Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Conflict and church communities

I often hear people refer to a congregation as a "church family." For some that may conjure feelings of security, belonging, or being with like-minded people. For others, the word, "family" brings up a lot of other issues that may not be very affirming.

Entire careers have been spent researching and analyzing family systems and their impact on congregations. Congregations do act like a family, for better and for worse.

That's why, when conflict arises, we seem to react in a similar way that we would with members of our own family. Some of us can have an open discussion in a positive way. Some of us will talk to everyone except those they have a problem with. And some will just avoid the conflict altogether and pretend everything is just fine.

It's not that conflict is necessarily bad. Some things need to be challenged. "The way we've always done things before" is one of those things that could probably use a challenge.

It's how we handle conflicts when they arise that can show how things can be worked through in a church community. It is our responsibility to speak out when wrongs have been done and when others have not be treated in a spirit of love or concern. How we treat each other when there is conflict says a lot about us as a church community. Unfortunately, many of us have no idea that how we relate to our family of origin is often how we treat other similar "families." And so we don't always keep Christ in our relations - turning the other cheek, loving our neighbor, and forgiving seventy times seven. We act out the script we've been using all along and wondering why conflict seems to follow us.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Can't we all just get along?

One of the biggest things that drive people away from church is conflict. Sure, there's conflict just about everywhere, but when church is trying to hold up the vision that "another world is possible," it's hard to hear the message when that's not what's being demonstrated. Some may believe that of all places where conflict would not be expected is church.

Many seek refuge in church, in a worship or an educational experience that may show us the better side of humanity. A chance to getaway from the difficult relationship, the unfulfilling job, or the seeking for something more to life. And what do they find?

Actions speak louder than words...