Koinoniarama: Healthy and Productive Conflicts

The book “Growing Healthy Asian American Churches” contains an article by Helen Lee on the topic of conflicts in the church. She wrote:

In Asian culture, conflict is evidence that someone has done something wrong in the context of a relationship. But in American culture, conflict is a normal byproduct of human relationships. …… In “The Fifth Discipline,” business strategist Peter Senge writes, “Conflict is a reliable indicator of a team that is continually learning …… In great teams, conflict becomes productive.” Leaders in healthy Asian American churches reflect this philosophy and have found ways to turn conflicts into opportunities for growth and progress in their congregations.

She interviewed Pastor David Gibbons of NewSong about how his philosophy. Pastor Gibbons said:

In Asian American churches, people have a tendency not to air their grievances. But eventually, if you don’t share your concerns, dissonance occurs. Then a second problem comes when people do not bring up their issues in a healthy manner. What needs to be done is to speak the truth in love; they speak truth but not in love. The third challenge is to say “I’m sorry” if you’re wrong, as well as to forgive freely. If there’s a sense of disagreement in an Asian American context, there’s tendency to be aloof. If there’s a problem, you stay apart.

Pastor Gibbons went on and listed many ways they address the issue of conflicts in the church:

1. Talk about it in the church’s teaching as a “theology of discomfort.”
2. Build in the expectation that conflicts are a normal part of healthy relationships.
3. Encourage proactive conflict resolution.
4. Model healthy conflict resolutions among the church leaders.
5. Talk about the Matthew 18 process as a part of the church membership class.
6. Provide healthy conflict resolution through pastoral counseling and small group leadership training.

Gibbons then said:

How you resolve conflict is usually the test of a deep community. The benefit from doing it well is deeper maturity and intimacy.

How do you view conflicts in your church or your small group? Do you deal with them proactively? Do you learn from conflicts? Do you grow from conflict resolutions?

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