A church leader’s words have the power to resolve or exacerbate conflict. Here are responses that make things worse.
Over the years of my church consulting and teaching, I’ve been privy to too many church conflicts exacerbated by a leader’s unwise words. I don’t intend to say that all these leaders had no legitimate issue with their congregation, but I would contend that their words didn’t help:
1. “I don’t answer to anyone but God.” We do answer to God, but we also are responsible to those who call us to lead them.
2. “I’ll just leave the church.” The problem with saying these words is that the church might just take you up on them.
3. “I assure you I’ll keep confidential whatever you tell me.” Because you never know what you’re going to hear, this commitment is a risky one. If the situation demands telling someone else (e.g., child abuse, suicide), you’ve now proven yourself to be untrustworthy.
4. “God told me that this is the way we are to go.” It’s always dangerous to claim you have the corner on what God wants.
5. “This budget line is for me to use, and I can spend it as I wish.” I’ve heard variations of this statement, and they’re often used to explain away a questionable use of the funds.
6. “That’ll never happen to me.” It’s easy to determine that you’ll never do what somebody else has done – until temptation stares you in the face. Stated overconfidence can prove to be sadly unfounded.
7. “I give my time and energy, and that counts as my tithe.” Some might debate whether the New Testament requires a tithe, but nobody I know asserts that no financial giving is okay.
8. “I’ll be praying for you.” That’s a proper and important word to give to church members … unless you’re not likely to pray. It’s bad news when you said you’d pray, but you can’t even remember the issue when your church member gives you an update.
9. “I’m the one with the seminary degree.” Obviously, I believe education matters—but I would never advise using it as a club against those with whom you disagree.
10. “This is my church.” God has a way of showing us otherwise.
This article originally appeared on ChuckLawless.com.