Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Discussion of the process of handling conflicts between believers.

Working It Out Jesus’ Way (Part 1)

Matthew 18:15-20

June 24, 2007

I’m a conflict-avoider. I hate conflict more than just about anything – even canned spinach.

When it looks like I’m going to have to face something I don’t want to do, I’m just like most of you, I’ll start looking for a way to get around it.

This is especially true when it comes to conflict with other people.

I don’t like it when people come to me about something they’re upset about concerning me, and I don’t like confronting others about things, either. I like to be liked – just like everybody else.

But unfortunately, conflict is part of life, and as much as we’d like to avoid it, the fact is that it will always be around in one form or another.

To me, some of the most gut-wrenching conflicts come between those who are believers, members of the family of God.

And to watch some people go at it, you’d know they were Christians, because only family members can be so cruel to each other, right?

“They will know we are Christians by our hateful spite, by our hateful spite…”

If you have been part of any church for very long, chances are that you have either witnessed conflict between believers or been involved in it in one way or another.

If you love Jesus and His church, conflict between believers, especially in the context of the church breaks your heart.

You see people who profess to love Jesus, yet they handle their differences with each other in ways that show they are more concerned with saving face and proving the other person wrong than they are about handling it in a way that honors Christ and brings healing.

People lash out in bitterness at the ones who have hurt or angered them. Because the sad fact of the matter is that hurt people hurt people.

I can tell you that from personal experience. It breaks my heart to see.

And you know what? I think it breaks the heart of Jesus as well.

Based on my research and conversations with other pastors and church leaders, conflict is present in just about every church at one time or another.

According to the book, Thriving through Ministry Conflict, 95% of churches experience conflict, and 20% are experiencing it right now. But, believe it or not, 94% report at least some positive results. (Thriving Through Ministry Conflict, James P. Osterhaus, Joseph M. Jurkowski, Todd A. Hahn, Zondervan)

If you’ve been through conflict in this church or another church, you might be wondering just how that can be.

Well, the answer lies in the fact that when we handle conflict in a way that honors God and brings healing, God can bring positive results from it.

And listen – this church has had conflict, even in our recent history.

It hurts, and no one wants it – at least not the way a lot of churches experience it.

We’re going to cover something that is severely lacking in many churches today, and it’s not a fun topic to cover, but it needs to be talked about.

The area of conflict between Christians and in the Church is relevant to every church and is too often ignored in the heat of personalities, hurt feelings, and power struggles.

I think that many churches and pastors are afraid to deal with it because they’re afraid that the power brokers in the church will get angry and have them thrown out.

I thank the Lord that those who have the most invested in this church in every sense of the word seem to be the most humble and want only for this church to be all Jesus intends for it to be.

This is a tough topic, and there is just no way we’re going to get everything there is to learn from this passage today.

But we need to dive into this, because I want us to avoid the hassles that so many believers and churches walk into by ignoring these words of Jesus.

Today we’re going to look at handling conflict on the individual level, then next week, and possibly next we’re look at handling conflict on the church level.

Let me lay a very quick foundation by asking two questions:

1. Who does the Church belong to?

Jesus, right? Not a hard one. No matter whose name is on the deed or who the pastor is or who’s on the board, the church belongs to Jesus.

2. Who should we listen to about how to deal with the people in the church?

Jesus, right? After all, it belongs to Him, and since the church is actually people, then we should listen to Jesus regarding how to deal with the people of the church.

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