Pat Riley, after "three-peating" in the 1980s with the Los Angeles Lakers (three championships in a row), did what all coaches do. He decided we all wanted to know his winning formula as head coach and wrote a book. During the course of the book in the early chapters, he talked about conflict. He not only allowed it, he encouraged it up to and including physical altercations because, as he viewed it, these allowed for a pecking order to be established among egos which led to leaders emerging. As a principal of an elementary school, I hardly saw this as an option to develop leadership on the campus. Yet we do acknowledge that "iron sharpens iron." (Proverbs 27:17)
In the passage from Acts 6, we see how the apostles handled conflict and used it to strengthen the Christians in that day. The model is useful for families, groups, teams, organizations, corporations and especially churches.
"Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of disciples and said, 'It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore pick from you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.' And what they said pleased the whole gathering and they chose.... (seven men including Stephen)." (6:1-5)
A second lesson from this passage (yesterday's lesson being identifying the conflict and dealing with it) is this: The apostles spoke the truth in love to a crowd and elevated the conversation. When the complaint rose to their level (when and how it rose to that level isn't told), they dealt with it, but their response is interesting. "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables." In other words, they did several things by framing their response that way: acknowledge the problem and not minimize it, elevate it to the mission level of the church, and speak in truth.
It is clear that the church at that time respected the role of the apostles to the point that they could say, "This is what we do and why we are here." It is clear that an air of love and respect dwelt within the church for them to respond in what appears to be a blunt manner. And they placed the issue into a mission framework - the church is about spreading the word. Caring for others is important, but can be done by others because our role is about the mission of the church.
When we come into conflict, are we equally equipped for the task as the apostles were? Can we speak in truth and love with one another? Do we look at the issue as it relates to the mission of the church? How does this translate into families and other places we find ourselves (work, teams, friends)?
We pray for this clarity and for this love as we grow together in Christ.
Hope Men's Ministry