Cause and Cure of Church Conflicts—Ephesians 5

Perhaps most of us can think of examples of church conflicts. I can think of two examples that stand out in my mind. Let’s examine the cause and cure.

Many years ago, a minister told me about one of his former churches. One of his church members threatened him and declared, “Someday, I’m going to own this church.” He was determined to become the head of the church. Some years after that pastor moved to a different church, the man finally gained absolute control of the congregation, contracted a horrible disease and died a slow painful death. A few years later, the church closed, and the building was sold.

A few months ago, a church elder told me a story about his church a few years back. He was happy to see one of the church’s elders being friendly and welcoming people after worship as he met them in the church parking lot. Then, he learned the elder was telling new visitors to their church, “We are trying to get rid of the minister, please don’t come back until he is gone.” This elder did not represent the views of the congregation, but he had become the self-appointed the head of the church.

These examples illustrate two or more causes of conflict. Paul wrote, “Christ is the Head of the Church” (Ephesians 5:23). In these two examples, Christ was not the Head of either of these two men. They had turned from Christ-centeredness to self-centeredness (if they had ever been Christ-centered). They were not subject to Christ, who is the true Head of the Church. They worked independently of Christ, and they wanted their congregation to be what they wanted it to be irrespective of what Christ and the other members of their congregation wanted.

Ephesians 5 also teaches that Christ is the Savior of the Church, which is His Body. In the first example, when the man without Christ as his Head brought enough conflict into the church, eventually those who knew Christ found a new church home. Because this man usurped Christ as the Head of the congregation, at some point Christ the Savior left that congregation. The Christians who left also knew that Jesus had left the building. The congregation’s new self-appointed head and owner eventually died and shortly thereafter the congregation closed its doors and sold the building.

In the second example, after some church leaders and members learned what their elder was doing and saying, they confronted the man and told him that Jesus Christ was the Head of their congregation, not him. They reminded him that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior of the Church and Jesus Christ is the Head of their Church. I do not know all the details, but being unable to control the congregation, this man left the church; then, the congregation began to grow again.

From these two examples, we see how one influential person can cause conflict in a church by denying the fact or by fighting against the truth that Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church. Self-centered people cannot be Christ-centered, and they can cause horrible conflicts in a congregation. The Bible says we will know them by their fruits and causing church conflicts is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

As the Head and Savior of the Church, Christ will sometimes lead His Bible-believing followers to leave such a situation and seek a Church where Christ is indeed the Head of the Church and Jesus Christ is preached as Lord and Savior according to the Bible.

In other cases, as Head and Savior of the Church, the Lord Jesus will lead some Church leaders and members to exercise the appropriate church discipline so everyone will remember to keep Jesus Christ where He belongs as their Head and the Head of His Church. They will warn believers not to follow someone who had denied the Christian faith and has turned from obeying the commands of Christ as one of Christ’s loyal subjects.

The only trustworthy cure for conflict in a church is for the Christians to remain subject to Christ and His lordship and leadership, to prayerfully keep Jesus Christ as their Head personally and as the Head in their Church, to prayerfully study and obey the Bible as the true Word of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ while asking the Holy Spirit to give them the light of understanding, to prayerfully confront those who refuse to be subject to Christ and “to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). Christians follow Christ-centered and Bible-centered leaders instead of selfish and self-centered leaders.

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