14 Reasons Church Conflicts Just Keep Escalating

Ever wondered why church conflict just keeps growing? Here are some reasons the fires of church conflict often burn out of control quickly:

  1. Members care about something.  Some conflict in the church heats up in direct proportion to how much people care about some issue in the church. Their care and their ownership may be misdirected, but they fight for something precisely because they care about it that much. 
  2. Church leaders have too little training in resolving conflict. What we have learned, we’ve often learned the hard way: in the middle of a conflict, and then primarily through our failures.
  3. We face a supernatural enemy who delights in conflict. From the Garden of Eden, Satan has sought to turn followers of God against other followers. He’s sly – and viciously and quickly divisive.
  4. Kindling for conflict sometimes lies all over the congregation. That’s what happens when internal conflicts smolder throughout the church. Each “conflict” may be small, but the combination of many conflicts creates ready-made fuel.  
  5. Nobody’s paying attention to sparks. I’m amazed by how many leaders are caught off guard when their congregation erupts in flames. That usually means the leaders are too disconnected from their people.
  6. The church has no “up front” relational expectations. The churches I know that deal well with conflict are those who teach how to deal with relational conflict as early as their membership class. 
  7. Nobody’s praying for unity. If Jesus prayed that prayer for His followers (John 17:21), we, too, should be praying for this unity.
  8. People operate in secret.  Anonymous complaints. Unsigned letters. Behind the scenes meetings. Opposition rallies cloaked as “prayer meetings.” It’s all secretive – and it’s often demonic.
  9. Some church members specialize in fueling fires.  They delight in creating conflict and spreading gossip, sometimes deceitfully so under the guise of “prayer requests.” 
  10. Undiscipled people aren’t equipped to deal with potential fires. They’re still babies in Christ – and babies don’t recognize the danger of fires. Actually, somebody must rescue them, or they’ll get burned, too.
  11. Some congregations have a history of fires. They’ve almost burned down in conflict so many times that fires have become the norm. When a fire’s always burning, it doesn’t take much to become a conflagration.
  12. Everything’s dry. The preaching is boring. Evangelism isn’t happening. The worship music puts people to sleep. Nobody’s talking about missions. Young people are nowhere to be found. When everything’s dry, one small spark can quickly consume it all.
  13. Leaders don’t address legitimate concerns. When church leaders blatantly ignore those concerns, nonchalantly hear them, or superficially address them, the conflict remains.
  14. Nobody carries out church discipline. If the church doesn’t take necessary steps to deal with troublesome members (or, if they do so, but in an unbiblical or uncharitable way), they prolong the conflict. 

Any reasons you would add to this list? 



  • mark says:

    I have seen it when the leaders are too disconnected from their people. Most times the leadership is self-perpetuating and meets in secret. There is also little turnover in leadership and no opportunity for one to be removed. I never saw an annual meeting or even a Q&A session in evangelical churches.

    Leaders don’t address legitimate concerns. This is correct. I saw firsthand when even mentioning a concern led to a sermon on murmuring and a condemnation to hell from the pulpit.

  • Charles Kile says:

    I reduce fires by using a chairman’s planning guide from the Jaycees. Most people who cause conflicts want some one else to do their ideas. I hand them a copy of 8 items to cover with their idea to be submitted to leadership for a review. After their idea happens there is a 4 item follow up report for the future person doing the idea. 96% of fire starters will not fill out the chairman’s planning guide.

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