11 November 2013

Professor Conflict

Some years ago, when I was in the midst of starting a new church, I had a conflict to address. To be honest, I had many conflicts to address. Strike that. It actually got to the point where I felt like that’s all I was doing.

Conflict after conflict after conflict. Day after day after day. I’d get one matter resolved and another one would pop up.

I suspect many of you reading this can relate. I suspect many of you can say, “Yes, I’ve had times in my life like that, too.”

As hard as it was to go through that season, I’m glad I did because I learned a lot from it.

Of course, one big thing I learned from it is that conflict is a good teacher. In fact, I think it may be our best teacher. I say that because conflicts present us with opportunities to learn new things about ourselves, others, the world, the nature of relationship and God.

Notice I use the word “opportunities.” Conflict presents us with the option to learn, but conflict itself cannot force us to learn what it wants to teach us. That is up to us.

Think of conflict like a threshold. There is an open door to walk through. We do not know what awaits us on the other side because what we see from our side is something that appears dark to us. The irony is: when we seize the opportunity to take in what conflict can teach us, we discover another place filled with light. In fact, we are able to discern that the place we had once been in now seems to us as the darkness we perceived before crossing the threshold.

The door is open. It is up to us to walk through it.

I discovered this because when I came to the point where I had to deal with my twenty-seventh conflict in as many days I said to myself, “Not again! I am so sick of dealing with conflict. When can I be done with this so I can get on with ministry?”

That’s when the Spirit whispered to my heart: “….so you can ‘get on with ministry’? What do you think you’re here for?”

Please don’t think I’m crazy, but the conversation went something like this.


“What do you think you’re here for?”


“Yes, I know: but what is ‘ministry’?”

I had all the right answers: “Well, you know: teaching, leading, praying with people, mentoring, making disciples, serving.”

I sensed the Spirit say something like: “Huh, interesting. That’s what you think you’re here for.”

I wrestled with what ‘ministry’ meant. In my wrestling, I turned a phrase about ‘ministry’ from the Bible over and over in my head and heart.  (That’s what ministers do, right? Look for answers in the Bible.)

The phrase was this: “the ministry of reconciliation.”

It was the most immediate phrase that came to mind. And it was just what I needed.

I realized that the ministry God had given to me was not just any type of ministry. It was not even “ministry” how I had been defining it. It was “the ministry of reconciliation”.

Put in simpler terms, it was a work of peacemaking.

I was not accustomed to thinking of myself as a peacemaker at this point in my life so when the thought hit me that this was, indeed, the essence of Christian ministry it struck me as a paradigm shift.

“So, what you’re telling me is that my main job is to make peace?”

“Now you’re getting it. Why do you think I’ve given you so many chances to learn this lately?”

“I see.”

“Conflict is not an interruption to ministry. It is ministry.”

At that point I began to view conflict as a means for us to see the miracle of grace, mercy and forgiveness in action. In Christian lingo, conflict and the gospel go hand-in-hand. The good news of the gospel of Jesus is that wrong-doers (like me) can receive forgiveness and grace. Forgiveness sets us free and grace enables us to walk in hope. We do not have to fear being condemned, we are given a second chance. In fact, the grace is limitless so we receive countless chances—even if we don’t realize it.

Dealing with conflict forms the very fabric of any ministry that claims to be good-news, gospel. Without conflict there is no gospel.

So, in PlayFull’s team building and coaching work helping people navigate conflict in a healthy way is core. We believe that it is impossible to truly lead playful lives without conflict. The playful response views conflict as a chance to learn holistically, in mind and heart. And the playful response views conflict as a chance to live out forgiveness. PlayFull believes that the freedom of grace brings joy without equal.

Be blessed,


Write Troy to inquire about coaching or team building. Write Doreen if you’re interested in spiritual direction. Like us on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter. Here’s to play!

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