Feelings tend to react like a smoke alarm. A smoke detector goes off at one hundred decibels whether someone scorched the potatoes or the house is actually on fire. Feelings, too, give a warning signal and prepare us to survive some life-threatening event, even when the event isn't life-threatening.

On the other hand, in nearly any church conflict, a number of people will underestimate the problem. They say, "Let's not bother with it; let's leave it alone."

So how do we determine how severe the conflict is? In Moving Your Church through Conflict (Alban Institute, 1984), I describe conflicts in five levels:

Level One: There's a problem to solve in the organization, and people may disagree about how to solve it. But they believe they can work it out, and they are committed to try. They are talking directly to each other, not withholding information. As a result, most people don't call this conflict. They say, "We've got problems to solve, but we can do it."

Level Two: The focus shifts from solving ...

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From Issue:Winter 1989: Crisis
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