Five of the Most Frequent Issues of Conflict among Church Members

July 23, 2014

If you want to hear the reasons for a church fight, you are likely to encounter one of these five. Let me be clear. I do not think all church members are fighting all of the time. But the sad reality is that it only takes one real issue of conflict once a year to do serious harm to the unity and health of a congregation.

I’ve addressed issues of church conflict in different ways on this blog. This particular post is an update based on issues I’ve heard, or those in which I have been a mediator the past year. They are listed in the order of frequency I’ve heard them.

  1. The corporate worship time is changed. The church may be adding a service. Another scenario is that current worship times are modified for a variety of reasons. Some members simply do not want to give up a cherished time slot for “their” worship service.
  2. Members disagree how to deal with a pastor or staff member involved in moral failure. I’m serious. I recently was in conversation with leaders in a church where a staff member was dismissed due to clear and flagrant moral failure. The terminated staff person was treated with grace and generosity. Still, some church members thought that Christian charity and forgiveness demanded that the staff member not be dismissed.
  3. A number of members complain about the length of the worship services. Their issue may be the length of time of music in the worship service. Or it may be the length of the pastor’s sermons. Or it could be other issues. Perhaps some of the members are frustrated that they get to the restaurants later than members of other churches.
  4. There is lack of clarity and disagreement about who makes decisions. Most church documents are not clear on this issue. How much independent authority does the pastor have? Or the staff? What decisions should be made by congregational vote? How much authority do the elders or deacons have? Or committees or boards?
  5. The conflict over worship style is still present. I have noted in other posts that this issue has not been as prominent as in recent years. Yet it is still present. I would surmise that it would have been the number one issue five to ten years ago.

If you have read any of my writings, you know I have a heart for revitalizing churches. Ultimately, church revitalization is about the revitalization of Christians. It is my prayer that church members will seek to be last and not first, that the needs of the church and the community will come before their own preferences.

“I give you a new command. Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35.

What do you think of these five sources of dissension among church members? What would you add?

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51 Comments

  • coberty milimo says on

    let us tell it to God always so that it maybe things of past

  • Thom,

    I have read every response on this post carefully . . .
    The post and the answers parallel many other posts and answers regarding this issue and issues like it.

    Some of the comments, while valid and well stated . . . such as: “church conflict” regarding money, mission, selfishness, dissatisfaction, worship style, even mission of the church, deal only with the SYMPTOMS – they do not deal with the root of the problem.

    The root problem is described, verified, and explained in an interaction some time back between a Torah expert and a Rabbi. The Torah expert asks a sh’eilah (question about Jewish law or tradition) with the intent to trap the Rabbi. He poses the sh’eilah that he supposes will trap the Rabbi when he asks:

    “Rabbi, which of the mitzvot in the Torah is the most important?”

    the Rabbi responds:

    “‘You are to love Adonai your God
    with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.’
    This is the greatest and most important mitzvah.”

    However, the Rabbi doesn’t stop there. He continues:

    “And a second is similar to it, ‘You are to love your neighbor as yourself.’”

    Again, the Rabbi doesn’t stop there either. He says something VERY profound:

    “All of the Torah and the Prophets are DEPENDENT ON these two mitzvot.”

    How does this interaction long ago “describe, verify, and explain” the root problem you may ask?

    This most important mitzvot in the Torah that the Rabbi makes a reference to assumes that the hearers would KNOW and understand the ENTIRE command:

    “Sh’ma, Yisra’el! Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad
    [Hear, Isra’el! Adonai our God, Adonai is one];
    and you are to love Adonai your God
    with all your heart,
    all your being and
    all your resources.
    These words, which I am ordering you today, are to be on your heart;
    and you are to teach them carefully
    to your children.
    You are to talk about them:
    when you sit at home,
    when you are traveling on the road,
    when you lie down and
    when you get up.
    Tie them on your hand as a sign, put them at the front of a headband around your forehead,
    and write them on the door-frames of your house and on your gates.”

    The second most important command that the Rabbi also references also assumes that the hearers would KNOW and understand the ENTIRE command:

    “Don’t take vengeance on
    or bear a grudge against
    any of your people;
    rather,
    love your neighbor as yourself;
    I am Adonai.”

    When the Rabbi continues from here, he uses 2 significant words: ALL and DEPENDENT (hangs) regarding 2 significant words: Torah and Prophets. How so you may ask?

    There was no New Covenant (New Testament) written when the Rabbi stated this to the Torah teacher trying to trap him. It didn’t exist. The Ketuvim (Writings) didn’t become part of the Hebrew canon until around 100AD.

    By stating ALL of the Torah and all of the Prophets (Nevi’im) are dependent on . . . He is stating ALL of the BIBLE at that time is dependent on . . . understanding, applying, living . . .

    I apologize for the length of the post, but it is necessary to address the root problem that I must assume by the nature of your post and others like it, you are trying to get at.

    In light of the above, the root problem can now be addressed by asking some simple questions with far reaching implications . . .

    The Rabbi Yeshua (Jesus) our Lord and Savior and the Messiah (Christ) said these 2 commands are most important and that understanding, living, applying the Bible depends on understanding, living, and applying these two commands to do so . . .

    1) You love Jesus, right? – have you memorized these 2 commands? The WHOLE command? Do you know where they are at in the text? After all, they the MOST IMPORTANT commands and the whole text is dependent on them . . . if not, why not?
    2) Have you taught these commands CAREFULLY to your children? Have they memorized them? After all, they the MOST IMPORTANT commands and the whole text is dependent on them . . . if not, why not?
    3) Do you talk about these words with them when you get up, walk or drive, sit, and before you lay down – Is there any time you are NOT doing one of these things? If not, why not?

    Finally, I can ask a simple question that will address the root problem inclusively:

    *** If EVERY Christian church in America did nothing for a solid year but truly teach, memorize, apply, and live these two commands, to the best of their individual and corporate abilities, what would the American church look like at the end of that year? ***

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