I have just been on a week-long training course on ‘Transforming Church Conflict’ run by Bridge Builders. It was the best training course I have ever been on. The content, and delivery, were excellent; the team facilitating the course, first-class. But what made it so significant and so helpful was this: so much of what I am encouraged to focus on as a church leader (mission, growth, discipleship) can seem esoteric to others, passions specific to my role and my vocation, hard to relate to; but everyone can relate to the experience of conflict, in family life, between partners, at work, on soap operas, on the streets, in the news...
The Bible is full of conflict. In fact, you can see conflict, in some form or other, in every story, on every page. To some, that is clear evidence that religion is a root of conflict, that religious texts promote and perpetuate conflict. To others, it is deeply embarrassing, especially in the light of so much conflict between followers of Jesus today; more than that, I know many Christians who believe that our internal conflicts within the Church detract from our mission to share the love of God.
I would suggest that conflict is inherent to life, and that the Bible is full of conflict because it is fully concerned with life. I would also suggest that the accounts of conflict found in the Bible are very much concerned with how conflict might be transformed so that something good is brought forth, something it was not previously possible to imagine into being, even (especially) where there is no quick fix.
As such, the Bible is a great resource concerning how we might respond to conflict; and the Church has both great opportunity and no little experience to offer the world an ongoing ministry of reconciliation.
The following posts do not cover the content of the course I have been on, but are my own reflections on conflict in the Bible and our attitude towards it, having been on the course. In my next post, I want to begin to reflect on the opening chapters of the Bible, from this particular perspective.