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Keeping Conflict Healthy
How to respond to church conflict with grace.

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Daffy Duck rehearses his fencing moves in a classic Warner Brothers cartoon: "Ho! Haha! Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! Thrust!" His forward thrust is followed by a "thwack!" as the foil bounces back in his face and bends his beak upward. Daffy folds his beak back into place and tries again. "Dodge! Spin! Thrust!" Thwack!

Every time, thwack!

Why is it that in ministry, as with Daffy, many a forward thrust snaps back and something, or somebody, gets bent out of shape? And if conflict is to be expected, how can we reconcile ruptured relationships, restore a Christ-like ethic, and recover our forward momentum?

Peacemaking is not "peace faking." Often the peacemaker is the one who says, "Let's stop covering up. Let's deal with it."—Ken Sande

The participants in this forum have seen the worst of the worst, and they have fenced in some challenging matches themselves—but amazingly, with grace.

They shared some of their stories on Leadership's recent TV seminar, one of a series produced by Church Communication Network for satellite downlink at local church sites (http://ccn.tv).
In this roundtable discussion prior to our broadcast, these experts reflected deep love for the church and respect for each person in the body. Church conflicts have not defeated them or scarred them or bent their beaks back.

We wanted to know how they managed that. At the table:

Ken Sande

Peacemaker Ministries, Billings, Montana (www.hispeace.org)

Trained as an engineer and lawyer, Ken puts those skills to work in reconciling relationships in churches and families. For 23 years, he has mediated lawsuits and church splits, and helped to reconcile hundreds of couples headed for divorce.

Rene Schlaepfer

Twin Lakes Church, Aptos, California (www.tlc.org)

First a Top-40 radio DJ, Rene has served as senior pastor of Twin Lakes Church for 11 years. In that time, Rene navigated turbulent change as the church transitioned from a traditional Baptist style to a contemporary congregation effectively reaching people in the Monterey Bay area of California.

Jim Van Yperen

Metanoia Ministries, Washington, New Hampshire (www.changeyourmind.net)

Over a span of ten years, Jim and his organization have aided almost 60 deeply divided churches in conflict resolution. He serves as interim pastor, conference speaker, and is author of Making Peace: A Guide to Overcoming Church Conflict (Moody Press, 2002).

A healthy church has learned a way of thinking and seeing and behaving that's redemptive, so that when real conflict comes, they're able to handle it.—Jim Van Yperen

All churches have conflict. No one really wants it. Is it possible for churches to be in conflict and to be healthy?

Van Yperen: Health is not the absence of conflict. A healthy church has learned a way of thinking and seeing and behaving that's redemptive, so that when the inevitable conflict comes, they're able to handle it. They've learned that God is sovereign over all things, so that conflict is not necessarily a threat.

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Topics:Conflict, Conflict resolution, Confrontation, Fellowship, Health, Interviews, Reconciliation
Filters:Church board, Counseling, Deacon, Elder, Management, Pastor
References:1 Corinthians 10, Philippians 2, James 4:1-3

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