Summary: Two of the most difficult issues in life are accountability and discipline (whether at home, work, or church). Yet they are so needed. But what is the right way to go about implementing them?
How to Handle Conflict and Accountability
1. Two of the most difficult issues in life are accountability and discipline (whether at home, work, or church). Yet they are so needed. But what is the right way to go about implementing them?
2. Why do we have problems in the home with marriages and children, problems at work, problems at church, etc? Many times, it is a lack of accountability and discipline.
• Do you remember when every person in Israel did that which was right in his own eyes? The results were chaos and division.
3. In our text, Paul deals with these issues in a very practical, straightforward way. The context of our passage is dealing with leadership in the local church (elders, pastors).
4. We learned about the position and work of spiritual leaders in the church. We also saw the proper response of God’s people to their leaders (love, generosity, support).
5. But what about a pastor who goes astray and is involved in sinful practices or forsakes the true teaching of God’s Word? Can this happen? Absolutely! Considering the potential, many churches go to one of two extremes:
• Some churches establish a group (or board) that micro-manages the pastor and tells him what to do, how to lead, what to preach, etc.
• Other churches allow the pastor to do anything he desires, with no measure of accountability built into the church’s structure.
6. There must be a balance. Pastors must be allowed to use their leadership and teaching gifts freely, without restraint from other church officers. Still, they must be accountable when their words or actions are not in accord with God’s Word.
• This is also true in the home and workplace.
7. The principles that Paul gives about accountability and discipline of elders apply beautifully to so many other areas of life. Let’s examine Paul’s instructions.
First, be sure of your facts. vs. 19
1. If a person comes with a rumor or gossip, a church member is not to even receive it. This word “receive” means “to accept near.” This is good advice for any and all gossip that somebody would bring to you.
2. If somebody makes an accusation, he or she is to come with one or two credible witnesses that are ready to confirm the accusation. The word “accusation” means “a complaint, a criminal charge.”
• This principle of multiple witnesses is seen throughout Scripture.
• Even then you have to be very careful. They set up multiple false witnesses against Christ and against Stephen right before killing them both (framed).
3. The accusers should be willing to face the accused face to face, with witnesses present.
4. Many godly people have been ruined and broken by slander, lies, and gossip. Paul tells Timothy, “Be sure of your facts.” Illustration: “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”
5. This holds true in all areas of life. Sometimes we are so quick to believe bad about people. It is part of our old, fleshly, perverse nature.
• Sometimes we are so quick to believe evil about our children, or our spouse, or our fellow family members in Christ.
• Grace says, “I’m not going to believe bad about you until I have no other choice or you admit it.
6. Satan is called the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10), and when we accuse a person falsely or receive a false accusation as truth, we are doing the devil’s work for him.
Second, be open and honest. vs. 20
1. I have heard stories of churches where the deacons or a powerful man in the church runs the pastor off during the week and no explanation is ever given to the church. That, of course, is not appropriate.
2. Handling conflict is never easy, yet it must be handled with wisdom. Private sin should be handled privately, but if somebody makes an accusation against an elder, and there are two or three witnesses to confirm it, you can rest assured that others know about it too.
3. In this case, the situation should be handled publicly with the church, but with taste and tact. If the pastor steps down from his position, then things don’t have to be detailed. This will just hurt people and do irreparable damage.
4. If the pastor refuses to step down and refuses to repent, then more drastic measures may need to be taken. Why handle it publicly? Paul said, “…that others also may fear.”
5. It is an object lesson to everyone that sin carries consequences and that even church leaders are not above this principle.
6. It is for the good of the people (to learn by example), and for the good of the fallen pastor (to give opportunity for public repentance).