Dealing with Conflict

By Joy Solina

Joy is the leader of the National Youth Mission Movement in the Philippines and is based in Manilla.

For months, I had been waiting for an evaluation report from the organizers of a youth missions event. They could not send one because they had to attend to the more urgent matter of paying their bills.

What aggravated their financial situation was the loss of some key volunteers because they could not get along with one of the leaders.

Long before I got involved in missions mobilization, I already had close friends who went to the mission field. One of them confided in me that it took her years to heal from the wounds of a difficult relationship with a team mate.

She disclosed no details, only the pain that she had to bear while ministering in a creative access country because she had no choice but to work alongside the insensitive coworker. The reality of unresolved conflict in the mission field has sent many workers prematurely back home.

Admittedly, one of the most difficult lessons I had to learn as a youth minister and now as a missions mobilizer is handling conflict.

Anyone who has served in church or a ministry organization for sometime (way past the honeymoon stage) will agree with me when I say that fellow Christians can cause greater sorrow than those who don’t know the Lord.

Church splits, denominational splits, strained marriages and friendships plague the Christian community. Sad to say, missionaries are not exempt from this.

Even the apostle Paul parted ways with Barnabas in the middle of their missionary journey because they could not agree on keeping Mark in the team (Acts 15:39-40). Their story comes to my mind when I intercede for missionaries and their teams.

Gifted, passionate people can test the best of ministry teams when their personalities and viewpoints clash. But learning to work harmoniously together in spite of personal differences makes a more powerful impact on an unbelieving world than the most anointed preaching.

Jesus prayed in John 17,

“for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (verses 20-21).

This passage tells me that people who hear the message will enter God’s Kingdom when they see the loving, solid unity of those who call themselves followers of Christ. Then and only then will people believe that Jesus is truly sent from God.

How close have we come to Jesus’ standard of unity in the missions movement? Broken relationships, among other setbacks, take a heavy toll on advancing the Kingdom.

If we profess to follow the Lord and cannot even get along with each other, then all our talk about loving God and our neighbor is just hot air. The unbelieving world will not want to have anything to do with the Lord whom we call loving, compassionate and forgiving.

I confess that I still feel stumped before younger people when they ask me why more mature members of the church or of a ministry say and do hurtful things to other believers. I remember saying once, “That is one example you should never follow when you grow older in the faith.”

But how do you exactly prepare the next generation for taking on the challenge of working with imperfect though dedicated workers in the harvest? Through practice. Lots of it.

Consider your participation now in the missions movement as training for God’s bigger job for you later. Is your local church unsympathetic to world missions? Start praying for open hearts among your church leaders just like you would pray for an unreached people group (I’m serious).

God may use you to mobilize your church to become a Great Commission church someday. Are you hesitant to network with another campus ministry or youth organization? Do not be afraid to relate to youth leaders from different denominational backgrounds with differing leadership styles.

God is teaching you what unity in diversity really means. You also get a head start in learning how to work with the Body of Christ in all its fullness and beauty.

Now is also the best time to find out how well you deal with conflict. Are you an avoider or an assaulter? Do you tend to overlook faults in others or wallow in self-pity and let people know about it? Do you simply ignore those who have offended you and vow never to speak to them again?

Do you struggle with bitterness? Do you know how to say sorry from your heart and extend forgiveness to the repentant? Have you gone out of your comfort zone to settle a misunderstanding with a brother or sister in the Lord before you worship the Lord?

Or do you just stop going to church (or youth group) altogether and sulk until someone notices? What thoughts run inside your head and what words come out of your mouth when you’re in the thick of conflict? You may find out that you have major work to do with your character.

Another side to resolving conflict is the role of the intermediary. This role may be more revered in some cultures than in others, but I think it is universally welcomed and appreciated. Are you a peacemaker? Have you ever wondered why Jesus said,

“Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the sons of God” (Matthew 5:9)?

Peacemaking is what a Christian does. And, oh how badly the world needs peacemakers these days! Look for godly role models among your campus and church leaders who are good at settling disputes and getting people reconciled.

They will display the qualities of a true leader and a powerful witness. No one can resist their influence. Follow their example. Seek their advice. Read the books they read. Pray for them to remain strong.

Actually, when we follow all the “one another” commands in the Bible, we would have developed the character of a peacemaker and a reconciler. This is, however, impossible apart from the power of the Holy Spirit.

as long as we are alive and willing to be used by God, we will not run out of the opportunity to practice obeying these commands in the power of God’s Spirit. Conflict can teach you how to become more and more like Christ.

God may call you to a least reached part of the world someday. Would you be ready to help new believers reconcile with one another if you do not know how to do it yourself? God may call you to stay and keep the missions movement going.

Would you be able to rally and raise the support of other groups when you cannot sustain the involvement of your own?

Making disciples of all nations and observing all the commands Christ has given us include this very essential part of the Christian life – getting along and doing a good job of it.

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