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Preparing for Conflict and Crisis in Your Church

By August 8, 2023August 9th, 2023No Comments

Even as churches continue to evaluate the rubble from the destruction caused by the pandemic, something needs to be said:

The crisis did not create the issues—it revealed them. 

…and the next crisis will do the same. 

We would do well then to take this opportunity to pause and soberly examine what it means to be a church prepared for any season of strife—whether that be a global crisis or a squabble between a couple of families.

The Holes in Our Jenga Tower

In our experience working with churches, we find issues that run the gamut of interpersonal and organizational strife. Things like:

  • Lack of unity and a predisposition toward individualism. 
  • Indecisive leadership and careless communication. 
  • Unresolved conflict and the lack of trust in God and church leaders. 
  • Failure to focus on discipleship and creative evangelism opportunities.

During the mundane day-to-day operations, the above issues can often be tolerated or lurk in the blind spots of pastoral teams. But as anyone who’s played Jenga can tell you, the more pieces you take out of place, the easier it is for even the smallest bump to take the whole thing down.

That tower-toppling shock is often blamed for the demise of the tower itself—completely forgetting that a game of destabilization had begun long before that moment.

So we hear things like, “if that leader hadn’t left” or “if that person would just stop gossipping” or “if the government would have acted differently during the pandemic…” then things would be fine. 

The focus is on the wrong place.

Relationally Focused, Not Sunday Focused

For years, we’ve been calling attention to a concerning and unhealthy trend toward overdependence on the Sunday morning service in the life of the church. In our ministry of supporting local churches, we liken this to trying to move hay with a one-pronged pitchfork. 

What we’ve seen time and again is that when worship, spiritual growth, fellowship and even evangelism depend primarily on what happens on Sunday morning—church health suffers. 

So what can we learn from what we’ve experienced? How do we build a more crisis-proof ministry? Here are just a few thoughts for church leaders to consider:

  • Prioritize small group membership (in addition to weekly Sunday attendance). The regular meeting of 10 or fewer people for intentional discipleship, exhortation through prayer, singing and mutual encouragement is a tremendous bulwark against the next wave of panic which is sure to come (Hebrews 10:24, 25).
  • Cultivate an interdependent attitude in your church. In most crisis situations people rally together, creating a bond that dispels fears and builds hope. In today’s age, the focus seems to be on the opposite—people seek and strive for independence and insulation from the issues they face. Make sure you are regularly rallying the flock of God to meet the needs inside and outside the walls of the church.
  • Be creative with prayer. Those churches that defined prayer as solely “meeting together midweek at the building” missed out on opportunities. Prayer request emails and online prayer meetings have been and will continue to be useful tools for many churches.
  • Just go. Churches who depend on people coming to them for evangelism are like the fishermen who hold their net over the water and expect the fish to just jump in. Churches who focus on training and encouraging the flock, building relationships in their community, and personal evangelism are those who are truly doing the work Christ called Peter and Andrew to (Matthew 4:19). 
  • Equip your current and future leaders. Key leaders will leave—you can be assured of that. Whether they depart on good terms, bad terms, or simply depart to be with Christ, no one will be at your church forever. Be intentional about training leaders for the work of ministry. Show them how to pray with someone who is hurting, teach them to evangelize effectively, and give them responsibility so that they may grow and learn to be respected leaders who can train up the next generation.

Conflict, crisis, and suffering should be an opportunity to glorify God that allows us to experience Christ’s provision and grow in Him through it (Romans 5:3-5). Let us live and build our churches up in such a way so that we are prepared to do that more and better in the coming years. 

This article is adapted from a piece written by Scott Owen on the response of churches during the pandemic. 

Baptist Church Planters exists to help church leaders build healthy disciple-making churches, and our Intentional Transitional Ministry (ITM) is just one of the many ways we strive to do that. If you need support or resources to generate real and sustainable fruit in the life of your church, please reach out to us today. We’d love to help.

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