School of Practical Ministry
The goal of conflict resolution is not to change someone. That's God's job. Ours is simply to present the facts.
In daily life we will experience conflict. It is the inevitable reality of people functioning
together in marriage and family, church life, on the job, in the neighbourhood, and in mutual
ministry. God uses conflict creatively. He doesn’t say it is wrong or a sign of weakness. He intends
that it create a growing measure of purity in us as we are biblically exercised by it. As iron sharpens
iron, so we grow more effective together.
The counterpart to creative conflict resolution is gossip. Whether couched in the form of a
prayer request, as something that is true and needs to be “dealt with,” or as simply the inbred need
to pass on something “juicy,” it breeds death. To live by the commitment to not speak ill of another
human being is truly a challenge. This lesson is about understanding the dynamics of conflict
resolution in order to build Christlikeness and unity as opposed to yielding to the inner nature of the
flesh. As we learn this, we learn how to pass something on to others that is truly worth having in the
deepest valleys of our lives. For as we shall see here, to learn how to live together on the journey
to Christlikeness is to learn how to minister to the great need that is in the harvest field.
“Thy neighbour as thyself” is the covenant principle by which God has called us to live in
the Kingdom in our everyday relationships as well as in ministry. When we know we are living in
an atmosphere where we are safe, and when we are committed to this irrevocable law of love, then
we can take the necessary strides in becoming and giving away the purpose of God in growing into
the image of Christ. Some of the following material on the next several pages is from the “Turning
Point” student manual appendix on dealing with life controlling problems.
How would you define confrontation?
It takes courage to risk confronting. We have all traded our honesty for the approval of others
in the past. However, if we care about our fellow group members, and if we want them to be honest
with us in return, we will present them with our picture of them.
Confrontation is defined as presenting a person with himself by describing how I see
him. Confrontation is most useful when spoken with concern and accompanied with examples of
the confronted behavior or data.
For the most part defenses, including attitudinal postures, are unintentional and automatic
shields against a real or imagined threat to our self-esteem. By pointing out the defenses we are
using, we have a better chance of letting down this wall that is locking others out and keeping us
prisoners. This blocks our getting close to others as well as our getting closer to ourselves. Coming
to recognize these blocks to self-discovery may enable us to look behind them to discover the
feelings concealed from view. Long explanations may hide feelings of inadequacy and guilt. Since
defenses and attitudinal postures do hide us from ourselves, as well as from others, it is important
to identify them. A lot of this is new, so while you are getting used to it, just trust your impulses.
Spontaneous expressions tend to be much more honest. It is more helpful to be revealing than to be
Most of us tend to think we already know ourselves and are afraid of looking bad, so it is
hard for us to take the risk of being revealing and genuine. But what have we got to lose? Since we
can't change something until we really see it and accept its existence, we should ask ourselves, "Do
I really accept something if I keep it a secret?" Risking openness is the key. When you are tempted
to withdraw into silence, remember that we are all in the same boat, and that a feeling common to
everyone when being introduced to a group is fear.
Frequently, in place of confronting a person with some data that we have observed
(what they said, how they look or sound, etc.) we make the mistake of guessing, of asking
questions and giving advice.
Confrontation describes what we have observed in the person we are confronting. Guesses,
advice or discussions about something we have not witnessed is not confrontation. In a sense, when
we confront, we hold up a mirror to let another person know how he appears to us.
We are most useful as confronters when we are not so much trying to change another person
as we are trying to help him see himself more accurately. Change, if it comes, comes later when the
person chooses it.
Picture a gardener preparing a proper environment within the soil so that the seeds he plants
may receive the gift of growth from a power greater than himself. Imagine a physician cleaning a
wound to provide an environment to receive the gift of healing. The change we all are seeking might
be labeled more correctly as healing or growth and, while it is largely a gift of a power greater than
ourselves, the necessary environment for the gift is an honest picture of how and what we are like
now. Because of our egocentric blindness and self-delusion, we all are dependent on others for that
completed picture. Confrontation provides it.
The simple scriptural formula for resolving conflicts is given in the next section on forgiveness. It describes
how we are to go to someone alone, followed by the next steps if necessary.
In review we see the need to simply get the facts with the purpose of then
helping someone see those facts clearly. The goal is not to change someone. Whenever we impress
adjectives, conclusions, opinions or judgements on someone or when we use emotion such as anger,
we are entering into the intention to change them ourselves. The result in effect is attempting to
set ourselves up as their god. Whenever we speak to others about a conflict we greatly risk gossip.
Whenever we involve others we greatly risk misrepresenting others. The only one who can speak
to an issue is the one involved. Involving others guarantees misrepresentation. It also sets up power
struggles. To say, “A lot of others feel this way,” admits gossip has taken place, and it almost
always an attempt to use manipulation to get one’s way. Finally, when we use adjectives or
generalities instead of simple facts it creates more of a problem. Generalities are clear signs of
judgements, conclusions and opinions. They never help, but rather foster division and great