We Can (and Must) Say Hard Things

It’s come to my attention that Church People find it difficult to say hard things that need to be said. We confuse being nice with being lovingly faithful. Too many church leaders are conflict-avoidant because we forget that speaking the truth in love is a thing.


  • A church elder leaves worship in a huff, red-faced and slamming doors on their way out. No one (from the Pastor to another elder) contacts this church elder to find out what’s going on. No one thinks to/has the courage to invite this elder to talk.
  • At the last staff meeting someone snapped, “You always make things about you!” to another staff member. Ouch. And that comment was never addressed in a way that promoted a “we-don’t-talk-like-that-to-each-other culture” way.
  • A lavishly pierced person came to worship last Sunday and nobody talked with that person. But one of the ushers who was busy ushering noticed. In a healthy church, that usher would point out to the leadership that the pierced visitor was not welcomed. Can we have an honest conversation about people who make us uncomfortable and try to change the way we welcome them?
  • The pastor has figured out that a married church leader is inappropriately in relationship with another married church member. So awkward because both couples are friendly with each other and have children who are friends. The pastor hestitates to have a confidential conversation with the church leader because it could result in that leader needing to step down. But she’s such a good worker!

Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.

Effective leaders – especially faith leaders – must be equipped and willing to address conflict. There is no healing without it and to fail to address conflict only leads to more layers of dysfunction and pain.

Are seminaries teaching students how to mediate conflict these days? It’s not something I was taught except by experience and yet I’ve noticed that – with zero exceptions – leaders who know how to address uncomfortable matters with the spirit of Christ are the people serving thriving congregations.

Some churches are run by bullies. Sometimes the bullies are the pastors. Sometimes the bullies are the longterm members. Freeing a congregation of bullies makes it possible to become the Church we are called to be.

Next post: We Can (and Must) Hear Hard Things.

One response to “We Can (and Must) Say Hard Things

  1. Amen. As the hymn “Called as Partners in Christ’s Service” puts it:

    Words of Words of challenge said with care
    Bring new power and strength for action
    Make us colleagues free and fair (vs. 3)

    Now, if only I could better living in that advice myself.


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