You cannot plant a church, build a church, build a leadership team, raise up leaders or help people dream big unless you accept the fact that you will have conflict if you do so.
A lot of leaders value a fake harmony over difficult constructive useful conflict that is difficult but essential for growth and progress. Harry Truman was the first to say if you don’t like the heat, get out of the kitchen – but as Christian leaders we are called to be in the kitchen, we are called to be in the place where we are helping people, we are called to speak the truth in love – we are NOT called to be so loving we never speak the truth, or so truthful we never love. We must have both – truth and love.
Sometimes as leaders we want to be more loving than Jesus, more helpful than Jesus and kinder than Jesus! And you can’t, it’s impossible. Without doing things that may create conflict, you cannot be a leader. I am not talking about being pushy and harsh with people, I am talking about not wanting everyone to get along so badly, and be a big happy family so much, we cannot suggest ideas, change things, progress and be fruitful. If you hate conflict so much you never say “no” to anyone, you are in the wrong place in your heart. Move! Learn how to say no!
Leadership can be stressful, it can be hard – to lead people you have to say “no” to them on occasion, it’s not easy, but it is essential. I have met Christian leaders who avoid conflict so much, they even lie to their people to stop them getting upset. That’s not right. I have on occasion instructed a pastor or elder to stop something in their group, and one one occasion, a pastor resigned rather than say no to a false prophet in their church! We cannot let that happen. We cannot replace the peace of the Lord and the leadership of the Spirit with a false harmony based on letting everyone do what they want. You must get used to the heat – to be in leadership there will often be conflict.
Leaders need boldness and courage. I have seen this in the church, I have seen it in business – leaders who could not confront and lost everything. All their plans are based on avoiding conflict. We need a big of toughness, a rough, real, authentic love that chooses truth over artificial and fake peace.
Now, let me confess, I have done this on occasion, I have had a few cowardly moments and they have always cost me dearly. I may have a few more in the future, but my goal is not to confront everyone for everything, but it is to grow myself and the people entrusted to me properly and if that means conflict, it means conflict. I think some people reading this need to make the same commitment – we will deal with conflict authentically, in love, honestly and kindly, sensitively but also strongly. You need what one preacher once called “the courage to collide”. Do not swerve off the right path to avoid someone! Do not back down, be strong when you have to be.
Also, you need to be humble – sometimes you cause conflict, sometimes I do. Own up to it and make it right.
Another quick tip is this – correct in private, praise in public. Never confront in public, never correct on social media – go to the person privately and follow Matthew 18. Do not correct someone in a church service!
Don’t replace difficult conflict with artificial harmony. Remember Luke 6.26, woe to you when all people speak well of you. When someone really likes one of my team, a pastor or elder, and they are ambivalent or antagonistic to me, that is a warning sign to me that my leader is not discipled enough to resemble me enough to also irritate that person. Selah.
Be bold, be strong, be kind – but be authentic and loving enough to confront and deal with issues when necessary. Maybe there is someone in your church or your small group or your department no one has ever confronted and needs to be faced down head on. I heard of a church last week that is both proud and excited that they let everyone in the church speak whenever they want and say whatever they want. I guarantee no-one in that church is growing, because there is no “NO”. We need to be able to say “NO” in love, but confidently and with a gentle strength. Selah.