One of the most important skills that leaders need to learn in ministry is to resolve conflicts. According to a research with a sample of 900 congregations in America, it was found that the # 1 predictor of congregational decline is unresolved conflicts, whether or not they be serious conflicts.
God has always recognized the reality of conflict, because we live in a fallen world. Romans 12:17-18 (NLT) says, “Never repay anyone evil for evil. Behave in a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Make every effort to live at peace with everyone.”
Unfortunately some people have an emotional need to fight so that no matter how hard you try to live in peace with them, they still keep fighting. What to do? You cannot control how others react. You can only control how you react.
How do I act to resolve conflicts? There are seven biblical principles that we can use to resolve conflicts.
1. The Proactive Principle
Do not expect people to come to you. Go to them first. Take the initiative. Conflicts are not resolved accidentally. The time does not heal things–usually it complicates them. Be intentional. Jesus said, “Therefore, if you present an offering on the altar of the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave the gift there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your gift to God “Matthew 5:23-24 (NLT).
2. The Plank Principle
Jesus addressed this issue in Matthew 7:3,5 (NIV): “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? … First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Do not start expecting others to confess their part of the problem. Do it first, even if your part is smaller.
3. The Inquiry Principle
Listen to how the other sees the situation. Focus on the facts. Proverbs 18:13 (NLT) says: “Rushing to answer before listening to the facts is both foolish and shameful.” Take the time to listen to the facts, from the other side of the fence. James 1:19 (NLT) “… all of you should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” When people are afraid or feel like their dignity is stolen, they become furious. If you want to connect with someone, start with their feelings, not yours. Listen to their pain, fear, injury or argument about the problem, and seek the facts.
4. The Win-Win Principle
Philippians 2:4-5 (NIV) says: “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be like that of Christ Jesus …“ Treat the other person with respect. The win-win principle does not mean “do it your way or do it my way, but in the best way.” The best way is to take into account the interest of others.
5. The Soft Language Principle
We are not persuasive when we are abrasive. “Do not say bad words. On the contrary, always say good things to help others grow spiritually, for that is very necessary, “ Ephesians 4:29 (NLT). Learn to attack the problem, not the people. For every negative issue to confront, talk about 10 positive things!
6. The Problem-Solving Principle
Fix the problem, not the blame. Do not focus on who is wrong or who is right. Focus on how to solve the problem. Romans 14:13 (NIV) says, “… let us not judge one another. Instead, make not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother. “
7. The Diplomatic Principle
The Diplomatic Principle seeks reconciliation, not resolution. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” Matthew 5:9 (NIV). This is the image of an ambassador in action. Reconciliation means to restore the relationship. It does not mean resolution. Resolution means to solve every problem. In the fallen world it is not always possible to resolve all differences, but it is possible to restore the relationship between the parties. We can have reconciliation without resolving all problems. If you focus on the relationship, problems will be negligible.