Even Jesus faced conflict, both internally (the disciples were experts at sniping and one-upmanship) and externally (Jewish leaders questioned Jesus’ tactics and motivation.)
So when you’re challenged, confronted, opposed, pressured, or intimidated, how do you respond?
Don and Mark served together at a sizable church for years – Don as lead pastor and Mark as executive pastor. The two regularly found themselves at a crossroads. Don would cast vision for his next great idea. Mark always seemed to be the first to ask tough questions, blowing holes in Don’s “great” idea. Don began to wonder if Mark was really on his team and if they really shared the same goals.
If you’ve been in ministry for any length of time, I am sure you can relate.
The Real Issue is Not Conflict
This type of conflict is common between ministry leaders. Don’t think you are the only one who is frustrated with this kind of situation. What most don’t understand – and what I help them to see – is that their core issue is not about learning to resolve conflict (a negative approach.) Rather, the issue is learning to lead from their strengths and help others do the same (a positive approach.) Why would God create Don and Mark so differently, place them together in ministry, and pray for them to thrive, unless it was possible?
It’s Not Such a Mystery: Understanding the Law of Differences
Just as there are scientific laws that govern our physical world (such as the Law of Gravity), there are spiritual principles that govern relationships.
1 Corinthians 12:12-27 explains it beautifully using the metaphor of the human body, God’s ultimate creation. “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body” (1 Corinthians 12:12, NIV). Like parts in the human body, different people combine together to make a ministry unit.
But look a little closer. Study your eyes … and then your ears. They don’t have much in common other than they are part of your head. Taken by themselves, they may even be considered peculiar. But “If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?” (1 Corinthians 12:17). God manages to put all those odd parts together to bring value to the whole.
He does the same with people. The Law of Differences is based on these simple truths:
- God only creates good things.
- God creates each individual uniquely with specific strengths, gifts, and abilities.
- Differences are good because God ordains them.
Where’s the Mystery?
God’s approach to conflict is much different than ours. Our human tendency is to try to “judge” each other’s differences or compete with each other. Yet God is able to take a curious collection of differences and blend them into a well-functioning unit. His intent is to allow our unique strengths to contribute value, making the whole greater than the sum of our parts.
Leading God’s people is an exciting task in which Don and Mark are privileged to play a role. Over the next three articles we will share the practical steps they took as they worked to understand each other. As you walk alongside these two leaders, the clues you find can help solve your own mystery of differences … and even change the way you do ministry.
If you would like to discover your strengths you can access the Leading From Your Strengths Profile. Follow the instructions and be sure to use the Ministry Advantage discount code “advantage” at check out.
This week’s article is submitted by Russ Olmon, President, Ministry Advantage and Rodney Cox, President of Ministry Insights. For more on this and other helpful subjects, go to www.ministryadvantage.org.
For over ten years Ministry Advantage has been one of the premier church resources that provides coaching and training for pastors and church leaders helping them turn their vision into reality.