This is not a guide of how to start conflict if you are currently in a good relationship with your pastor. Rather, this post will seek to give some suggestions on how to deal with conflict in a healthy way.
Should you ever disagree with your pastor? Sure. Why not? Having a “Reverend” in front of their name does not make them infallible. Pastors are human and you are just as likely to have conflict with them as anyone else.
What do I mean by conflict? I am not talking about a knock-down, drag-out fight. It does not have to include a lawsuit. Nor does it have to look like some of the recent high-profile examples within mega-churches.
Conflict could be as simple these:
- Differences on minor points of doctrine.
- Differences in biblical interpretation.
- Differences in leadership style.
- Differences in worship style.
- Dress code.
- Disagreement about parenting styles.
- Disagreements about minor lifestyle issues (e.g. movies, moderate drinking, etc.).
- Differences in personality.
These are the ones that came to mind but there are many others. A common one is miscommunication. Someone in the congregation thought the pastor said or did something that they really did not do. I have had that one before.
Since these things are inevitable, what should people in the congregation do? Thankfully, Jesus gave us a healthy conflict management strategy in Matthew 18:15-17.
There are easier ways to deal with conflict. You can tell other people in the congregation about how you feel. You can also just leave (see this post on leaving). But neither of these are what Jesus taught.
The most important thing is to go to the pastor in person. You may find that the conflict is based on a misunderstanding. You may find that it is just a minor issue. You may end up agreeing to disagree.
In order for this to work, you must go with the right attitude. Do not meet with the pastor in order to interrogate them. Go with an attitude of a student rather than a critic. Have the intention to repair the relationship rather than to tear down the pastor.
Think about this passage:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesian 4:19)
Ask yourself, what is the likely outcome of your words? Will it help the situation or will it hurt it?
What if the conflict remains? What if you still disagree about music/leadership/wearing ties, etc.? That may very well happen.
Why are you a part of a particular congregation? Are you there as a fan of the pastor? There is no biblical warrant for the enjoying of a pastor being a part of church commitment. Attend church to worship and serve. If you do both of those, you have done enough.
That pastor will one day leave and a new one will come who may or may not be more to your liking. But whatever you do, do not attempt to sabotage their ministry to hasten the change. God will hold you responsible.