I walked into the deacon’s meeting expecting to be offered an interim pastor position. Our lead pastor had just resigned, so certainly my exceptional (read “average but free”) preaching skills would be tapped to transition the church into its next season. Instead, I was told a main reason the lead pastor left is because I’m so difficult to work with.
I was furious. First, the departing pastor hadn’t mentioned any difficulties to me. Second, he was transitioning to a much (much) larger church in a much (much) cooler town with, I’m sure, a much (much) larger salary. Third, he’d recently completed his seminary degree. If he weren’t such a puddin’, maybe he would’ve told the truth rather than place all the blame on me!
I felt I had two options: either keep my mouth shut like a sheep led to slaughter, or air my grievances like a table-turning prophet. Guess which I chose? I passionately (i.e., angrily) told the deacons exactly what I thought, then stormed out of the room and slammed the door.
Later, when I shared the encounter (i.e., bragged) with a pastor-buddy, he got quiet and then asked a few questions I wasn’t expecting,
- “While much of what you said was true, do you think that’s how Jesus wanted you to handle that situation?”
- “Could this conflict offer some lessons for you?”
- “How can you continue loving your former pastor and current deacons while walking through this?”
- “What will you do if they fire you this weekend?”
I know, right? What a jerk!
After settling down, forgiving my buddy, and eventually praying about his advice, I knew he was right—and not just about this conflict.
The more I prayed, the more I realized that creating or allowing tension is one of Jesus’ favorite strategies for accelerating Spirit-led change in people.Click to tweet
After more than 20 years of vocational ministry, I’ve had my share of conflict. During tension-filled situations, these three reminders help me stay focused on Jesus’ calling and my response:
- Jesus’ calling to live his way doesn’t stop during times of conflict.
- Jesus’ calling to love his way doesn’t stop when someone wrongs me—or simply does something I don’t like.
- Jesus’ calling to deepen my trust in him might be more about me growing amid conflict rather than in spite of it.
Conflict is inevitable. The next time you’re tempted to respond angrily (i.e., body-slam your deacons), how can you make space for Jesus to remind you of your calling? What tips can you share?