Distilling Truth in Deeply Divided Times Part II
Last week I quoted Jesus’ statement to Pilate, “I came into the world, to testify to the TRUTH. Everyone who belongs to the TRUTH listens to my voice” (John 18:37). I also mentioned that even those of us in the church will struggle to identify TRUTH during times of conflict. I then pointed to the assumptions we make, and the time distortions we use to inform “our perceptions of truth.” Let me point to one of the biggest challenges we face as we seek to see things as God sees them: our conflict style.
A great tool that I ran across years ago is the Conflict Style Assessment developed by Jim Van Yperen and published by ChurchSmart Resources. I have used this piece and have seen the significant impact it has on staff development, pre-marital counseling, and general church leadership settings. The assessment identifies four primary ways that we will approach conflict. It has been extremely helpful in developing self-awareness. And the bonus part is that it doesn’t leave us hanging with our baggage, but it also lays out a Biblical seven-step process on how to practice peacemaking. Jesus stated, “Blessed are the peacemakers; For they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).
Here are the four primary conflict styles:
A quick sidebar—because of foundational Christian principles on forgiveness, the majority of churches will be filled with people who have these two responses. That is unless the church has a history of conflict. If that’s the case, then the evasives will simply leave and the majority of those left will be passive. Ultimately, when passives and evasives get their way, truth is diminished because no one is willing to confront falsehoods.
Another sidebar—everyone knows who the defensives and aggressives are in their church. They are the loudest and often viewed as the initiators of conflict. To the passives and evasives, the defensives and aggressives will be described as steam rollers. Ultimately when defensives and aggressives have their way grace, love, and compassion get swept away in pursuit of truth.
Two processing questions:
“We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth… the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:14 & 17
To reflect the love of God, we must be willing to become more Christ-like in our approach to difficult people and circumstances. Through the indwelling and infilling of the Holy Spirit, we too must become filled with both grace and truth.
Retiring in April 2022, Mark R. Elliott served as a Director of Missions (Associational Mission Strategist) in Western Iowa and Eastern Nebraska for almost three decades. He is a strong advocate for obedience and Biblically based disciple making. As such, he knows that making healthy disciples requires Christian leaders to be constantly pursuing spiritual maturity—be lifelong learners. Because of the time constraints of ministry, most pastors focus their reading list on resources that assist them in teaching and preaching the Word of God. As such, books focusing on church health, leadership development, and church growth tend to find their way to the bottom of the stack. With that reality in mind, Mark has written discussion summaries on several books that have helped him to personally grow in Christ and that tend to find themselves on the bottom of most pastor’s stack. Many pastors have found them helpful as they are able to more quickly process great insights from other pastors and authors.