One thing I have learned in 2017 is that you don’t need to show up at every argument you are invited to. You see conflict always takes your energy, your wisdom, your strength and your time away from dreaming, and dreaming big is what leads you into your destiny.
I have found that most people who have a reputation for being contentious do not think they are contentious, rather they think they are honest, up front people who “tell it like it is”. In fact, they take great pride in being the person who tells everyone as it is. What is really happening is that they are copying someone in their childhood, often mum or dad, who would get their own way through making others scared, what we call intimidation. They are following a pattern, and are sadly blind to the relationships and wisdom they lose out on by doing so.
Nothing hurts a church more than a contentious leader. Nothing hurts a family more than a contentious parent, and nothing hurts a business more than contentious employees. When a person in a church cannot get along with others, the whole church feels it. When a person at work cannot get along with others, thousands of pounds or more can easily be lost as projects get delays, other employees feel they have to give their tuppence worth and every situation slows down and focus is lost from the main goal.
Now does the Bible have some wisdom for us in dealing with contentious people? Yes, it does and it is really clear:
17 And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. 18 Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people. (Romans 16.17-18, NLT)i
I take the Bible very seriously, and I take these verses as seriously as anything in Paul’s letters. When people are divise and teach things against righteousness by faith, and obedience from faith, when people teach inclusionism, universalism, preterism, licentiousness and anything else contrary to sound doctrine, I just walk away.
I know so many people who have joined the band wagon in teaching that Christians do not need to be part of a local church. It’s heresy of the worst kind, and it is divisive. People like that I don’t even walk up to anymore, I just walk past. I might nod or say hello, but I have nothing to do with them. I have too much to do to be distracted!
Do you realize one of the most powerful principles in the entire universe is the principle of agreement? One of the greatest powers in the universe is the power of two people in agreement. Contentious people are trying to disrupt that power, and you don’t need that. If someone writes me a letter telling me one of my mentors is corrupt, it goes in the bin. I don’t have time for that garbage, and I know where it goes. If someone comes to me and starts trying to tell me that you don’t need to believe to be saved, I will be walking away. Sometimes you can help someone like that, more often than not you cannot.
One of the things that people will do if they are divisive is they will get involved in things that are none of their business. They need to read Proverbs 26.17 (I’m not quoting it, go look it up!), and they enjoy it – they love disputes, they thrive on conflict, and look for a reason to disagree with you.
We had Terri Savelle Foy preaching in Dagenham last Sunday, and she was amazing. One of the things she exhorted the church to do was to stop complaining and start giving thanks, in fact she said you cannot be a success unless you are grateful. Ingratitude is often the root of divisiveness, people try and divide churches because they forgot to say thank you. People literally sitting in a kitchen that one of our pastors built and insulting him to their family. Someone is texting another one of our pastors and telling them they have done a bad job and don’t care using a phone that the same pastor bought for them! Ingratitude, that then leads to divisiveness – sorry, I don’t feel like coming to church this week, and suddenly that person is gone. Listen that can destroy a church plant in one month, it can kill a healthy “mature” church in six months. I’ve seen churches go from growing to dying because of one ungrateful person.
We need the boldness to stop any conversation rooted in divisiveness:
- I’m not going to that church any more, it hurt me so bad.
- I don’t think you should give to that church
- I don’t reckon it’s a good idea to listen to that pastor anymore
- He’s just not feeding me anymore
Anyone comes to you with this kind of negative, church-splitting, ungrateful talk, you have my permissive to talk over them and say “God is good, let’s thank God for His goodness, let’s get excited about a turnaround, let’s get to church this weekend!” Be bold and be strong! It’s a fire, and you can pour water all over their hellfire stuff – go for it!
Don’t let the atmosphere around you be ungrateful and negative – change it! Speak life!
Did you know more missionaries leave the mission field – not because of money, not because of getting sick or hating the culture – no, it’s because of personal disputes with other missionaries. People who love Jesus so much they move to another nation to share the gospel – and they have to come home because of petty fighting and an atmosphere of ingratitude.
Listen to me, I could say a lot more about this, but my finishing point is this: conflict is not created by an issue. It is created by a person:
For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. (Proverbs 26.20, ESV)
Agreement makes the devil run away, it leads us into life and abundance, companionship, happiness and the manifest presence of God. So get the division out, pick your battles.