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Winter 2007 Rapport: From the Leadership Files

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Responding to Conflict


by Lori O’Dea
(D.Min. 2002), Teaching and Small Groups Pastor at The Oaks Fellowship, Red Oak, Texas,
AGTS Adjunct
Faculty Member

Conflict you will have with you always,” a paraphrase of Jesus’ teaching states. Pastors know that conflict inhabits even the healthiest churches. They know it can strengthen the organization. Generally, however, conflict is viewed as an armed and dangerous intruder.

Such was the case for Nehemiah. Faced with the daunting task of rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls, he and his people banded together to overcome outside enemies. The conflict within, however, presented the greatest challenge. Nehemiah’s model of response and resolution offers timeless wisdom for today’s leader.

1. Listen carefully (Neh. 5:1-5). No doubt tempted to keep their attention on the mission-critical task at hand, Nehemiah nonetheless hears his people’s complaints. He understood that conflict cannot be ignored.

2. Take time to process (6-7a). Scripture honestly records Nehemiah’s first response—blazing, albeit righteous, anger. Rather than acting immediately, and perhaps understanding the New Testament principle of “be angry and sin not” (Eph. 4:26), he took time to ponder the situation.

3. Confront the wrong (Neh. 7b-9a). When something is wrong, the leader cannot condone, overlook or forget it. It may be easier to confront an enemy than one’s people, but the pastor realizes that the latter is especially important.

4. Call to a higher level (9b). Nehemiah helps his people understand the impetus for correct behavior. He reminds them that right behavior flows out of a desire to please God and represent him well.

5. Model right behavior (10). Nehemiah’s actions illustrate how his people should act toward one another. Difficult times require a strong, not conflicted, community.

6. Encourage restitution (11-13). Giving clear instructions, calling for both commitment and accountability, and illustrating the consequences of disobedience, Nehemiah brings wise and timely resolution to a potentially destructive conflict.

Verbal assent matures into action, and purpose again comes to the forefront— a desirable and achievable outcome!

Updated: Wednesday, December 13, 2006 10:37 AM



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