By God’s grace, most conflicts between Christians can be revolved personally and privately. There are times, however, when we may need the assistance of other people to help us address complicated, prolonged or emotionally charged differences. Thus, there are three different levels at which conflict may be addressed.
1. Personal Peacemaking
Most of the peacemaking passages in the Bible are directed at individual Christians, which shows that God expects each of us to take personal responsibility for doing everything in our power to resolve conflicts we may have with other people (see, e.g., Matt. 5:9; 5:23-24; 18:15; Rom. 12:18; Gal. 6:1; Col. 3:12-15).
A summary of key peacemaking principles is available at Biblical Peacemaking, including: how to identify the underlying causes of conflict, when and how to confess, confront and forgive wrongs, and how to negotiate reasonable agreements. For more detailed guidance on personal peacemaking, see The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict (available at the RW360 Bookstore) and Guiding People Through Conflict.
If you are a party to a conflict and need advice on how to apply these peacemaking principles, we encourage you to share the resources mentioned above with your pastor or a spiritually mature friend and seek their advice on how to apply them in your situation. If you need additional advice from a trained conciliator, please complete the request form provided through this link. If you are seeking to reconcile other people in a dispute by serving them as a conflict coach or mediator, please see the sections below.
2. Church-Based Conciliation
As desirable as it is to resolve conflict personally, the Bible is filled with examples where individual Christians could not make peace on their own. Paul needed Barnabas’ help to be reconciled to the apostles (Acts 9:26-28); Onesimus needed Paul’s intervention to reconcile to Philemon (Philemon). Sometimes each of us needs similar help, which is why the Bible also contains guidance on how the church or other spiritually mature Christians can provide this assistance (see, e.g., Matt. 18:16-20; 1Cor. 6:1-8). Guiding People through Conflict illustrates how Christian leaders can assist other believers to resolve family, congregational, business and even legal conflicts through:
- Conflict coaching (helping one person see how to pursue personal peacemaking more effectively),
- Mediation (facilitating a conversation between the parties that enables them to reconcile and resolve their differences) and
- Arbitration (hearing both sides in a conflict and providing a binding solution to the matter).
If you are seeking to serve other believers as a conflict coach, mediator or arbitrator and have questions about how to carry out the steps described in Guiding People Through Conflict, you may request free advice from an experienced conciliator by completing the form below. This assistance is provided subject to these terms:
- The advice will be provided by a conciliator who has training and experience in applying the principles set forth in Guiding People Through Conflict.
- The first hour of advice is provided for free; after that the conciliator may require hourly compensation.
- The conciliator will provide general information on biblical conflict resolution, also known as “Christian conciliation,” and will not provide legal or other professional advice. If legal counsel or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought.
- By submitting this form, you agree to treat all dealings with RW360 and the conciliator in regard to this dispute as settlement negotiations, which means they will be inadmissible in a court of law or for legal discovery. Furthermore, you agree that you will not try to force any conciliator to divulge any information acquired during a consultation or to testify in any legal proceeding related to this dispute.
- If the conflict you are addressing involves any kind of abuse that is covered by the laws of your state, you agree to take responsibility for carrying out all required reporting to appropriate civil officials.
- Prior to your initial interview, you may be requested to sign and return a copy this type of Interview Agreement to protect the confidentiality of your conversation.
- If you are dissatisfied with the assistance or advice you receive from a conciliator listed in RW360’s Directory, you may provide constructive feedback by using this Conciliation Assistance Report or file a grievance using RW360’s Conciliator Grievance Policy. Links to both of these forms are available within the conciliator’s record in RW360’s Directory.
3. Professional Conciliation
Although most conflicts in a church or ministry can and should be resolved personally or with the help of trained leaders, there are some conflicts that call for the assistance of professionally trained conciliators who subscribe to the procedures and standards set forth in the Handbook for Christian Conciliation.
This kind of professional assistance is especially helpful in these types of cases:
- Serious conflicts within a church or ministry leadership team, including cases of moral failure, governance deadlock or long-term discord. Outside help is especially helpful when there is no designated outside body (e.g., denominational agency) that can provide objective and trusted guidance.
- Serious congregational conflict, especially when the leadership team has little training or experience in conflict resolution or has lost its credibility with a significant portion of the congregation.
- Disputes that involve complex legal issues or significant financial or property rights.
- Marital, divorce or childcare conflicts that the leadership team is not trained to address.
- Cases involving emotional trauma, power imbalances or abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, child, elder, spiritual, etc.).
If you are facing one of these types of conflict, you may either complete the form below for initial advice or you may seek immediate assistance from one of the individuals listed in our Conciliator Directory.