Conflict can be good

conflict_headerDealing with difference is necessary and leads to growth

| by Kirk Giles

One of the first lessons I learned in ministry to men is that conflict can be a good thing. The Christian community is not usually known for handling conflict well. We are very good at criticizing each other, or we are very good at complaining about each other (without doing it face to face).

There is a sense by some that conflict is “unChristian.” In our desire to love each other, there are some who believe we can only talk positively to each other. Unfortunately, this has resulted in many shallow relationships and has made Christianity to be perceived as a “weak” faith by some.

I have come to learn that the spiritual gifts actually create tension and conflict that can produce a stronger Body of Christ. For example, I have the gift of administration; it is just the way God wired me. For many years, people who have the gift of faith would drive me crazy. I would like things organized in a certain way and they would keep challenging me to just trust God.

There would be times that I would get frustrated because I felt that someone with the gift of faith was minimizing all that needed to be done to see a ministry project happen. Meanwhile, I was frustrating them because it appeared I was trying to do things in my own strength without trusting God. Conflict would arise, either direct or indirect.

It is only when I recognize that someone is potentially exercising their spiritual gift that I can begin to resolve the tension that arises in my own heart in these times of conflict.

We have been trained and conditioned to question the motives in everyone. Imagine how our approach to conflict would be different if our starting point with fellow believers in Jesus was different. Imagine if we believed that everyone wanted the same outcome (God to be glorified), and everyone was simply coming at it from a different perspective or using a different spiritual gift.

Over the past 17 years, our team at PK Canada has been involved in various moments of conflict. I can say that this conflict has, when addressed properly, helped us get stronger relationally and in our work. For us, the key lessons have been:

  1. Someone must initiate the difficult discussion and do it with an attitude of humility. This usually happens by asking a hard question or making a challenging statement.
  2. Others in the room must receive the difficult question with a spirit of humility. We must believe there is at least the potential that God is speaking through that person to others in that moment.

When done with the appropriate attitudes (both in giving and receiving), conflict can help us build stronger relationships and be more effective for the Kingdom. Let us be people who use conflict to glorify God.

Kirk Giles is the president of Promise Keepers Canada. However, his most important roles as a man are husband to Shannon and father to Carter, Joshua, Sydney and Samuel.

The article above was featured in the January 2011 issue of SEVEN magazine.