Advise for Young Ministers About Conflict

Quick, what do church leaders value above almost anything else?

The answer: homeostasis.

Homeostasis? Well that is balance and the maintenance of the status quo. Elders crave this NOT because church leaders do not want to see the church grow, see people won for Christ, see the budget rise and the Kingdom impact around the world swell. No, it’s because most church leaders have a full-time job somewhere else and cannot and will not give large amounts of time to smoothing over internal bickering.

So the one who is seen as the cause of the conflict is generally seen as the one who needs to change, mend fences or go. Generally, this means the minister who is trying to guide the church into what he views as God’s preferred future for Kingdom impact is the one on the hot seat.

Key Questions for Ministers who are Spiritual Leaders: “Do I display a non-anxious presence in the room? Am I a calming influence or an escalating one?”

You can be a leader of Kingdom growth and institutional change—but it takes wisdom, insight and much prayer. And there are a few truths to note where ministers tend to shoot themselves in the foot. Here are a few courtesy of my dear late professor, Charles Siburt:

1. Many of our wounds are self-inflicted…. But wounds become scabs, and scabs become scars—if we do not pick at them. And scars then become our best stories.

2. The greatest point of leverage you have in ministry is to become a healthier self. If you are seen as following most closely to Jesus then people will respect your lead.

3. You have a choice… you can manage the situation or let the situation manage you. If you choose to manage the situation you can be the non-anxious presence.

4. Whoever dispenses information…controls the reaction to it. So always tell the whole truth to anyone who needs to know, and do not withhold information from co-ministers unless you must, or they will resent you for it.

5. Some people crave a fight… Conflict is like rolling around in the mud with a pig. You both get muddy, but the pig enjoys it.

I have a dear friend, Milton Jones, who moved after 26 years in ministry from Seattle, Washington, to Amarillo, Texas. I asked him what he thought would be the biggest difference between Seattle and Amarillo? He of course responded, the culture shock. I told him that was, of course, true. But then I warned him of something else he might not realize:

“In the north, mean people do not go to church. In the south, mean people try to run the church.”

With all due respect to all Elders and church leaders, young ministers need to know that not every Elder is a loving grandpa figure sitting in his study praying for the success of a minister. Most don’t think about ministers much at all, few pray for them, and fewer still are rooting for them to step up and lead them into God’s future.

So be wise; pray hard; follow most closely and stay away from pig-wrestling!

Scott Sager

What advice have you for young ministers? Leave your comments!

Author: Scott Sager

Sager joined the Lipscomb team as Vice President for Church Services in July of 2011, after 15 years as senior minister of the Preston Road Church of Christ in Dallas. In this role, Sager not only teaches in the Bible department, he also connects churches across the region with a variety of the university’s resources as well as equips and trains church and business leaders through programs, seminars and special events. Since 2015, he has worked as the Preaching Minister for Granny White Church of Christ. Sager serves on the board of the Christian Relief Fund where his focus is on supporting AIDS orphans in Africa. In Dallas, he serves on the board of Christ’s Family Ministries, a fully functioning health clinic he founded that serves the working poor and is located inside the Preston Road Church of Christ building. He also serves on the advisory board of New Friends/New Life, a ministry helping women leave sexually oriented businesses for new life in Jesus Christ. He received his D.Min. in evangelism from Southern Methodist University in Dallas and is an Abilene Christian University alumnus where he earned an undergraduate degree in business management and also received master’s degrees in Bible and divinity. He lives in Nashville, TN with his wife Suzanne. They have two children, Will and Anna, and enjoy visiting their family in Texas whenever possible!

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