Rick and Mark meet weekly to pray and discuss men’s ministry at their church. They serve together as friends, but it wasn’t always like that. A year ago they nearly parted ways. “Either you change the way you run the ministry or I quit,” was Mark’s message to Rick.
Rick was leading the men’s ministry at their church and had been excited that Mark wanted to help. They initially seemed effective partners, with complementary personalities and styles. Initially.
Rick grew up in a family that did not deal much with emotions. He is driven to excellence, caring about every detail of any venture. Mark, on the other hand, grew up in a family that thrived on emotional interaction. He wants things to be done well but is much more concerned with relational aspects of life. It was not long before tension developed.
Rick left their ministry-planning meetings charged up and focused. Mark left the same meetings feeling devalued. When Rick analyzed past events and pointed out how they could do better, Mark only heard criticism.
This conflict spilled over into leadership-team meetings as comments and gestures demonstrated that something was wrong. Mark tried to tell Rick how hurt he was, but Rick simply defended himself. At the end of his rope, Mark sent his e-mail threatening to resign.
Rick contacted the pastor overseeing the ministry. Before long, all three men were sitting in a room together, unpacking hurt and offense for four hours. The pastor encouraged them to apologize, but they failed to go deep enough.
Mark left the meeting convinced that he was too sensitive and that Rick should be careful with his words. This did not improve the relationship; in fact, the two men entered a self-protective period in which they related to one another very cautiously.
Months later, while listening to a sermon, Rick was convicted about how his insecurity had contributed to the conflict. He asked Mark if he was willing to make another attempt at reconciliation. They talked with their pastor and decided to enlist the help of a reconciliation ministry providing Christian mediation.
The mediator talked with both men, helping them prepare their own hearts for the reconciliation event. With their pastor and both spouses present, the mediator led the men through a process of listening to one another and finding deeper understanding.
Mark confessed his judgmental attitude toward Rick, and Rick confessed his critical heart. Both worked through specific offenses and granted one another forgiveness. The mediation concluded with a written plan for how they would build on this reconciliation.
Several months later, both men are celebrating their new, deeper friendship. They meet weekly to talk about ministry and to nourish the new growth in their relationship. They still talk occasionally with their mediator, who helps them remain focused on heart-level issues rather than on behavior.
A new level of authenticity has also touched the entire men’s ministry as Rick and Mark work to live out reconciliation. In a recent conversation, Rick looked back over the entire process: “It is hard for leaders to listen. We must be willing to enter into, rather than avoid, conflict because this is how the gospel is worked out. We learn the most about the gospel when we see the conflict through to resolution.”
Reconciliation ministries such as Live at Peace Ministries and Peacemaker Ministries provide conflict coaching and mediation services to assist churches and members resolve disputes in a manner that glorifies God and reconciles relationships.