that the whole groups is helped to see as they look at the situation together.
Out of the first major conflict of the church came the whole idea of lay ministry. If there hadn’t been the conflict, the creative dimension of lay ministry might never have been added to the church. For, out of the first major conflict came the office and ministry of “deacon.”
Please note a couple of amazing statements from these verses we’ve been examining …
"Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number,a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food." Acts 6:1 (NASB)
"The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith." Acts 6:7 (NASB)
We seldom put those two thoughts together. But the disciples managed to handle the conflict constructively. The gospel comes not as an escape from conflict but rather as a source of strength for conflict. For conflict to be constructive, we must focus not on what is going to happen to us, but what is going to happen through us.
You tend to avoid conflict at all costs. While in some situations this may be a wise thing to do, there are things that are worth fighting for. Your fear of confrontation and unwillingness to deal with problems may cause you to abdicate from your personal goals and, as weird as it sounds, undermine your relationships with others. If you never confront your interpersonal problems with honesty and openness, your chances to resolve them are slim. This may lead to passive aggressive behavior from both sides; and while you may be able to avoid the confrontation itself, you will be subjecting yourself to continuous dull pain.
You are rather aggressive and tend to use force to get your way. You aren’t too concerned about whether or not other people love you or like you, and you aren’t into compromises. Typically, you don’t settle for anything less than what you originally wanted and will fight until all your demands are satisfied.
You value good relationships more than you value goals and dreams. You rarely find yourself in a conflict situation because you do everything to prevent it in the first place. It’s important for you to be loved and liked, and you are ready for sacrifices if necessary.
You equally value your interpersonal relationships and your goals. Because you aren’t ready to give up on any of the two, you use compromise as your preferred strategy. Even if your demand isn’t satisfied 100 percent, it’s still better than nothing, and you get to keep the relationship.
Your strategy is honesty and openness. You value both relationships and goals and look for a way to work with your opponent for a solution that is honest and satisfactory for both sides. The difference between Style V and Style IV is that Style V is not willing to compromise the truth but, at the same time, they are patient enough to keep digging until they find a better solution that can satisfy everyone involved.
Problem Solvers tend to want to discuss all the details of a problem and work through it together so that everyone gets what he or she wants and is happy in the end. Their strengths are that they tend to welcome differences, build high-levels of trust and mutual understanding in relationships. There is also the potential to learn from creative problem solving.
Weaknesses: When time is a factor, it is difficult to spend the energy and time needed to process the way Problem Solvers tend do. There is also the potential for burnout from over-processing.
Accommodators have a harmonizing approach to conflict. They often focus on supporting others in a conflict situation and are adept at placating people in uncomfortable situations. Accommodators often gain strong appreciation from others involved in a conflict.
Weaknesses: Accommodators may build up resentment from denying their own needs. It also may be difficult for those who want to get to the root of the problem to work with Accommodators who tend to focus on making others happy.
Compromisers approach conflict with the goal of compromise. They tend to think about what they are willing to give up and what they are willing to hold on to, and try to gear communication to focus on this give and take for all parties. It is a good way to promote cooperation. It can be done fairly quickly when both parties are engaged.
Avoider Avoiders tend to step away from conflict. They often keep their opinions to themselves in conflict situations so as not to continue or escalate the conflict. They are often admired for having a calming, quiet presence in the face of crisis.
Weaknesses: Avoiders sometimes keep their feelings bottled up and then aren’t able to meet their own needs. This can result in a frustrating buildup of emotions.
Competers are known for being persuasive and direct. They know the result they want in a conflict situation, and they go for it. Their strengths are that they are often passionate about their views and dedicated to pursuing their convictions. Competers are good at making quick decisions, and tend not to waste time, which is especially helpful in the time of crisis.
Weaknesses: Sometimes Competers wind up with unequal relationships with others, and feelings of others can be hurt or overlooked with their decision-making style.
Many times conflict emerges from criticism. While criticism isn't fun or enjoyable, it's a natural part of leadership. Jesus was continually criticized and we should expect nothing different in our leadership journey. How we respond to criticism will have significant implications regarding the depth and length of the conflict in our relationships and organizations.