When I began seminary, I was required to begin an internship at a church or some other kind of ministry. God opened the door in a small church and I began working with college students. During the first staff meeting I ever went to, my pastor told me something I’ll never forget. He said, “Adam, 95% of people who get fired from ministry, don’t get fired over doctrine, they get fired over personality conflicts.” I was stunned to hear such a comment! I couldn’t believe it! People working side by side in ministry don’t get along? Well, God has grown me up a bit since then and my former pastor’s words have proven true time and time again, no matter if I’m ministering in India, Atlanta, or even within the walls of my own congregation. Conflict in ministry seems to be a present reality much of the time for me. I think if you we’re honest with yourselves, you’d all admit that this is true for all of you too.
For the next week or so, I want to focus on this idea of conflict in ministry:
First, I want to walk through Acts 15:36-41, because this is where Paul and Barnabas part ways. It’s one of the biggest ministry conflicts we have in the Bible, so it will prove helpful to us for our purposes here. And second, I want to apply this text, and give some practical advice about dealing with conflict in ministry, some helpful things to do; and some unhelpful things to stay away from. But before I start on this tomorrow, read through the text and spend some time in it:
After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also. But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.