According to Ken Sande, founder of Peacemaker Ministries and Relational Wisdom 360, one of the main problems in almost any profession is getting along with people, and that is certainly true of church work.
“Every conflict is an opportunity for us to demonstrate Bible principles in caring for others,” he said. “The question we ask ourselves as believers is, ‘How can we be reference points and channels of God’s love?'”
Sande was a guest moderator at the January 17 Intentional Leader event at the Alabama Baptist Board of Missions facility in Prattville. State missionaries Ken Allen and Rob Jackson served as hosts, and Allen explained that this is the first of four conferences planned for 2023 to help identify areas of leadership growth.
“I often speak of a formula: Technical know-how multiplied by the ability to relate results in added value for the group,” said Sande. “But if there is no ability to relate, technical know-how is not enough to create added value.
“Conflict can trigger impulsive reactions that we quickly regret,” he noted. “A bit of heat in conflict often capsizes emotions.
“I encourage Christians to recognize that relationships are three-dimensional,” Sande continued. “In conflicts between two people, we often leave God out – I call it ‘walking horizontally’ – but Jesus hears our words and reads our hearts. Remembering that He is present changes everything.”
Sande suggested the acronym “SOG” to remind oneself, others, and God when involved in conflict.
Avoid reacting impulsively and speaking words in a hurry, Sande advised, encouraging sips from a bottle of water or a cup of coffee to buy six seconds before reacting, or withdraw from the conflict for a few minutes retreat to reflect and pray.
“If we can name and recognize our emotions, then with God’s help we can control them,” Sande explained. “I call relationship skills ‘soft skills,’ and they build social capital that helps us maintain relationships even when we’re having bad days and maybe not reacting the way we normally would.”
Ready to be wrong
Often, relationships rather than theology lead to pastoral terminations, he noted.
“I’ve never had a deacon or elder say to me, ‘Our pastor had to go—his Hebrew was poor,'” Sande joked.
“Any pastor forced from the pulpit is a heartbreaking experience. Studies show that 48% of those evicted from their pulpits leave the ministry altogether. It’s an incredible loss, but when pastors get ‘sideways’ with their leaders, it often leads to this kind of rupture.”
Sande said pastors need to seek a gentle spirit, admit when they’re wrong, and be responsive even when people come up with criticism.
“Power can be enchanting, but we have to be open when others have concerns or suggestions for us,” he said. “One of the most loving things is when a pastor admits wrongdoing to the church and asks for their forgiveness and prayers.”
Sande’s organization uses negotiation tactics that help understand personal interests and the interests of others. He used the story of Abigail in 1 Samuel 25 stopping King David’s murderous rage by appealing to what they both wanted and referring eight times to the God David served.
“She’s one of the heroes of the Old Testament, and we use her story a lot,” Sande said.
He provided four “Gs” to explain his approach to dealing with conflict.
“First we glorify God,” Sande explained. “That’s what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:31, and that’s always the primary goal for God’s people. I’ve heard some admit that God had nothing to do with the horrific events that happened in conflict, so it was only later that they realized that He was not honored.”
The second step is: “Get the beam out of your own eye”.
“Confessing our sin … is a way to show our humanity and show that we all need grace,” Sande said.
The third principle is “gentle recovery”.
“Paul’s word in Galatians 5 is to glue the broken back together,” Sande said. “We gently approach others in what I call ‘breathing grace’. At times when we need to confront others about their wrongdoing, we keep the matter as private as possible and only involve others when necessary.”
The fourth principle is “Go and make up”.
“Though there are areas of disagreement in world mores, Christians must always show kindness and seek friendship by showing grace rather than legalism,” Sande said. “There is no hope in the law – I call that ‘should’ dumped on men – but there is wonderful hope in grace.”
Sande is the author of Resolving Everyday Conflict and The Peacemaker – A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, both published by Baker Books. His site is rw360.org.
A schedule for three additional Intentional Leader events is posted at LeaderCareal.org. Allen can be reached at 334-613-2210 or [email protected].