How do you handle conflict in the church?

Mar 1, 2021

By Johanna Willett

When COVID-19 canceled all things 2020, Keith Durham knew church revitalization could not be one of those things.

Yes, hosting the scheduled Revitalize West conference over a summer weekend was no longer plausible, but pastors still needed encouragement. So Durham, church health facilitator with the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, decided to take the show on the road.

The gathering of about a dozen pastors at 22nd Street Baptist Church in Tucson on Friday, Feb. 26, represented one of the last stops for the traveling version of Revitalize West.

Over the course of several months, three speakers shared at regional workshops around the state, both in-person and online.

That series concluded Feb. 25-27 with Brian Croft — former senior pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and founder of Practical Shepherding — speaking about pastoring through church conflict.

“In the midst of conflict in the church, how do you continue to pastor and shepherd and love your people and be faithful to what God has called you?” Durham asked.

In addition to the Tucson stop, Croft also spoke at Calvary in Lake Havasu City, Oasis in Yuma and Black Mountain in Phoenix as part of Revitalize West.

During a presentation and Q&A time, Croft shared about his own experiences and how he learned to persist in the midst of church conflict.

“When adversaries come out of the shadows, it’s a sign to stay at the church, not leave,” he said during the Tucson presentation.

Croft challenged pastors to a paradigm shift, sharing that in his experience, it took years before discord gave way to the sweet relationships he now knows. And that required him to stick it out for years.

Often, adversaries mean God is at work, he added. Conflict, then, is to be expected.

“I think the workshops have allowed there to be more personal engagement with the pastors,” Durham said. “And each of these meetings take on a little bit different of a feel because they’re more localized.”

The previous workshops last fall — led in-person by Rob Peters, founder and president of Corpus, and online by Matt Queen, an associate dean at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary — covered church culture, revitalization, evangelism and discipleship.

“I feel like the issues that are facing our churches and our pastors need attention on a regular basis,” Durham says. “Pastors and churches need to be encouraged to keep leaning into impacting their communities and moving forward in the Great Commission.”

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