Peacemaking in the Church and Beyond - Lesson 5

Conflict Culture in the Church

In this lesson on "Conflict Culture in the Church," the instructor discusses how every church has a culture for resolving conflict, whether it is passive, aggressive, or alternating between the two. This conflict culture is usually inherited, and it is shaped by products, practices, and values that are visible or invisible. The instructor explains how assumptions and values that are below the surface, or "underneath the waterline," influence our conditioned responses to conflict. It is important for churches to recognize and address their conflict culture in order to respond in healthy ways.

Rick Sessoms
Peacemaking in the Church and Beyond
Lesson 5
Watching Now
Conflict Culture in the Church

Lesson: Conflict Culture in the Church

I. Introduction

A. Definition of conflict culture

B. Inherited nature of conflict culture in the church

C. Passive, aggressive, or alternating conflict culture

II. Understanding Conflict Culture in the Church

A. Culture as products, practices, and values

B. Visible and invisible elements of culture

C. Assumptions and values driving conflict culture

III. Responding to Conflict Culture in the Church

A. Conditioned responses to conflict

B. Importance of recognizing and addressing conflict culture

  • Learn about the crucial role of leadership in conflict resolution, explore the various types of conflicts in the church, and understand the importance of building a peacemaking culture to prevent and address conflicts effectively.
  • In this lesson, you gain insights into the growth and crisis of the global church, with a focus on Africa, and learn about the tragic Rwandan genocide. You will examine the historical background of these crises, the church's role in addressing them, and the need to move beyond the Gospel of sin management. Embracing the four-chapter gospel, you will understand the church's responsibility as a community of reconciled people, embodying God's reconciling work in the world.
  • You will gain insights into the gospel and its applicability to everyday life, as well as its impact on society, including bringing reconciliation and creating heaven on Earth. The discussion acknowledges the difficulties of living out the gospel in society and the tension between living in the world and living for the gospel.
  • In this lesson, you'll gain insight into the sparks that ignite conflict in the church, understand how conflicts can escalate, and discover the importance of developing peacemaking skills and fully embracing the gospel to foster unity and resolve conflicts.
  • You will learn about conflict culture in the church, which is an inherited culture for resolving conflict shaped by visible and invisible elements and assumptions and values that drive conditioned responses, and how recognizing and addressing it can lead to healthy conflict resolution.
  • This lesson explores how pastors and church leaders address people-pleasing cultures, examining the attitudes and actions of laissez-faire, controlling, and peacemaking leaders, and discussing the role of the church in promoting peacemaking, involving others, and establishing support systems.
  • Crafting a culture of peace requires three building blocks: having a passion for the gospel, unified leadership that exhibits a shepherd's heart to protect and guide, and embracing a peacemaking theology. By focusing on these building blocks, we can create a harmonious society that avoids the slippery slope towards violence.
  • This lesson highlights the significance of unified leadership within the church, demonstrating how effective leadership can help overcome crises and conflicts. By examining factors that contribute to unity and disunity among leaders, you will gain insight into the importance of addressing issues such as control, communication, differing gifts, competition, and qualifications in order to maintain a cohesive and gospel-centered leadership team.
  • You will gain insight into the importance of preparation and certain characteristics that need to be in place before conflict in order to build a united leadership team, using an analogy of running a marathon.
  • This lesson provides insights on understanding conflict and developing a peacemaking theology, teaching you how to respond biblically and create an approach that honors God and benefits those involved in the conflict.
  • You will learn practical steps to overcome conflict by reflecting the glory of God, responding with humility and grace, prioritizing unity over self-interest, speaking the truth in love, and pursuing forgiveness and reconciliation.
  • By learning practical peacemaking tools and focusing on communication, you'll enhance your ability to resolve conflicts by mastering responsible listening and speaking, enabling you to better understand others and communicate your message more effectively.
  • You will learn about the importance of listening as a spiritual practice to connect with God and others, and how being open and attentive to God's voice through listening can lead to greater awareness of His presence and deeper relationships with Him and others.
  • Gain insights into the barriers to good listening, the 600 word gap between listening capacity and speaking rate, and the objectives of responsible listening to improve communication and build trust in relationships.
  • In this lesson, you learn about the vital role of responsible speaking and listening in conflict resolution and how taking responsibility for understanding others and being understood can improve the chances of successful outcomes, along with strategies to enhance communication.
  • Learn to manage the Grapevine, an informal communication network, and understand the roles of Centrals and Peripherals in sharing information, as well as conflict mediation techniques and the importance of acknowledging and accommodating uneven tables in disputes.
  • This lesson highlights the crucial role of peacemaking beyond the church, touching on the history of American evangelicalism, race relations, and the inspiring story of Koinonia Farm, which exemplifies the importance of fostering reconciliation in a divided world.

How conflict and leadership intersect..

Dr. Rick Sessoms
Peacemaking in the Church and Beyond
Conflict Culture in the Church
Lesson Transcript

[00:00:00] So let me begin. Sort of. That's. That's all about introductions. So let me let me launch now into what I'd call conflict culture in the church. Every church. Has what we could call a culture for resolving conflict. Now, we talked about organizational church culture back a couple of courses to go. Every church also has a culture for resolving conflict. Whether or not they're conscious of that culture, a church's conflict culture is usually inherited, and it tends to be either passive or aggressive or alternating between the two. Now, you remember that we talked about culture being products and practices and values. Remember the remember the the the the iceberg and the product and practices being visible and then the values being underneath that and the assumptions being down below that. And we talked about this. These assumptions and these values are underneath the waterline. And it's we're conditioned in our culture and our church culture to respond in certain ways. And so the behaviors that we act out or as a result of those assumptions and those values that are underneath the waterline that we don't pay attention to a lot, but they're there nonetheless. And so in the area of conflict, we do the same way we respond to conflict. We're conditioned to respond in ways that our culture shapes us and molds us to respond to that to that conflict. So a very important step in learning to deal with conflict is to honestly discern what our churches natural inclinations are, what our culture is when it comes to conflict. More specifically, how does the leadership on our church deal with conflict? Then we can learn to address those inclinations and develop more constructive ways in dealing with it. Now, here's how it works.

[00:02:09] There are three basic kinds of conflict resolution culture. Basic. It's represented in what we call the slippery slope of conflict. And this comes from a specialist in the field. His name is Ken Sandy. He's written a book called Peacemakers. And there are organizations called Peacemakers. If you look on our friendly website, you'll find that they're partners with us. Actually, they are going to be presenting the next module in our program in India in November. So we have a very close relationship with with peacemakers. This basic concept comes from them, although they may explain it a little bit differently, but this is where it comes from. Think of a semi-circle where it's easy to slip off one way or another. First you've got on the left side. Can you see that? Probably can't. It's it's what we call a people pleasing culture or a escaping culture. Nobody wants to deal with conflict. That's kind of the nature of our value system within this kind of a church culture. The veneer of nice in quotes looks healthy on the surface. A visitor visiting speaker of a church that I pastored came in one time and he started his is his second message with a statement. This is one fine congregation. And and he said, You know how I know that? Is there. Everybody I've met, I've asked, How are you? And their answer is fine. Now, that's a humorous way of saying that we are not really fine, but we put on our game face. In the same way when it comes to conflict, things might look fine, but tension and criticism tends to linger just below the surface. So that's the people pleasing culture. Then there is again, I'm sorry you can't see that so well, but there is what we call the controlling culture.

[00:04:18] This is an attacking sort of a motif. People are ready to fight at the drop of a hat. They do lots of political maneuvering. The leadership creates coalitions and can even do all kinds of spiritual language to create that touch, not by an anointed kind of stuff and and and play the martyr role or whatever the case may be. That is what we call the controlling the attacking culture. And then at the top, there's what we call the peacemaking culture. It's in a culture of peace. People seek to glorify God and serve each other as they work through their differences and their disagreements. Now, as I said, it's very easy to slide down that slippery slope one way or the other. It's harder to maintain the characteristics of a peacemaking culture. A church's culture will usually determine the outcome of its conflicts. So in other words, the outcome is already decided depending on where you are on that slippery slope. Does that make sense? Very important. Here are. Here's how you would differentiate these cultures and the people pleasing culture, which is here on the left. The motto of a people pleasing culture would be Fire. What fire? And the motto of an attacking or controlling culture is fight fire with fire. In a in a paper plays in culture, folks prefer to avoid conflict at all costs. In a controlling culture to attack conflict and people. There's a people pleasing culture. People are very skilled at telling people what they want to hear. In an attacking culture. They're skilled at polarizing people. Success in a people pleasing culture means keeping conflict hidden. That success that's effectiveness. Success in a controlling culture means eliminating the opposition. In a heap of pleasing culture. Churches typically struggle with continual low level conflict, steady turnover of dissatisfied people, even though it never comes quite to the surface.

[00:06:38] In a controlling culture, the church typically is pressured to maintain the appearance of unity. People fearful of voicing their differences. And then if people please in culture, conflicts build up like Tinder that can eventually burst into a blaze in a controlling culture. Conflicts may be suppressed for years, but eventually consume controlling leaders. So in other words, the leaders are the ones that drive this control. Controlling culture. People live in fear. But eventually it will erupt. And it's it may take a long time. It may take 20 years, but eventually it will erupt. So what is a peacemaking culture look like? Well, the first issue is the motto, of course, let's use this fire for good. Let's see it as an opportunity. In a peacemaking culture, leaders temper strength with humility. In John James chapter three, verses 17 and 18 says, But the wisdom that comes down from heaven is, first of all, pure, then peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit. Impartial and sincere peacemakers who sow in peace, raise a harvest of righteousness. Strength tempered by Christ centered humility enables the leader to be approachable, to be adaptable and open, to correction and differing ideas. I just read an amazing book that was written by an Australian named John Dixon. It's called Humility. This is a study on humility. It's a very, very good book that I would recommend to you in that in that arena. So that's the first is in a in a peacemaking culture, there is strength that is tempered with humility, not one, not the other, but is a tempering sort of a model. Secondly, are peacemaking. Cultures value diversity. They embrace diversity. They realize that God given diversity in the church, can promote healthy discussion, can promote creativity, can promote growth if people engage one another with respect.

[00:09:05] Thirdly. They see conflict as a potential opportunity. The key question is how do you and your church view conflict? Most churches that I've observed view conflict as a bad thing. Maybe even sin, if you will. I was talking with one person the other day and I said, and in Pennsylvania, I asked, is there ever a situation that you can think of? Is the person, an elder in the church where conflict is not sin? And he said, just matter of fact. He said conflict is always sin. Well, it's tough to to value diversity and diversity of opinion and diversity of thought, if indeed that's your view. And now some conflict can and should be avoided. There is no question about that. Peacemaking cultures know how to avoid unnecessary conflict and deal with conflict in a conciliatory way when it does occur because it will occur. Peacemaking. Cultures prefer to approach conflict as an opportunity to glorify God, to observe, to to serve people, and to grow, to be more like Christ. A page by page survey of the Bible, by the way, reveals about 142 interpersonal encounters with the potential for conflict 142 according to one one In this regard, one pastor, one prominent pastor states that his congregation no longer uses the term unity to describe their relationships. Since the popular concept typically conjures up images of fantasy land where disagreements never surface. This pastor chooses to use the word community. And and I think he's on to something there. The mark of community. He says true biblical unity is not the absence of conflict. It is the presence of a reconciling spirit. Um, if you remember, when we went through the the issue of team building, we talked about the process of decision making.

[00:11:16] You remember the, the forming, the storming, the norming and the performing. Well, that storming stage is so important in order to really see good decisions arise. Peacemaking leaders approach conflict as an opportunity to glorify God and serve people. The third is we measure success in our church by reconciliation. Sometimes we measure it by the numbers of people in the pew or the number of the books, the amount of books in the plate or whatever we use. But when was the last time you heard a church measure its success? Remember, we talked about how cultures get get embedded because of what we measure. Well, what if we began to measure our success by the kind of reconciliation that we saw within the congregation? A powerful thing. Communities that are growing in Christ like character, in arriving in agreements that they can all support, that's a powerful, powerful model for developing a culture of peace within the church, committed to building a culture of peace. That's kind of what this is all about, where people are trained and they're coached and they're their champion to respond to conflict biblically. And then finally, this kind of a culture develops peacemaking skills. Everyone throughout. It's a value that is throughout throughout the church, peacemaking that doesn't always come naturally for sure. Both leaders and people and the people need to develop skills in coaching others and mediating conflicts. So let's look at a scenario here. Here's a case study, if you will, of a conflict culture in practice. Peggy has made an appointment to see her pastor. Four months, she said to her pastor, My husband has been sleeping out of bed, slipping out of bed late at night. Says he can't sleep and wants to do some computer work.

[00:13:20] Well, earlier this week, she said I needed to be on his computer to get an email address. I tripped over a number of web pages he saved. Pastor. It's triple X stuff. She said, I'm shocked. She said, I'm hurt. What should I do? I feel I'm losing my husband. Please help me. What will be that pastor's attitude? What will be his actions? And what will be the likely result if, number one, the pastor is a people pleasing leader? Second if the pastor is a controlling leader. And thirdly, the pastor is a peacemaking leader. What will be the pastor's attitude? What will be the pastor's actions? And what will be the likely result?


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