Jim Van Yperen says that church conflict is normal. The problem, he says, is the way leadership respond to conflicts.

Van Yperen is founder and director of Metanoya Ministries, a nonprofit Christian ministry that serves churches in conflict resolution and in leadership formation. He is also the author of Making Peace: A Guide to Overcoming Church Conflict (Moody).

How common is church conflict?

Almost everywhere you go, you find churches that are struggling with conflicts either great or small. All churches face conflict. It's how we deal with conflict that's the problem.

Are sick churches in conflict aware that there is a problem?

We have this notion of Christianity in which we think there should be no problems—that we go to church, we put on our masks, and we do our nice happy smiles to each other.

That's not the church of Scripture. The church of Scripture was full of problems. They were always dealing with conflicts. The Apostle Paul spends a good amount of his writing talking to churches that were in deep conflicts, sometimes out of sin and sometimes out of disagreement.

Conflict is actually an opportunity to change. So it's important to have an understanding of what the church is and what God wants to do with it through conflict, not in spite of it.

Is there one thing often at the root of most church conflicts?

We say that all church conflict is ultimately about leadership. I don't believe that leaders are the cause of the problem all the time. Conflicts that turn into big fires are often started by small things.

It can be anything, from style of worship, moral failure, politics, decision-making, or even seemingly positive things like rapid growth. All of those things have the seeds of conflict in them. We should expect it. ...

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The Dick Staub Interview
Dick Staub was host of a eponymous daily radio show on Seattle's KGNW and is the author of Too Christian, Too Pagan and The Culturally Savvy Christian. He currently runs The Kindlings, an effort to rekindle the creative, intellectual, and spiritual legacy of Christians in culture. His interviews appeared weekly on our site from 2002 to 2004.
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