One call. One text. One sentence. One word. It doesn’t take much for a great day to turn into something completely different. Simply put, as we pursue the kingdom and serve faithfully in the local church, conflict happens. It occurs at home, in the board room, with volunteers, staff, church members, and people in the community. The way a church planter deals with conflict will overflow into their church community. For many people, conflict is uncomfortable. If our natural responses are often to avoid it or to shut it down, we should learn how to push through and experience a fruitful fight. We must learn to deal with our relational stuff or it will ultimately deal with us.
We must learn to deal with our relational stuff or it will ultimately deal with us.
In Luke’s Gospel, he records Jesus’ teaching about the reality of fruit in our lives. “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:45 NIV). I am especially convinced this is true in conflict. The thoughts, beliefs, and emotions we have been storing up will spill out in the midst of conflict. As we examine our own lives, we must examine how we interact with others during conflict.
Consider the following framework for a fruitful fight: The acts of the flesh are obvious... hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 9-23).
When it comes to conflict, Paul’s writing gives us significant insight into the fight we face. The real fight I face during conflict is inside me. Will I act out of the flesh or will I keep in step with the Spirit? The Spirit invites me to respond with love, peace, patience, and all the other fruits of the spirit.
Knowing we’ll face conflict, we all should embrace personal formation that facilitates fruitful fights. Here’s my advice for you:
Choose Love & Joy
Focus on the value of the person and choose gratitude as your primary attitude. Anchor to timeless truth that will outlast a momentary disagreement. Remember that conflict is not about competition; it’s about connection. Make strengthening the connection your goal in every fight. One tip is to develop a habit of encouraging your spouse outside of conflicts so that during conflict you continue to be an encourager.
Embrace Peace & Patience
Be a person of peace and express your patient availability to work through things. Humility must be fostered in our heart when we are not fighting, so it overflows when we do fight. Resolve to keep the conversation going for as long as it takes to reassure the other person that you care about their thoughts, feelings, and perspective. Don’t be in a hurry.
Extend Kindness, Goodness & Gentleness
Even in conflict, treat others with the character of Christ. Be generous with kind words and pursue a tender heart when things get heated. You can do this by:
- Reminding one another that you care.
- Choosing to see and affirm the good in each other.
- Serving the other person by sacrificing your defenses and choosing to stay open and available.
Cultivate Faithfulness & Self-Control
Become a person who uses conflict to deepen connections, not destroy connections. Take responsibility for your character and how you express who you are during conflict. Focus on your formation daily in light of Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit. I suggest you prioritize emotional maturity in your life by being mentored, seeking a spiritual director, or pursuing counseling
If I avoid conflict, I ultimately avoid connection. As we engage in this type of fruitful fight, we are becoming the types of people who create safe and secure connections. In this, your life offers others the opportunity to experience the kingdom of God. Your character will provide the opportunity for healing and reconciliation because those around you will know safety and security are available. A faithful and humble heart will lead the way into fruitful fights that truly make a difference.
Kurt Attaway is the Associate Pastor at the Pearland Vineyard Church. Kurt and his wife, Lauren, are enjoying life with their son Canten, daughter Emersen and son Jaden. Kurt and Lauren were married in 2006. In 2007, Kurt joined the staff at The Vineyard. Kurt has a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) in the State of Texas. While Kurt thoroughly enjoys playing basketball and golf, hanging with family and friends takes the top prize for favorite free time activity.