Preventing church conflicts from spiraling out of control

It is always painful to hear of churches in conflict among it’s leaders, members and attenders, and worse yet when churches split over such conflicts. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Chuck Lawless shares some insightful reasons why such conflicts occur and what can be done to prevent them from causing great harm and lots of being being burned by it.

Originally posted by Chuck Lawless

Some years ago, I was a volunteer firefighter. It was amazing to see what could happen when a tiny spark ignited a small blaze that could quickly become a roaring fire. Given the right conditions, a spark could lead to absolute destruction. 

That happens in church conflict, too. Here are 10 “right conditions” for escalating conflict in a church. 

1.  The church is made up of sinners. That’s the case, of course, and that fact won’t change. Sinful people are naturally selfish and divisive. Sanctification sometimes takes a while to correct these tendencies.

2.  Members care about something. This “condition” might seem strange, so hear my point. Some conflict in the church heats up in direct proportion to how much people care about some issue in the church. Their care may be misdirected, and their sense of ownership may be problematic – but they fight for something precisely because they care about it that much. 

3.  The church has no “up front” relational expectations. The churches I know that deal well with conflict are usually those who teach how to deal with relational conflict as early as their membership class. The church that ignores these potential issues invites problems.

4.  Nobody’s praying for unity.  Jesus prayed this way in John 17:21 – “May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me.” If Jesus prayed that prayer for His followers, we, too, should be praying for this unity.

5.  Church leaders have not taught biblical principles for conflict resolution. Matthew 18:15-20 is a starting point. Putting others before self (Phil. 2:3) obviously matters. Believers who don’t know what the Bible teaches about reconciliation will follow the ways of the world – and the way of the world is often, “I want to win.” 

6.  Leaders do not address legitimate concerns.  At times, the concerns that church members raise are legitimate. When church leaders blatantly ignore those concerns, nonchalantly hear them, or superficially address them, the conflict is not resolved. Its resolution is only delayed.

7.  Conflict is not separated from emotion. I think, for example, of battles over worship styles. These preferences are so connected with emotions that it’s often difficult to separate the two. Conflict escalates because emotions heat up.

8.  People operate in secret. You know the scenarios. Anonymous complaints. Unsigned letters. Behind the scenes meetings. Opposition rallies cloaked as “prayer meetings.” It’s all secretive – and it’s often demonic.

9.  People listen to gossip. Once conflict begins, it’s often fueled by rumor and innuendo. Those who spread the rumors are acting in sin, but so are those folks who stoke the coals by listening. As long as anyone listens, the fire spreads.

10.  Nobody carries out church discipline. It would be ideal if all conflict were resolved before discipline became necessary. The Bible, though, assumes that churches will take necessary steps to deal with troublesome members. If the church doesn’t do so (or, if they do so, but in an unbiblical or uncharitable way), they prolong the conflict. 



Wisdom from Marcus Buckingham at the GLS!

Marcus Buckingham was another keynote speaker at this year’s Global Leadership Summit sponsored by Willow Creek Church in Chicago.

I relish and profit immensely from everything that Marcus has written and he has written a lot, most of which I have read.

He has popularized the concept of strength-based work--making the best of your work the most of your work. Focusing on your strengths, not on your weaknesses.

He stated that the whole purpose of work is to do what you love, with people you love, which is tied to a mission you love. That pretty well sums it all up. It’s a tall order, but not an impossible one for the God we serve.

Here are  seven excellent questions he suggested we ask ourselves as it relates to the work we do; whether it’s in the market place or in the church.

1)  Am I really enthusiastic about the mission of my organization?

2)  At work do I clearly understand what is expected of me?

3)  Am I surrounded by people on my team who share my values?

4)  Do I have the chance to use my strengths everyday at work?

5)  Do my teammates have my back?

6)  Do I believe I will be recognized for excellent work?

7)  Do I have great confidence in my company’s future?

Before you quickly leave this and move on to do something else, how about just pausing and praying for a few moments to answer these questions for yourself. Then ask yourself what you can do to change things a bit so there is more joy in Jesus with what you do day-to-day.


3 prevailing beliefs that will limit your leadership

As a leader you want to always be looking for ways to improve and enhance your leadership as opposed to falling into mind-sets, habits or behaviors that will limit and harm your leadership. Dan Rockwell share 3 prevailing believes that limit leadership.

Originally posted by Dan Rockwell


What you believe about yourself, others, and events governs your attitudes and behaviors.

Limiting beliefs produce limited results.

3 prevailing beliefs that limit leadership:

#1. Leaders are tough.

Leaders do tough things. Successful leaders do tough things with openness, kindness, and empathy. Navigating tensions between doing tough things with a kind heart is one of the greatest accomplishments on the leader’s journey.

The soft side of toughness:

  1. Openness: Open leaders listen, seek input, and ask questions.
  2. Kindness: Kind leaders make it easier for others to achieve great results.
  3. Empathy – Empathetic leaders know how to take the perspective of others.

Openness, kindness, and empathy are expressions of curiosity.

#2. Leaders tell people what to do.

When the house is on fire, command and control is appropriate. But command and control as a daily practice limits potential and marginalizes the talent.

One of the toughest transitions of leadership is the transformation from giving solutions to asking questions. Early in your career you earned promotions by providing solutions. But the leader’s job is building relationships and creating environments where others provide solutions.

#3. Leaders get things done.

The thing leaders really do is help others get things done.

In many organizations you are both leader and doer. You don’t have the luxury of focusing exclusively on the performance of others. For example, you implement the new initiative and you lead the team to implement the new initiative. You have to execute and help others execute.

Shifting hats from doer to leader means facing the challenge of stepping back so others can step in.

3 tips:

  1. Ask open questions in meetings.
  2. Pat people on the back. Do this literally and frequently.
  3. Remember that the orchestra makes the music. The conductor doesn’t make a sound. (Thanks to Ben Zander for this insight.)

What prevailing beliefs limit leadership?

How might leaders overcome limiting beliefs?




Advice to younger leaders! You gotta remember these things to finish well

For the past 12 years, I have had the joy and responsibility of professionally coaching lots of young leaders.  For the most part, they are full of joy, vitality, biblical ambition, and possess a strong desire to make a lasting contribution that would honor Jesus.

Some of them will unfortunately, over time, flame out, burn out or fall into major sin that could very well disqualify them. They are aware, and afraid of this, which is a good thing.  At times I’m asked what is involved in finishing well--being a “Leader Who Lasts,” which is the title of my first book?

Here is a list of “Advice to Young Leaders”

1. Keep your knees on the floor: 

Be a leader who spends plenty of time alone with God in prayer. This demonstrates your dependence, trust and clearly acknowledges the fact that you can’t do it without the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself, every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.” Matthew 19:22 (The Message). Trust doesn’t mean less effort, but less dependence on yourself.

2. Keep your nose in The Book: 

Be a man/woman of the Book…not books, but the Book. It is tempting for young leaders to read, listen to, or watch other leaders preach and teach Scripture, as well as discovering what great minds think about various portions of scripture, and not get it first hand from spending personal time in God’s Word…reading, studying, memorizing, meditating and applying what you learn. Ezra 7:10 (ESV) is instructive on this issue, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” Passing it on was after study and obedience.

3. Keep your pants zipped: 

It has been my observation that leaders who crash and burn often do so over either sex or money. Something often happens to a young leader who experiences success early in his career. Arrogance and independence can set in and make them think they are “above the law.” This can open the door for some really stupid personal decisions and choices that can cause the curtain to close early on an otherwise promising future.

4. Keep your family a top priority and don’t serve them leftovers:

If young leaders aren’t careful, most of their time will go toward other people and their personal life and family life will get the leftovers. Wives and children are not okay with this. It takes a good deal of intentionality and discipline to keep a healthy balance between one’s ministry life, family life and personal life. 

It is a good idea to set boundaries and work a range of hours (50-60 suggested) per week so you and your family know when you are not working which is where all the non-work activities go-sleep, exercise, dates with wife and kids, fun and recreation. It is the non-work activities that lead to strength and health, which will result in longevity in ministry.

If you are not careful, the ministry can become like the crabgrass in the lawn of life. 

Pretty soon you won't have a lawn…you won't have a life. Poor health, resentment toward those you lead, and burnout will not be far behind. Learn to say appropriate no’s to those you lead so you can say yes’s to those you love.




Seven not-true Myths about leadership.

We believe lots of things on many different topics and ideas. Some of the  things we believe are true and some are simply not true. Ron Edmondson shares seven myths about leadership that are not true. Which have you embrace and believed?

Originally posted by Ron Edmondson

Seven Popular Myths About Leadership

This post – posted several years ago – prompted a book. A publishing friend, who had been encouraging me to write a book for years, read this post and thought there was enough here to expand into a book. That book – The Mythical Leader – released last week. I’d love for you to check it out HERE. Equally as valuable as reading it would be writing a review (positive even better) on Amazon about the book. (Thanks to my readers – I give you a shoutout in the acknowledgements!)

One thing I learned in obtaining a master’s in leadership is defining leadership is difficult.

John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence.”

I love a simple definition. Simple works. Its effective and communicates.

Still, I have observed leadership is often not easy to define as a few simple words. In fact, there are many myths when it comes to even what leadership means — certainly how its practiced. I encounter people who don’t have a clue what real leadership is and what it isn’t.

Let me share a few myths I’ve observed.

Here are some 7 of my favorite myths about leadership:

1.  A position makes one a leader

Really? I don’t think so. Some believe simply have a big or fancy title makes them a leader. Not true. I’ve known many people with huge positions whom no one was truly following. They may give out orders and command a certain obedience, but no one is willingly following their lead. They may be a boss, but I wouldn’t call them a leader.

2.  If I’m not hearing anyone complain, everyone must be happy

Yea, right? Have you ever heard of passive aggression? The fact is sometimes the leader is the last to know about a problem. Some people are intimidated by leadership. Other times, they don’t know how to approach the leader, so they complain to others, but not the leader. And, sometimes, the way I’m leading dictates who tells me what I really need to know.

3.  I can lead everyone the same way

I have learned this one is so not true. It simply doesn’t work. Actually, people are different and require different leadership styles. I’m not saying it’s easy, but if you want to be effective you will learn your people and alter your style to fit their personalities.

4.  Leadership and management are the same thing

Great organizations need both, but they are not equal and they require different skills. Simply put — Leadership is more about empowerment and guiding people to a common vision — often into the unknown. Management is more about maintaining efficiency within a predetermined destination.

5.  Being the leader makes you popular

Well, if only this myth were true — my file of criticism would be so much smaller — when in reality, in some seasons, it’s larger than my encouragement file. The truth is leaders can be very lonely people. (It’s why leaders must surround themselves with encouragers and comtinually seek renewal.) The only way to avoid criticism and be “liked” as a leader is to make no decisions, do nothing different, never challenge status quo — in other words — don’t lead.

6.  Leaders must be extroverted charismatics

So not true. Thankfully. Some of the best leaders I know are very introverted and subdued. And, honestly, they are leading some of the biggest churches and organizations. Leadership IS about influence. If someone is trustworthy, dependable, has integrity and is going somewhere of value — others will follow.

7.  Leaders accomplish by controlling others

Absolutely not. This is not leadership. It is dictatorship. Effective leaders encourage others to lead. They challenge people to be creative and take ownership and responsibility for accomplishing the vision. They learn to delegate through empowerment.