Church Health – Conflict Vs. Compromise

Many church’s are conflict averse. They can view conflict as a bad thing that must be stamped out at all costs, and function as if their ultimate aim is to be nice to one another. In this unhealthy environment leaders lean upon compromise as the only way to move the mission of the church forward. The harsh news is simply this. “Compromise is mutually agreed upon mediocrity,” according to Patrick Lencioni – the leading mentor on issues of leadership in the workplace. In his book “The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team” Lencioni diagnoses Fear Of Conflict as dysfunction #2 in his list of 5 dysfunctions.

Read and think critically about what he writes, “All great relationships, the ones that last over time, require productive conflict in order to grow. This is true in marriage, parenthood, friendship, and certainly business. Unfortunately, conflict is considered taboo in many situations, especially at work. And the higher you go up the management chain, the more you find people spending inordinate amounts of time and energy trying to avoid the kind of passionate debates that are essential to any great team. It is important to distinguish productive ideological conflict from destructive fighting and interpersonal politics. Ideological conflict is limited to concepts and ideas, and avoids personality-focused, mean-spirited attacks. However, it can have many of the same external qualities of interpersonal conflict – passion, emotion, and frustration – so much so that an outside observer might easily mistake it for unproductive discord. But teams that engage in productive conflict know that the only purpose is to produce the best possible solutions in the shortest period of time. They discuss and resolve issues more quickly and completely than others, and they emerge from heated debates with no residual feelings or collateral damage, but with an eagerness and readiness to take on the next important issue. Ironically, teams that avoid ideological conflict often do so in order to avoid hurting team member’s feelings, and then end up encouraging dangerous tension. When team members do not openly debate and disagree about important ideas, they often turn to back-channel personal attacks, which are far nastier and more harmful than any heated argument over issues.”

I propose that a healthy church understands and embraces two things. #1 It’s not if you will have conflict in your church body but when you will have conflict and how you will grow from it, and #2 Healthy conflict is not a threat but an important portal into better ideas, better ways of functioning, and better ways to be effective in its mission. What do you think?

About Andy Lewis

Andy is an author, pastor, and musician who lives in Santa Cruz California. Currently he serves as lead pastor at Faith Community Church in Santa Cruz
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