ACC 2004


Conflict resolution is more than a bleak necessity.

By Wong Kim Kong

As a result of increasing pressure in life and work expectations, there have been rising tensions and conflicts in interpersonal relationships.

A conflict between two people in a church may in any time affect an entire congregation, unresolved tensions between pastors and leaders may rob the church of effective leadership, and disputes between members in business with one another may lead to lawsuits, and so on. As a result, people are hurt, some leave the church or ministry; division occurs and eventually leads to church split and unforgiveness.
Given this scenario, how can we manage its disparities in a way that brings Christians closer together instead of driving them apart? How can we develop a Biblical approach of addressing hot-button issues before they hamper our relationship and the church's progress? How, in fact, can we transform conflict into a positive force that sparks improvements in our partnership and ministry?
What is conflict resolution?
Conflict resolution refers generally to strategies and process by which a dispute between two or more parties is resolved peacefully and cooperatively outside the traditional disciplinary procedures. It’s a way to settle disagreements amicably by getting to the root of the problems and find lasting solutions. It means working things out without aggression, name-calling or hurting the feelings of others; without running away from difficult situations; and without going against other feelings or beliefs. The process sometimes may involve negotiation, mediation and arbitration.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a structured problem-solving process in which parties to a dispute, with the assistance of a neutral third party (the mediator), identify the disputed issues, develop options, consider alternatives and endeavour to reach an agreement. The mediator has no advisory or determinative role in regard to the content of the dispute or the outcome of its resolution, but may advise on or determine the process of mediation whereby resolution is attempted.

Bible Principles:
 Matt. 18:15-17 give us clear directions on the procedure of and conflict resolution and church discipline.
 Always remember that the motivation behind every conflict resolution and discipline is redemption and restoration. (Gal. 6:1)
 When dealing with reproof, one should avoid harshness or condemnation, and allow the preeminence of the spirit of Christ to prevail. (2 Tim. 2:24-26)
 There will always be the extending of forgiveness up to “seventy times seven.” (Matt. 18:21-22)

Realistic Consideration:

 The process and efforts in mediating is not apt to be a simple, one-time contact; it will most likely be a series of contacts.
 Reconciliation and restoration takes a lot of nurture.
 We must seek to express concern and attempt to work with two hands extended: one of mercy and grace toward healing, and the other of the unchanging standard of God’s Word.
 We must at all time, call the church to love these people, to pray for them, and to abstain from judgment; and to pray for the leaders who are making difficult decisions.
 The New Testament makes clear that the exercise of church discipline is for those “who are spiritual” (Gal. 6:1), and that discipline is to be carried out in a spirit of “meekness.”
 It’s time for us to take the matter to the Father in prayer.
 Then, if a valid concern persists (not borne solely out of emotional reaction), to face the person gently and seek for third party mediation.
 When an understanding prevail between two parties, the process of reconciliation becomes easier.

Mediation Process:


“If your brother sins against you go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.”

      Reconciliation Process:
 First, it calls for an open fellowship where two persons can honestly talk to one another about differences, shortcomings, sins.
 Until we start talking, we cannot reconcile. Productive communication is necessary.
 Allow each party to express freely his or her own feelings towards the issues.
 Gather information and to learn from one another. This can be achieved through attentive listening. Ask relevant questions as and when necessary (for information and clarification only.)
 We will learn and understand the person’ situation and difficulties.
 Work towards a “win-win” situation where both parties arrived at an amicable solution.
 It’s time for us to take the matter to the Father in prayer.
 Then, if a valid concern persists (not borne solely out of emotional reaction), to face the person gently and seek for third party mediation.
 When an understanding prevail between two parties, the process of reconciliation becomes easier.

      Cautionary notes:
 Prevent defense mechanisms.
 Avoid trying to justify your actions.
 Learn to listen - summarize to the person what he or she has said.
 Reprove should be private.
 Listen to reproof is good for our character, an aid in our development, and a bridge-builder in our church’s web of relationships.
 It is not the time to gossip, an act that brings injury to the other person.
 Ask for forgiveness and also to release forgiveness if necessary.


        “If he will not listen, take one or two others along.”

1. Establish the need for mediation
 Determine whether intervention is necessary.
 See whether the parties are willing to end the conflict.
 If the first step does not bring the needed response in private, it is time to involve two or more people.

2. Define the role of the mediators
 Define your mediator role as there to support both people "winning".
 To avoid mediating alone.
 The mediators serve as an instigator of, and impetus to, reconciliation.
 The mediators are not there to substantiate their prejudices but to bring new objectivity as God gives them spiritual insights.

3. Do your homework
 A person who handles conflict must do adequate research and investigation over the issues.
 Gather information and to learn. This can be achieved through attentive listening.
 Ask relevant questions as and when necessary (for information and clarification only.)

4. Develop the mediation agreement
 Negotiate a process agreeable to both parties.
i. Establish sincerity of parties. Get agreement from both people about a basic willingness to fix the problem.

ii. Establish mediation in good faith.
a) Establish the recognized people who have the authority to settle when there is an agreement.
b) Establish that final agreement will be implemented.

iii. Confirm agreement on confidentiality.
a) What will be discussed during mediation cannot be used in court (in case mediation fails and court proceedings are required), in church congregation, and other places.
b) A statement will be published at the end of the mediation. This has to be agreed by all parties.
c) This is important to prevent cliques and gossips in the congregations.

iv. Confirm issues from all parties.
b) Purpose is to confirm agenda for the mediation.
c) Parties must be willing to discuss any issues that each party deems relevant.

 Require a commitment to submit to the process whatever the results.

5. Create a conducive atmosphere for discussion
 Call for an open fellowship where two persons can honestly talk to one another about differences, shortcomings, sins.
 Diffuse tension as much as possible.
 Use humor to lighten the atmosphere.

6. Give balanced treatment
 Try to listen and understand all sides with honesty and empathy.
 Careful to avoid being misconstrued as taking side.
 God wants us to make an effort to understand what is being communicated.

7. Consider pastoral needs
 Think through the situation well enough and suggest a sensible course of action.
 Take cognizance of their sensitivity and feelings.

8. Steps in mediation
 Introductions and agreements warm up, explanations, agenda if known.
 Turn the heat off and switch the light on.
 Do not impose your views or attempt to change the views of others.
 Generate discussion on the issues.

 Establishing the mediation
(i) Overview:
1. What is the matter? Allow each person to express their view of the conflict, the issues and their feelings. Check back that the other person has actually understood them.
2. Guide the conversation towards a joint problem solving approach and away from personal attack.
3. Encourage them to look for answers where everybody gets what they need.
4. Redirect "Fouls" (Name Calling, Put Downs, Sneering, Blaming, Threats, Bringing up the Past, Making Excuses, Not Listening, Getting Even). Where possible you reframe the negative statement into a neutral description of a legitimate present time concern.
(ii) Details:

1. What is involved? More details. Map needs and concerns.
2. Clarify misperceptions. Identify other relevant issues. Mirroring if needed.

           (iii) Discussion:

1. Where are they now? Identify areas of agreement. Encourage willingness to move forward. Caucus if needed.
2. Negotiation: Focus on future action. How would they like it to be? What would that take? Develop options. Trading - build wins for everyone.

9. Closure investigation
 What skirmishes are still being fought?
 Who needs immediate rescue?
 What are the recovery signs?
 How healthy are the hurting people spiritually, emotional and psychologically?
 Plans for the future, including appointed time to review agreement. Closing statements.

10. Nurturing wounds
 Assist them to release and receive forgiveness.
 Getting them back into actions.
 Helping them to find the long-lost relationship and love.
 Improve the morale of the people affected.

11. Restoration
 A period of rehabilitation through counseling is needed to:
 Develop the ability to overcome adversity.
 Receive spontaneous and structured discipleship.
 Re-enter into active involvement of the ministry.


           “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.”

 Follow the same process and same principles as stated in (B), except that the people involved are more than the second instance and they are usually leaders of the Church.


     “If he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or   a tax collector.”

 The Church then makes a corporate decision and executes discipline as deem necessary.
 A letter should be written to explain and express our concern, our understanding of what the person had done (based on Scripture), our love, and the responsibility we accepted in dismissing him or her from our fellowship.
 We treat the person as a nonbeliever, because he or she is not walking as a believer.
 It means to love the person as Jesus loved the publicans and sinners.
 It means to reach out to her in witness, but not to relate to her as a member of the body of Christ.

Deciding factor in conflict resolution and mediation:

 The involvement of a credible Panel for Reconciliation and Restoration in handling cases including threatened divorce, business disputes, and interpersonal strife.
 A pastor or recognized leader, simply by his weight of position and spiritual authority, can break the deadlock of conflict.
 An adequate pre-knowledge of the congregation members in understanding conflict - anticipation, prevention, confrontation and redemption, ease the process.
 Commitment to the process of mediation from all parties concerned alleviates complication and confusion.
 Are personality issues preventing communication and mediation?
 Do the parties understand each other’s interests?
 Are the parties willing to compromise?

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