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Home > Skills > Conflict & Crisis > The Best Defense
You must live with people to know their problems, and live with God in order to solve them.
P.T. Forsyth
With the right spirit, a clumsy church structure will work. Without the right spirit, an ideal structure won't work.
Malcolm Cronk

After looking at the diverse dragons that can threaten a church, what are the best defenses?

Landscapers know the best way to prevent weeds is not to attack them individually. Uprooting stubborn dandelions or chickweed one by one will improve appearances temporarily, but within days, the troublesome plants will be back. The best way to handle weeds is a thick, healthy lawn, which keeps them from springing up in the first place.

Likewise pastors, who are charged to "see to it … that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many" (Heb. 12:15), find that the best way to prevent dragon blight, or at least minimize its damage, is to concentrate on developing a healthy church.

Taking opportunities to build a close, cohesive church will produce better results than the shrewdest political maneuvers after problems sprout. Defusing potential problems before they arise is far better than troubleshooting later on.

What are the keys to dragon-proofing a church? Obviously no technique is 100-percent sure, but there are several principles pastors have found helpful in building church health.

Encouraging a Positive Atmosphere

Some churches enjoy fighting. So do some pastors. Feisty, do-or-die leaders have a way of developing feisty churches.

Columnist Joseph Bayly observed in Eternity magazine, "Fighters must fight. Generals and admirals are never so happy as when they are involved in a big or little war. Boxers are never so happy as when they are pounding opponents insensate. Battling pastors and battling churches are never so happy as when they are locked in combat, preferably with enemies without, but otherwise with each other."

When attacked by church members, some pastors react by retaliating or at least refusing on principle to compromise. To bend would be a sign of weakness. It's total victory, unconditional surrender — or perish gloriously in the attempt. Peacemaking, as Bayly observes, "becomes as unpopular as Neville Chamberlain's umbrella."

When relationships become adversarial, however, the pastor's days are numbered. Most congregations are capable of producing more dragons than any one pastor can slay. The best defense is to create an atmosphere that breeds mutual advocates, not adversaries.

How? Not by refusing to fight, necessarily — some important battles may have to be waged, although less frequently than most of us think. More often, the best way to build an atmosphere of cooperation is to model a positive tone personally:

— by praising publicly the congregation's strengths

— by enjoying and taking pride in the diversity among church members

— by thanking critics, at least initially, for their ...

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Posted: May 19, 2004

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