Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Conflict in the Church

After some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Come, let us return and visit the believers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord and see how they are doing." Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul decided not to take with them one who had deserted them in the work. The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and set out, the believers commending him to the grace of the Lord. Acts 15:36-40 NRSV

I know of at least one person, possibly more, who thought that working in a church would be the most holy and sacred of tasks. No more back-stabbing, infighting or power plays. Instead, everyone would be working for the Lord and doing so in unity and love.


Even in the earliest church, there was conflict. In these verses, Barnabas and Paul end their work relationship and their friendship because they cannot agree on whether they should take John Mark with them. They do agree on essentials: they need to re-visit the churches and give them some encouragement. They don't agree on particulars: should one who deserted them be left out or be re-established in their relationship?

Today it may sound silly and somewhat petty that they broke up their whole ministry over this one issue. But I have known churches that split because they couldn't agree on the color of the carpet in the sanctuary. It is actually the details that often get us as communities of faith in the biggest arguments.

And I have found that being on a church staff is probably more ripe for conflict than any secular business.

Honestly, have you ever had a major disagreement with someone within your church family? Did you argue about it or give one another the cold shoulder? Did either of you end up leaving your small group or even the church? If you could go back and create peace within this conflict, what would you do? Could you try to bury the hatchet even today?

I wonder how well Paul and Barnabas were really able to encourage the churches with their own disagreement between them.

God, you want your church to be built up but sometimes we are only interested in building ourselves up. Help us to reunite with enemies, build bridges and be peacemakers in our churches. In Jesus' Holy name. Amen.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

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