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Conflict in Church: Resolving Disputes with Biblical Strategies

bibleThis week’s Texas Conflict Coach® radio program, Understanding and Preventing Conflict: Staying Out of The Mediation Emergency Room, featured guest Dale Payne, the President and CEO of Peacemaker Ministries. With the help of biblical strategies, this organization’s purpose is to assist Christians and their churches in comprehending and resolving conflicts effectively. Dale Payne also addresses the fact that churches are just as vulnerable to conflicts and disputes as any other organization. Their website features many conflict resolution resources for Christians.

One resource titled “Resolving Conflict through Christian Conciliation” provided by the Peacemaker Ministries offers valuable strategies for dispute resolution. One of the first tips listed by the resource is utilizing conflict coaching. While not getting fully involved in the conflict, an individual who is “coaching” can counsel and offer advice from an outside perspective. Additionally, this can help encourage an individual to seek a resolution with the opposition privately. The resource states that in doing so, you are helping the individual to obey Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 5:23-24 and 18:15, ‘If you … remember that your brother has something against you …, go and be reconciled,’ and ‘If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.’” Peacemaker Ministries provides a strategy called the Four G’s of Peacemaking which are the basic principles required for individuals to address conflict biblically. These Four G’s are: Glorify God, Get the log out of your own eye (see the situation form the other person’s perspective), Gently Restore and Go and be reconciled. To find out more about the Four G’s of Peacemaking click here.

When conflict coaching is not effective, the resource stresses the importance of mediation. Mediation is an effective tool when dealing with disputes by creating situations that support communication and facilitation with the goal of finding a voluntary resolution between parties. To emphasize this point, Peacemaker Ministries cite Matthew 18:16 by stating “but if [your brother] will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses’.”   Additionally, the resource provides a six-step mediation process called “GOSPEL” which is effective when dealing with disputes. The first step Greeting and ground rules focuses on planning and agreeing on how a resolution should be accomplished. Opening statements deals with brief declarations from both parties describing their preferred outcome. Story telling assists in more detailed communication between the parties. Problem identification and clarification allows those involved to express their main issues or concerns. Exploring solutions is a brainstorm process seeking realistic solutions. The final step is Lead to an agreement, which encourages finding a conclusive agreement.

However, if mediation is also ineffective to reaching resolution, arbitration may be a solution to the conflict. Arbitration is guided by a mutually selected individual or church member with the authority to make a final decision on the matter. The resource offers both valuable and extensive information on resolving conflicts in the church through conflict coaching, mediation and arbitration. While there is much more information at the Peacemaking Ministries webpage, the booklet Guiding People through Conflict offers an even more detailed look at the procedures. Peacemaker Ministry also offers biblical conflict resolution training programs here.

John Wagner

Student Intern

Salisbury University – Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution


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