Conflict Among Local Church Leaders

Without question, humanly speaking, in the local church everything rises and falls upon leadership. The success or failure of any Christian organization rests with its leadership. The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:20 that God builds His church on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Apostles and prophets along with evangelists, pastors, and teachers comprise the leadership in local churches throughout the body of Christ. Leaders work in companion with subordinates, viz., associates, staff, and workers, in carrying out the mandate of God for their respective churches and organizations.

Leaders are ministry gifts to the body of Christ and their subordinates are supportive aids and assistants to them (Ephesians 4:8-11; 1 Corinthians 12:28). Both have viable ministries that must be properly understood, respected and appreciated. A balanced and contextual understanding of this relationship is much needed. A Christian may realize a call of God on his or her life to serve, but ministry gifts are another level of gifting. These calls and gifts fall into two categories:

First: apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher; also called the “five-fold” ascension ministry gifts. These are positions of leadership in the Body of Christ that, in many instances, require prior experience in other areas of service such as the ministry of helps and the office of deacon. Second: elders, deacons, and helps (1 Corinthians 12:28; 1 Timothy 3:1-13). The latter category is ministries that are appointed rather than called in the same sense as the five-fold ministry gifts. The first group is comprised of those whom the Lord Jesus Christ has appointed. The second consist of those who are appointed by leaders serving in the five-fold ministry.

This organizational connection between the ascension ministry gift and the subordinate necessitates much interaction and communication among them in their working relationship–much like that of a husband and wife in marriage. As a result of this ministerial relationship, it is inevitable that there will be opportunities for conflict and disagreement.


The Genesis of Conflict and Its Impact On the Local Church

Having been in the church for as far as I can remember and serving the body of Christ for more than three decades in the capacity of an Ephesians 4: 11 ascension ministry gift, I’ve had more occasions than I care to remember to observe conflict and difference in local churches and especially among the leadership.  Conflict is as old as the human family. The genesis of conflict is found in the Garden of Eden. Conflict was first introduced in an Edenic state of existence. How much more has conflict become an issue after the fall of man in the garden? As long as the church consists of members of the human race there will always be conflict and difference among leaders and subordinates. This constant struggle of overcoming the clashing of views, opposition, antagonism, and being at variance with those who are organizationally related will undoubtedly remain one of the greatest challenges of local church leader- ship. If there can be conflict and difference in the local church, there will be!

Therefore, handling and resolving organizational conflict in the local church, without question, is of interest to every Christian leader with a heart for the church of God. It is much easier to identify areas of organizational conflict than it is to handle the consequences. The challenge of Christian leadership is resolving such differences in a biblical God-honoring way, and understanding the need to achieve a spiritual resolution. My expertise, as a mediator, is examining the nature of organizational conflict between the leader and his subordinates: associates, staff, and workers. By offering the parties biblical insights and solutions, and demonstrating the negative impact that unresolved conflicts have on organizational productivity, and the positive consequences of resolving conflicts, and how the resolution process contributes to the organization’s growth and strength.

Many leaders are frustrated because they constantly encounter resistance and disagreement rather than total embrace and agreement from their subordinates when attempting to implement their goals and objectives for their local churches. And, many subordinates, as well, are terribly afraid to show constructive disagreement that would be directed toward the leader and his or her vision. These kinds of conflicts born out of disagreement will weaken the local church’s organizational structure if left unresolved, but if they are resolved, they will facilitate the accomplishment of the church’s overall mission. The handling of such conflicts and differences in the local church necessitates a spiritual resolution, a biblical perspective, a revelation of the home and church, and an understanding of issues such as: the attitudes of leaders and subordinates, God’s goal in resolving conflict in His church, local church structure and government, the nature of organizational conflict, the dynamics of disagreement, and the relationship of communication to conflict.