« What Happens When Pastors and Deacons go Clubbin'? | Main | Top Ten Voice Mail Greetings Used for Church Staff »

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Conflict? Ask Ken: The Question Few Ask... When Matthew 18:15-17 Doesn't Apply

Bible Ken writes, "I recently had a conversation with an individual who outlined what she thought were the steps to resolving all conflict in the church. She noted that if Susie has a problem with Marsha, Susie should go directly to Marsha to work that problem out. If that doesn’t resolve the matter, then Susie should bring a couple of others to be her witnesses as she tries again. If that effort fails, then Susie should seek to have Marsha brought before the entire church. If Martha failed to repent, Marsha would then be disciplined by being removed from the church’s fellowship. Does anyone see anything wrong with this picture?"

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.

 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

A close reading of the text will reveal two problems with the above scenario.

First of all, the passage begins, “if your brother sins against you.” What if you have a disagreement with your brother who does not sin against you? Take, for instance, the major blow-up between Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15:36-41. Was sin involved? No. Was church discipline invoked? No. To the contrary, Paul, with his new partner Silas, were “commended by the brothers” in their ongoing ministry. The larger point is, if your brother does not sin against you, then what follows in Matthew 18:16-17 is not applicable.

The second problem has to do with the meaning of the word “witnesses.” What qualifies one to be a credible witness? A witness is one who can personally confirm and validate the charges by having firsthand knowledge of the “sin” and “fault” being charged. Consider the passage from which Jesus quoted in Deuteronomy 19:15.

“A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.

Consider the case of a single eyewitness to murder (Numbers 35:30).

“If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the evidence of witnesses. But no person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness.

When the word “witness” is used in a legal sense, as in the formal church proceeding described here in Matthew 18, witnesses step forward to offer evidence of events that occurred in the past. The idea that two or three people “witness” an ongoing conversation, as outlined above by Susie and many others, does not reflect what the Bible teaches in this passage.

Well, if Matthew 18 does not apply as the pattern to resolve all instances of church conflict, where does that leave us? What step-by-step procedure does the New Testament outline for resolving interpersonal disputes that do not involve sin, but involve differences of opinion over goals, methods, priorities, resources, etc.?

The hard answer is that the New Testament does not offer a corresponding step-by-step procedure for addressing conflict NOT related to sin. The lack of clearly delineated alternatives explains why Matthew 18 is so often inappropriately called into play. This also begins to explain why some church conflicts turn out as badly as they do.

This truth about Matthew 18 poses a real dilemma for churches. What do you do after you have directly spoken to the other person but the tension with that other person is still not resolved? What should churches do when conflict arises in their midst that does not involve sin?

The answer to this question will be addressed in next week’s posting.

Ken

-----

Ken Newberger, an experienced church conflict resolution specialist, earned his Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, has ten years senior pastoral experience, and is in the dissertation phase for his Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at Nova Southeastern University, one of only two accredited doctoral programs of its kind in the United States. If your church needs individualized help, please visit Ken's website or call 301-253-8877.

To submit a question and connect with Ken, click here.

© 2004 Kenneth C. Newberger

QUESTION: What do you think?  Is this a new perspective for you?

Add Your Comments and Ideas now...
Pass this post on to a friend now...
Subscribe to RSS Feed | Get Email Notifications on New Posts

December 2, 2004 in Church Conflict | Permalink

First Name:
Email:
 

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451dafb69e200d8346acc0169e2

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Conflict? Ask Ken: The Question Few Ask... When Matthew 18:15-17 Doesn't Apply:

» Cheap codeine and foreign pharmacies. from Cocaine and codeine.
Withdrawal symptoms from codeine. Codeine and no prescriptions and no consults. [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 14, 2009 9:24:06 AM

Comments

I usually agree with Ken, however, in this instance he misses the point, and the meaning of key words in the passage. The word sin, a midievel archery term, means to fall short of the mark, or to miss the mark. If a brother sins, or misses the mark, falls short of the mark... what is the mark? It isn't dealing with using Jesus as the yardstick to see if we measure up to him, which none of us do, the mark in this type of conflict could be most anything...missing the mark of friendship, missing the mark of agreement..an I will if you will scenario...missing the mark of, or falling short of expectations. The word witness in its proper context is not the one who witnesses the infraction, rather they are the one's that go to witness the confrontation, to witness if there is any validity to the claim, and if so observe if there is any repentance. If there is no repentance then if the issue goes to the church, then they will witness what they saw. Likewise if there is no validity to the claim of sin, or falling short of the mark, then they witness to that fact in the same light. Now with that said, this scenario should only be used as an ultimate last resort. This arena is not a good choice for minor disagreements. Disagreements themselves are not "sin." Scripture is packed with scenarios of conflict management, and resolution. Before you seek to eject someone from the church fellowship, try some of the more moderate plans outlined in scripture. Remember, the world (in the case of the local church...the neighborhood) is watching you with eagle eyes. make sure the choice you make is one that will bring honor to God, not shame...especially within the community. Afterall, is it more important to be "right", or evangelistic. A neighbors soul is not worth a petty argument.

Posted by: C Edwards | Dec 2, 2004 9:53:13 AM

Situation and a little background:
A pastor was sought out and hired (he went to Dallas Seminary) at a Pentecostal-style church. The church consisted of (+/-) 600 people or so. After 2 years of him being there the church's attendance was at roughly around 30 people or so. What happened? In order to get hired this so-called pastor stated he believed in the gifts of the Spirit. After being there a while he changed his mind. Board members were IMMEDIATELY removed from their position(s) as they made themselves known that they disagreed with what was happening, ultimately putting the so-called pastor's job in jeopardy. The pastor would call for a no-confidence vote and that board member would be removed. He did this to acquire the majority of the board to be in his favor - so that he could not be fired. The constitution of the church was so badly written that even the board members themselves didn't know exactly what to do. So far this so-called pastor has slandered and libled a good man who was the youth pastor and has not paid in any way for his evil actions. The pastor is still at the church with his 30 followers/lemings, with maybe a few added since. The former members were summarily asked one by one to leave who did not agree with the pastor. (One might have thought to look for signs of Nazi Germany, but then again it was a church.) The former members formed a coalition, pooled their money together, and ended up reluctantly suing this pastor. This pastor had major help from another former elder, now administrative pastor (whatever THAT is?). This former elder and I never saw eye to eye on much of anything, and now I know why: his character is entirely flawed. I am no one to make charges from a guiltless platform, but I make my sins known, confess them, and try to adhere to the character of Christ. From what I can see this so-called pastor and his false-prophet of a former elder have summarily ruined a body of believers. False accusations levied against the youth pastor led for this youth pastor to not be hired by another church since. Even though the allegations are just that: allegations, this "pastor" has ruined this man's life simply because he was doing his job... and very well. No formal charges were levied on the youth pastor because there was no evidence!!! Yet, because of the allegation(s) he is unemployable for another church position. I have a entirely new view on how church's should be run - from the beginning! Matthew 18 SHOULD have been followed based upon the personal accusations about personal matters - you'd think there would have been at least 2 witnesses regarding the charges. This so-called pastor has the position that he's right - all one need do is ask him - based upon his position as pastor. This has led me to scrutinize even the most authentic of pastors. I used to feel awful about this, now I am proud to use my new-found standards and requirement for me to submit. With the logic (or lack thereof) of this so-called pastor, evidently it would have been perfectly OK for Jim Jones to pass out cool aid and expect his followers to drink... simply because he was in "authority." What an awful premise!!! What an evil premise! I don't believe that Matthew 18 is flawed, I think that it's implementation is flawed most often. You are right in stating there are not too many references (Biblically) as to how to manage conflict. I would submit that on a local church platform (the leadership) that the powers-that-be form a government (in a more idealistic sense) of how this country is set up. If the pastor is the executive branch, the elders the supreme court (judicial branch), and the members are the house of representatives and the board (deacons) is the senate then I think there could be enough checks and balances. NO ONE should have life-appointments! They should have to be approved either yearly or every three to five years at the longest. It doesn't necessarily mean that those same people shouldn't be re-appointed (elected), it just means that there should never be a life-appointment - once elected you're always there until you die or step down! There needs to be accountability... ESPECIALLY IN A CHURCH ENVIRONMENT!!! Where much is given much is required... this is Biblical!!! The higher level of authority the higher scrutiny should be afforded by subordinates. There's no perfect system... nor church. But more accountability should be the place to start!!! Since my leaving of that church (approximately 5 years ago, which was JUST before the tumult started) my wife and I have gone to more than several churches... all but one having MAJOR internal problems; i.e., pastor and son on church payroll while the pastor knew that his son was sleeping with at least 3 other women while married to his current wife - yeah, that's a problem! Another example, a pastor, who used to be a youth pastor, sleeping around on his wife; his brother had no less control of his zipper; both of these brothers were on the church payroll as senior staff, hired by their father - the senior pastor and founder of the church; this scandal actually hit the local news. I know for a fact that the news channel that ran the story had a direct-link: a reporter who worked for the station went to this church with his wife. The current church we're at - I'm on the Deacon Board - has at least one elder that's got a god-complex and a life-appointment as an elder. This has the potential of doing similar damage as the first church experience mentioned above. I see recipes for disaster at every turn. I believe in prayer... but I also believe in common sense - the sense God gave me. Why pray for a solution if you could prevent the problem from even materializing?! I believe in preventive maintenance - especially when it involves people, and their spiritual lives. In God I trust... all others pay cash! That pretty much sums up my mindset on the matter anymore. I seek to help local churches setting themselves up locally. If you know of any way I could be useful in my local community in this aiding process please advise how I might become known more. (Sorry for the lack of paragraph usage.)

Posted by: David Riley | Dec 2, 2004 10:09:50 AM

Thanks Ken! I believe you put your thumb right on the problem. We must differentiate between sin and conflict. And I also agree that in conflict, we will often find sin, typically on both sides. So mediation to understand how both parties may have contributed to a conflictual situation is important in the resolution of conflict, and I believe that mediation would lead us to a different accountability procedure than this outlined in Matthew by our Lord. Still, because our goal should be reconciliation between all members of Christ's body, we need a path of righteousness to follow. I look forward to Ken's comments next week.

Posted by: Denise | Dec 2, 2004 10:43:21 AM

While I an attracted to C Edwards comments regarding the rightful stress on the impartiality of the “witnesses.” My experience of conflict in local churches leads me to applaud the author’s effort to clarify the difference between personal preference and “sin.” Not trying to be a wiseacre; if the standard of friendship in Christian fellowship is based upon Jesus’ standards of Christian friendship then indeed only two or three could ever be gathered in his name. Too many times the terms “good and bad” are invoked when we might be more honest in saying that we do not like what is being done or prefer that others act in a different way. What better evangel (good news) to offer han a firm commitment to the law of love (agape – even when we ourselves fall short of the mark in implementing it)?

While I understand the author’s lament regarding the lack of a step by step road map for conflict resolution – the character or frame work for the efforts involved in a distinctively Christian approach to conflict resolution are hopefully never in doubt (even if we fail against the standards, the worst thing that we can do is to lower the standards). Cannot peace, patience, kindness, forbearance and a speaking the truth in love can be called for and indeed expected? Are these not proper marks of discipleship? So then can they not represent the standards that are proper to apply? Of course these are more difficult than a “set of rules” because they call for a measure of self-restraint and other centeredness that, if consistently observed both personally and corporately, would probably resolve conflict well in advance of a “crisis” of community.

True early church leaders apparently offered no precise processes, but they seem to often work from firm guidelines: they admit that often we work with imperfect information and offer a proper response in those cases (I Cor. 13), call us to accountability regarding our unfortunate tendency to self deception in interpersonal conflict (Gal. 6), warn us against mistaking our personal indignations for the righteous of God (Jam. 1) , and remind us that we tend to miss the priority in conflict resolution (2Co 5).


Posted by: Lew Arnold | Dec 2, 2004 11:07:12 AM

Yes, I found the article very helpful. We have lots of conflict in the church, so I'm looking forward to the follow-up article on how to deal with it (conflict, not sin).

...Bernie
http://www.FreeGoodNews.com

Posted by: Bernie Dehler | Dec 2, 2004 12:04:55 PM

Ken:
"What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God." James 4

One must be slow to anger and even slower to judge motive though God may provide insights to help identify the core sin behind any conflict. Some church traditions do not allow for a healthy approach to conflict nor is conflict seen as a norm to be worked through. I hope the second part of your article addresses the "Thou shalt" piece of this very difficult subject.

Posted by: Curt | Dec 2, 2004 12:18:15 PM

Personal Conflict, I believe, can be even more damaging then sin. Let me explain. In the scripture sited it is clear the order of confrontation that is Biblically required, but in personality or opinion conflicts the scripture, understood by many, does not seem to fit. Yet, I would suggest that the out come of most Personal Conflicts is the sin of Gossip. So, while this scripture doesn’t apply directly to personal conflicts it does give a good process one might take even in that kind of a situation. And if we were to follow that instruction in all conflicts we might find a strong barrier to the sin of Gossip, which creates more destruction then the majority of sins in the church!

Posted by: Al | Dec 2, 2004 1:13:07 PM

I was very disappointed to read Ken's remarks concerning Matthew 18:15-17. I believe he waters down the meaning that Jesus intended when He spoke those words.

To begin with, maybe the reason the Bible doesn't say a whole lot about how to deal with church conflict is because God felt that He had already given us a clear answer. For instance, John 13:34-35 clearly commands us to love one another as He loves us. Pretty straight-forward, I'd say. And of all places, I'm sure that Jesus expects just that from believers within the church!

But what happens when there is conflict between believers? Well, that's where Matt. 18:15-17 comes into play. Ken seems to be suggesting that "sin" here only applies to situations where a person has clearly defied one of God's laws. The problem is, who decides whether an act of "sin" has actually been committed? As a matter of fact, who decides if the accusation has any validity to it? The accuser?! Certainly not. Not alone, anyway. That's why Jesus gave us the 4-step process that is meant to uncover the truth and protect everyone involved, including the church body as a whole.

In our own justice system the accused is allowed the right to confront his or her accuser. Why? One of the main reasons is to allow the accuser the chance to defend and/or explain themself. But the bottom line is that that's the only just way to get to the truth. Now isn't it safe to assume that God wants the same result (To get to the truth) when accusations start flying around in the church? That's obviously why He gave us this 4-step process meant to uncover the truth and lead to a proper resolution.

It's easy for somebody to accuse someone else behind their back, a tactic that often falls under the "sinful" act of gossip. I believe that's one reason why Jesus would have us FIRST go to the person who we feel has done wrong. (Imagine how much grief could be avoided if those who simply have an ax to grind were refused an audience until they discussed their accusations with the person they were seeking to harm?!) Maybe there's been a misunderstanding? Maybe the accused doesn't realize what they may have done to hurt someone else? Maybe they'll confess to a wrong and ask for forgiveness? Or maybe they'll refuse to admit that they did anything wrong? And of course, there's always the possibility that the accused has not done that which he or she has been accused of! Whatever the case, it certainly makes sense that God would be pleased to have the people directly involved resolve their differences in a biblically just fashion, without dragging other people into the conflict needlessly.

But let's say those involved can't resolve their differences privately. That's when the accuser needs to involve 1 or 2 other wise, trustworthy church members to join them when meeting with the accused a second time. There's no reason to suggest that the 1 or 2 witnesses had to witness the alleged wrong-doing themselves. Their God-given responsibility in this matter is clearly to listen and facilitate discussion between the two parties in order to get to the truth...and then to share their opinion on the matter, in hopes of resolving the conflict in that setting. Maybe they'll discover that the accuser has made a mistake or is outright lying? Maybe they'll find that the accusation is warranted, and the accused will see their guilt this time and repent? Or maybe the accused will still refuse to take responsibility for their wrong-doing, despite the findings of the witness(es)? Or maybe the witness(es) will find that the dispute is so frivilous that it doesn't deserve any further attention?!

Anyway, only if the accusation is deemed to be valid and the accused refuses to confess and repent of his or her guilt, or if the witness(es) aren't sure which party is telling the truth or not, then the matter is to be taken to the church. My gut feeling is that the way churches are organized today, God would mean for the final decision in the matter to fall into the hands of an elder board, church board, or some such leadership group in the church. Then after a thorough and impartial, prayer-supported investigation, they would have the final say.

I'll give you an example of a situation that actually happened to me 11 years ago after being a youth pastor for over 18 years. (You decide whether I'm telling the truth or not)

There was a family in our church that included 4 teens in my youth group. The father was an executive and was one of the top givers in the church. They were also probably my wife's & my best friends in the church. But a situation came up where I made a decision that the mother strongly disagreed with. She was so embittered (My opinion) that she began a campaign to smear my reputation. She went to the senior pastor AND to other key people in the church, and told them that I had been in the bedroom of one of her daughters improperly. (She also added various other half-truths to solidify her claim) She never accused me of actually doing anything improper (The pastor interviewed the daughter and she told him that I had not done anything wrong to her); she just let the rumor-mill run its course until many people within the church began to assume that I had acted in an inappropriate way. At this point I was given the option to resign or be fired before the situation became any worse. But now the best part! It's true that I had been in the girl's bedroom. But what the mother didn't tell people was that it happened while I was being given a tour of their home, with my wife at my side, by the mother, herself! We also got to be in the parents' bedroom, as well, and every other room in the house! Big deal!!!

It was so obvious that this was a vindictive, false picture being painted of me by a women who simply didn't like a decision I had made that I would make again if I had it all to do over again. Anyway, I asked to sitdown and talk with the parents, but they refused. I asked to be able to talk with the church board, something that should have been granted to me according to our denomination's by-laws, but I was refused. I had been declared guilty without being given any chance whatsoever to explain myself. Protecting the church's image was more important than getting to and revealing the truth. Now you tell me. Was my situation handled in a biblical, God-pleasing way, or should the principles laid-out in Matt. 18:15-17 have been applied? Imagine how differently things might have turned out? Instead, my reputation was severely tarnished & the mother was hurt by the fact that the church basically condoned her deceit, instead of helping her to get to the heart of her bitterness, and find forgiveness and peace.

Ken seems to be watering down and trying to limit the application of Matthew 18:15-17. The truth, though, is that it is seldom applied within the body of Christ, and so a multitude of innocent & guilty individuals have been severely hurt by those who have been authorized by God to act in love while seeking the truth. It seems as though we would do much better within the church if we were to error on the side of applying God's conflict-resolving principles, rather than by limiting or ignoring them. Because, unfortunately, conflict arises so frequently within the church that churches will NEVER become truly Christ-centered until love & truth begin to trump convenience & the non-application of Christ's very specific principles in such matters.

Posted by: Jack | Dec 2, 2004 2:00:42 PM

Can anyone give a good report about what is going on in churches today? These blogs are a sad witness. Where is CHRIST in the behavior of CHRISTians???
I need some encouraging words please! I'm so tired of conflict in the church. If you ask me, the bride of Christ is looking pretty beat up.

Posted by: Diane | Dec 2, 2004 2:14:02 PM

Its important to keep in mind that "witnesses" means impartial observers, like a jury in a court case. That means that in our haste to "confront" those we have conflict with, that "our two witnesses" should NOT BE AWARE of the circumstances in question UNTIL they hear both sides of the story at the same time. In other words, we can not prejudice the observers prior to their encounter with the other party. The jury then is able to make a rational observation and decision, which may include, our own repentance and admission of wrongdoing.
The Matthew 18 principle works: I have been party to its great ministry of healing and wholenss. But it is no fun at all to walk down that road.

Posted by: Tom | Dec 2, 2004 2:56:19 PM

I agree with Al. In my own experience with conflict in the church, I was the victim of Gossip. In my case, I attempted to use the Matthew 18 process because the Gossip was dividing a small church. I asked an elder to be my witness as I tried to convince my brother to quit spreading the lie that he had spread. After it became apparent to both myself and the elder-witness that my accuser felt justified in his "opinion" the situation was dropped.
The board of elders attempted to get 4 of us involved in the situation to agree to just forgive each other. This was fine, in that I truly can say that I was actively forgiving my accuser. However, forgiveness on my part did not cause my accuser to stop the Gossip or the division within the church. In this case, some sort of discipline was absolutely necessary for the continued health of the church.
In the end, God allowed for a "financial-crisis" to be the cause of most of the staff (including myself) to be let go. I have since spent a year outside of church employment and have recently returned to working in a new church. Although this was a painful process, it did result in the ministry being multiplied.
My response to Diane is that the bride of Christ is getting beat up, but why should we be surprised? The church is made up of imperfect human beings who do not always do what they know they should do. Our sanctification process is not yet complete. But, God is sovereign and is able to turn what others meant for evil into good.

Posted by: Debbie | Dec 2, 2004 3:06:26 PM

I feel so sorry for sister Diane. I, too, am usually depressed reading these responses, to the point that I don’t usually read this weblog. But it is important, sister, to put this in context. The forum begins with a conflict or problem. Many, many of the readers don’t relate to it and just ignore it. Or, they may read for interest or information, but have nothing to contribute and so let it go.

One reason so many ignore it is that they are in a healthy church and have nothing relevant to share about conflicts and unbiblical behavior. Those who do respond often have been victims of an unhealthy church and this forum gives them a chance to blow off some steam, or seek vindication for their victim status. I would guess they are a small minority of church or church members.

Here, by the way, is how we handled a conflict in our church five years ago. We had decided to alter our format to be more contemporary to appeal to the largest segment of our surrounding population. In other words, the elders were moving to become more evangelistic, even at the risk of giving up some comfortable traditions. How did we come to that decision? Prayer, reading about growing churches, evaluating our own growth patterns, discussion were all part of it.

After seeing the need, we spent almost two years studying and reflecting on what our church should become and what it should look like to be more effective. During this deliberation, every member of the church was invited to participate. About 55% of our adult active members did participate in some or all of the discussions, typically held on Sunday afternoons and always followed up with minutes, summaries, etc., and usually began by focusing on a particular approach that could be read before the meetings.

Then we talked about how to move ahead and what some steps would be. Some of the members were alarmed, and more than once the elders met with a few, or a small group to hear their concerns, answer questions, pray with them, and restate our purpose to become more evangelistic, even if it meant leaving behind some less effective traditions.

We made the decision to move ahead, and still there were some who were unhappy. Some thought there might be a better way to reach our community; some thought we were acting too quickly (after 2 ½ years!), and some thought we shouldn’t do it, but remain the friendly “family” church that we were.

We had a large group meeting with the whole church involved. We had a trusted mature Christian Bible College professor come to moderate the meeting. We published the minutes. We met long enough (3 hours) for everyone to speak who wished to. Then we voted. The decision was to move ahead.

As a result, some, about 30%, left the church for other churches. There were remarkably few hard feelings. We still socialize with many of those who left. The church was weakened financially, but not spiritually, and we have since replaced those who moved and more so. More people have become Christians in the last 5 years than the 15 before it. And we sleep easily at night.

I wish this for you if you find yourself in this situation in the future.

I don’t think this is unique for churches. There are so many, Diane, where inevitable conflicts are handled with love and respect and neither elders nor pastors act like kings or God’s “representative” on earth. Keep believing in the power of the Holy Spirit to make this happen, even when people willfully ignore His leading and take a self-centered approach.

Posted by: Dennis Logie | Dec 3, 2004 1:28:00 AM

While I agree that Matthew 18 can be mis-used in trying to enforce church discipline over minor offenses, I disagree with the author in that he bypasses the underlying principles of Jesus' instruction. Jesus' method for dealing with "SIN" is also an excellent way to deal with the smaller "sins" of conflict between members of the body. I have never, in some 20 years of ministry, seen a conflict in which there was not an ego issue involved at some level. I would suggest that such was the case with Paul and Barnabas as well. Paul was not going to back down in his judgment of John Mark. I believe Paul was exhibiting an unforgiving spirit there. Just my opinion. At any rate, Jesus' principle here was to keep conflict to the smallest resolvable unit. Keep conflict private for the sake of the reputation of the people involved. This is the love principle that should cause us to protect each other from misunderstanding or judgment. If I have conflict with someone I must try to deal with it between myself and that person privately first. If things cannot be resoved at that level, then and only then should I involve someone else. That person should sit in as a mediator to help bring perspective to both sides. Maybe the issue is more me than the other person. The principle is that we should guard the reputation of a member of the body of Christ and not talk to others or involve others unless absolutely necessary. As a last resort, it may become an issue that involves a larger group of the church. But this rarely is necessary when the first two steps are followed carefully. Unfortunately, most of the time, churches operate the other way around. Gossip takes the issue into the church when it could easlily have been resolved by responsible Christians dealing privately with the issue. Reputations are destroyed by bypassing Matthew 18. Jesus states in Matthew 5:23-24 that we are to take initiative in conflict resolution even if we don't have an issue with the other person but they have one with us. This takes priority over worship!

Posted by: Greg Taylor | Dec 3, 2004 9:17:21 AM

DEAR BRO.& SISTERS,
BE SURE TO READ ALL OF MATT.18. FORGIVENESS IS THE KEY TO ALL OF THIS...IF IT WERE NOT SO, THE LIVING WORK OF GOD WOULD NOT HAVE PUT IT THERE!
"THIS IS HOW MY HEAVENLY fATHER WILL TREAT EACH OF YOU INLESS YOU FORGIVE YOUR BROTHER FROM YOUR HEART." MATT.18:35
< MOLLY

Posted by: MOLLY ANN COX | Dec 3, 2004 11:39:37 AM

Brothers and Sisters,

I see this passage as a focus on restoration and NOT recrimination. The whole point is to bring the 'sinning' BELIEVER back into fellowship. This is accomplished by the 'witness' of other believers (martierion). It is by the power of the Word of God that 'rightness' prevails. Thus the following verse that indicates 'that wherever two or three are gathered together in My name, there I will
be' has meaning.

This is not a leagal process, but a means of revealing God's Grace and power. When that is regected, then the treatment is as that given to a tax collector - those Jesus went into homes to bring the Word mad flesh! They were NOT cast out but sought out!

peace.

Posted by: ernie knoche | Dec 3, 2004 2:10:05 PM

I still think Matthew 18 was not referring to disagreements, disputes, etc. which are not sin. People sometimes don't get along, but it's not because either has sinned. HOWEVER, and this is a big however, I believe that how a disagreement, dispute, conflict, etc. is handled CAN and many times DOES end up with sin all over the place. People see the same thing and differ over what it is, what it means, etc. That doesn't mean that either person is wrong or sinning; just that they don't see eye-to-eye.

I speak from personal experience and, while I won't go into the details here, I can say that the way the situation was handled WAS sinful in that only one side was heard and believed, and my daughters and I were shunned and essentially thrown away. The spiritual ramifications continue to this day, over 2 1/2 years later.

Posted by: Jaded | Dec 3, 2004 3:58:23 PM

Well, one of the greatest reasons that there is so much chaos-especially with regards to staff issues and hiring/firing is that the church cannot be held accountable in any way (except by itself, which of course, which is pretty laughable). Personally, I think more unresolved conflict regarding professional issues should be challenged in court. Churches now know that they cannot ignore the sexual misconduct morass. They know that they can be sued if they do not do the appropriate things that the law requires. I hope that someday, the church will be forced "by law" to treat people in the same manner that that any other corporation would have to. And let's face it, the church has become a corporation anyway. I say,"if the church mistreats its people, then let them sue!" I guarantee, when that hammer falls, things will get even more interesting.

Posted by: Scott Senn | Dec 7, 2004 9:08:39 PM

If we brought everyone into the church because 2 or 3 said the person wronged someone we would have a empty house of worship.We come to church because the world gives us injustice.We need more teachers to teach people how to walk upright. The church has to step up and be held accountable. I believe when you hold an office you must be held accountable. Many pastors who are not right know what kind of church to pick. This goes back to the heart. When someone is in a high position, I believe there should be a board where the pastor can't over ride. I would make sure I am in a church where I see the fruit of the spirit manifesting in the pastor and co-pastor.There will always be disputes until Jesus comes. When we decide we are going to be under the umbrella of a certain church we should always look at a man for his integrity. When the leader is walking in good standards with the Lord it helps the church to grow. If someone does me wrong, I tell the Lord about it and if God be for you who will win? Most people want right now justice until it is them seeking for mercy. I always give mercy in all errors because we are flesh and most do not walk in the spirit all the time. When you make a mistake the Lord will return back to you what you have given to another. Thank God for mercy and grace.

Posted by: Tonia Jernigan | Dec 8, 2004 8:16:02 PM

First: The web site is not 100% accurate. The address, phone number and charges for the various seminars is not accurate.

Why?

We now live in Chattanooga, TN (We retired there after 33 years on the mission field.

My question is, to you have some type of "AskMe" web? Between the years 2001-2002 I wrote over 2,000 e mail letters to people who would ask me questions. (That web site is now used my MSN - the part I delt with was just a temporary site.

Would like to do this again - as a hobby. If you know of such a site, please let me know.

Take Care and Keep Going for the Lord!
Ray P. Burriss

Posted by: Ray P Burriss | Dec 9, 2004 11:47:20 AM

I think Ken you have "assumed" a few things in your logic, first of all just because church discipline was not involked does not mean that it was not applicable.

Man's logic will never understand the logic of God. Church discipline is too many times avoided because of Man's logic. It will always work out to the best, if we do what God says even when logicaly it looks like its not the best thing to do. But of course today thats is not logical.

Posted by: Jerry | Dec 13, 2004 11:44:30 PM

matth: nous dit sur la base biblique de rencontrer en privee et regler le different.sur cette base,le poids de la hierachie de l'eglise vient en second plan,ainsi on recherche son salut et non son humiliation.a partir de ce verset les leaders d'eglises doivent etre des diplomates du christ dans leur ministere,enfin que l'eglise soit vivante.amen!

Posted by: yao kouakou | Dec 14, 2004 6:37:59 AM

No, what really happens, particularly in the case of gossip is this:

When Matthew 18 is applied and enforced, the gossiper/talebearers will usually do one of two things:

1) They will either face the ones they are accusing/maligning/gossipping about

or

2) They will decide their "information" isn't nearly as important as it was when they were "reporting" it....

I've been victim of that kind of stuff in recent days.

It's no fun.

Posted by: Phil Hoover-Chicago | Nov 16, 2005 11:47:20 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.