8 Reasons Some Churches Have a History of Only Conflict

Maybe you know this kind of church. Maybe, in fact, you’re a member of one. This is the church whose history is filled with internal squabbling. The community knows them as the “fighting church.” Based on my experience of consulting and studying similar churches, here are some of the reason these churches exist:

  1. A very real enemy seeks to sow division among God’s people. Satan surely delights when believers turn on each other . . . and then do it again . . . and again. He knows our witness is harmed when we continually shoot each other in the back.
  2. They’re led by a bunch of laity who are immature believers. In many cases, they’ve honestly never been discipled to know how to act differently. They’re still responsible for their actions and choices, but they act like baby believers because that’s who they really are.
  3. They’re sometimes led by laity who aren’t believers at all. Nothing they do suggests that they’ve ever had a conversion experience. They’re leading only because they’ve been faithful in attendance—not because they’re walking with the Lord.
  4. Stronger believers leave the church rather than wait for change. And, right or wrong, they often leave quietly so they don’t create further turmoil. When you know conflict is the church’s history, you don’t see much hope in hanging in there to wait for the congregation to get its act together.
  5. Weaker believers just get tired of the fight. They’re so accustomed to being in conflict that they’ve come to accept it as the norm. “That’s just the way so and so is,” they say, “and it’s not going to change.” They almost expect conflict to happen—and it does.
  6. They’ve come to view the church as a place to retreat from the world rather than a place to get re-armed for the battle. That is, the church is their fortress, a place to be protected. Congregations who see themselves as guardians of their tradition rather than lighthouses for the gospel tend to fight a lot.
  7. The church has been reduced to one controlling family, and they don’t even get along with each other. It’s amazing (and sad) to watch, actually. The “family” stands against everyone else, and then they stand against each other after they’re run off everyone else.
  8. Nobody’s ever called the congregation to repentance. Every new pastor assumes he can lead the church in a different direction. Then, it doesn’t happen, and the pastor finds it tough to deal with the garbage. He becomes the next in line of short-term pastors, and he leaves for another ministry (or no ministry at all if he’s seriously wounded). Nobody ever confronts the church.

What would you add to this list? 




  • Greg says:

    Thank you for once again giving great insight into church life. In most of the points you listed, there is a need for repentance and in the others, at least accountability to grow in grace. I have often felt that denominational leadership should take a stronger stance in this process of accountability/ discipline. We find the apostle Paul acting in a similar way when writing to the churches that he is affiliated with. He basically says, y’all are living in sin that is hurting the gospel and if the pastor/elders don’t get it handled before I get back by there, I will deal with it myself”. In some cases, the autonomy of the local church has turned into a license to sin without accountability to anyone but the local church warlord. Hence the whole problem to begin with. And I know the church is accountable to God, but if there was no responsibility for leadership in these cases, then why did Paul do what he did and why give the charge for pastors, elders, and overseers? Just some thoughts.

  • Chris Luck says:

    Identifying problems in churches is a great start, pastor. We also need good pastors who are themselves effective leaders who can speak the truth in love, and encourage, identify with, and uplift the local body of believers of whom they are called to be a shepherd in addition to exhorting and holding members accountable, and not just continually attempting to brow-beat the members into compliance and submission. And who are themselves willing to demonstrate leadership by participating in hands-on ministry, rather than relying on the excuse that “pastors have such a difficult job” as a reason to delegate essentially 100% of their responsibilities other than weekly sermons and the occasional committee meeting.

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