How to Deal With a Divisive Person in the Church
How to Deal With a Divisive Person in the Church

Dealing with a divisive person in the church can be a challenging and emotionally taxing experience. It’s a situation that no church community wishes to encounter, yet it’s not uncommon. These individuals can disrupt the harmony and unity within the congregation, causing conflicts, spreading negativity, and hindering spiritual growth.

In this article, we will explore the characteristics of a divisive person in the church, the profound impact they can have, and most importantly, effective strategies for handling them with compassion and grace. By the end of this article, you’ll have learnt how to deal with a divisive person in the church and be equipped with the knowledge and tools necessary to navigate delicate situations to restore peace and unity within your church community.

Characteristics of a Divisive Person in Church

Learning how to deal with a divisive person in the church begins with recognizing the telltale signs of their behavior. These individuals often exhibit a range of characteristics that can be detrimental to the harmony of the congregation. Let’s delve into the most common traits of a divisive person:

#1. Constant Complaining

Divisive individuals tend to be chronic complainers. They often find fault with various aspects of church life, from the sermon content to the music choices and even the seating arrangements. Their constant dissatisfaction can create a negative atmosphere and breed discontent among other church members.

#2. Gossip and Rumor-Spreading

One of the most destructive behaviors of a divisive person is their tendency to engage in gossip and rumor-spreading. They may twist facts or create baseless stories to undermine trust among church members and leaders. This can lead to confusion and mistrust within the congregation.

#3. Unwillingness to Listen

Divisive individuals often refuse to listen to differing viewpoints or constructive criticism. They may dismiss others’ opinions and insist on their own way, making it difficult to engage in productive discussions or problem-solving.

#4. Resistance to Authority

These individuals often exhibit resistance to the authority of church leaders. They may challenge decisions, openly criticize leadership, or even attempt to undermine the pastor’s or elders’ authority. This behavior can create tension and discord within the church hierarchy.

#5. Creating Factions

Divisive people have a knack for forming factions or cliques within the church. They gather like-minded individuals who share their grievances and work together to further their divisive agenda. This can lead to fractured relationships and a divided congregation.

#6. Avoiding Conflict Resolution

Divisive individuals often shy away from healthy conflict resolution processes. Instead of addressing issues directly and seeking resolution through open communication, they may opt to harbor resentment or escalate conflicts covertly. This can result in unresolved tensions simmering beneath the surface.

#7. Self-Centeredness

A divisive person in the church typically displays a high degree of self-centeredness. They may prioritize their personal preferences, opinions, and desires over the greater good of the congregation. This self-absorption can hinder collaborative decision-making and unity.

#8. Manipulative Behavior

These individuals are skilled in manipulation and can employ tactics like guilt-tripping, emotional manipulation, or playing the victim to garner sympathy or support for their divisive actions. Their manipulative behavior can be challenging to discern and counteract.

#9. Undermining Unity

Divisive individuals actively work to undermine the unity of the church. They may sow seeds of discord, foster division, or exploit existing tensions. This erodes the sense of community and shared purpose among church members.

#10. Lack of Accountability

One hallmark of divisive individuals is their resistance to accountability. They may evade responsibility for their actions, deflect blame onto others, or refuse to acknowledge the consequences of their divisive behavior. This can make it challenging to hold them responsible for their actions.

#11. Spiritual Pride

Divisive individuals often display spiritual pride, believing that their understanding of faith or doctrine is superior to others. This attitude can lead to a sense of self-righteousness and a judgmental stance towards fellow church members, causing friction and alienation.

#12. Refusal to Forgive

Forgiveness is a fundamental Christian value, but divisive individuals may struggle with forgiving others. They may hold grudges, nurse past grievances, and be unwilling to extend grace and reconciliation to those they perceive as having wronged them.

#13. Disruptive Behavior

Their actions within the church community can be highly disruptive. Whether it’s interrupting meetings, causing disruptions during services, or actively working to derail church events, their behavior can hinder the smooth functioning of the congregation.

#14. Selective Engagement

Divisive individuals often engage selectively within the church. They may participate in activities or events that align with their agenda or interests while avoiding those that promote unity or compromise. This selective engagement can further isolate them from the congregation.

#15. Rejection of Church Discipline

When confronted about their divisive behavior, these individuals may reject or resist attempts at church discipline. They may view discipline as persecution and become even more entrenched in their divisive actions, making resolution challenging.

Recognizing these additional characteristics of a divisive person within your church is crucial for addressing the issue effectively. In the next section, we’ll explore the far-reaching impact that such individuals can have on the church community and its members.

Impact of a Divisive Person in Church

A divisive person in the church doesn’t just affect their own life; their actions and attitudes can have far-reaching consequences for the entire congregation. Understanding the impact of such individuals is vital for motivating the church community to address the issue collectively. Let’s explore the significant consequences in more detail:

#1. Erodes Church Unity

Church unity is the cornerstone of a thriving congregation. When a divisive person’s behavior goes unchecked, it can lead to a fracture in the unity that binds the church community together. The sense of togetherness, which is crucial for fostering a nurturing spiritual environment, begins to crumble.

  • Example: Imagine a church where a divisive individual continually criticizes the leadership and sows discord among members. Soon, you might witness a divided congregation, with people taking sides and a pervasive feeling of tension during church gatherings.

#2. Creates Discontent Among Members

Discontent among church members can be a direct consequence of divisive behavior. When a person within the congregation persistently disrupts the harmonious atmosphere with their divisive actions, other members may start to feel disillusioned, frustrated, or hurt.

  • Example: Consider a scenario where a divisive person constantly complains and criticizes the church’s programs. Over time, other members may become disheartened, feeling that their contributions are not valued or that their spiritual needs are not being met.

#3. Promotes Gossip and Rumor-Mongering

Divisive individuals often trigger an increase in gossip and rumor-mongering. Their actions, disagreements, and controversies become fodder for conversations that undermine trust and unity within the church.

  • Example: In a church where a divisive person spreads rumors about church leaders or other members, it’s not uncommon for these rumors to circulate among congregants. This not only damages reputations but also poisons the atmosphere with distrust.

#4. Undermines Trust in Church Leadership

The credibility of church leadership can suffer when divisive individuals challenge their authority and decisions. Congregants may begin to doubt the competence and effectiveness of the leadership team.

  • Example: If a divisive person openly criticizes the pastor or elders and gains a following among disgruntled members, it can erode trust in the leadership. This lack of trust can affect the overall health and stability of the church.

#5. Hinders Effective Decision-Making

Effective decision-making is crucial for a church’s growth and well-being. Unfortunately, the presence of a divisive person can hinder this process. Conflicts and disagreements consume valuable time and energy that could otherwise be directed towards serving the community and furthering the church’s mission.

  • Example: Picture a situation where a divisive individual repeatedly disrupts meetings with their objections and demands. As a result, important decisions get postponed or derailed, preventing the church from moving forward in its ministry.

#6. Diverts Energy and Resources from Ministry

A divisive individual can divert precious energy and resources away from the church’s primary mission and ministry. Instead of focusing on outreach, worship, and community service, the congregation may find itself consumed by internal conflicts and disputes.

  • Example: Think about a church that spends an excessive amount of time addressing conflicts caused by a divisive person. These resources could have been better utilized to support charitable initiatives or expand the church’s outreach programs.

#7. Leads to Division and Cliques

The presence of a divisive person often leads to the formation of divisions and cliques within the congregation. People may align themselves with either the divisive individual or those who oppose them, creating a fractured church community. Eventually, people will start leaving the church because of cliques.

  • Example: In a church where a divisive person has successfully recruited followers, you might observe the emergence of distinct groups with conflicting interests and loyalties. This division can disrupt the sense of oneness and cooperation.

#8. Negatively Affects the Church’s Reputation

A divisive person’s actions can tarnish the church’s reputation in the broader community. News of internal conflicts, discord, or controversy can deter potential newcomers and deter those seeking spiritual refuge.

  • Example: Suppose a church becomes known for its internal strife and disputes caused by a divisive person. This negative reputation may discourage newcomers from attending services or participating in church activities.

#9. Distracts from Spiritual Growth and Worship

The constant presence of division and conflict can distract church members from their spiritual growth and worship experience. Instead of focusing on their relationship with God, they may become preoccupied with the ongoing issues.

  • Example: In a church where divisiveness is rampant, members may find it challenging to concentrate on worship and spiritual development. The constant tension and turmoil can hinder their personal growth.

#10. May Drive Away New or Vulnerable Members

New or vulnerable members may be particularly sensitive to the presence of a divisive individual. They might feel unwelcome, discouraged or unwanted at church, leading them to seek spiritual fulfillment elsewhere.

  • Example: Consider a situation where a new member joins a church only to witness frequent conflicts caused by a divisive person. This individual might decide that the church is not a conducive environment for their spiritual journey and leave in search of a more peaceful congregation.

Understanding these additional consequences emphasizes the importance of addressing divisive behavior within the church promptly and with care. In the next section, we will learn how to deal with a divisive person in the church by employing effective strategies for handling such a person while maintaining the church’s core values.

How To Deal With a Divisive Person in the Church

Dealing with a divisive person within your church community requires a thoughtful and compassionate approach. It’s essential to address their behavior while upholding the principles of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation that are central to the Christian faith. Let’s explore some effective strategies for handling a divisive person:

#1. Prayer and Seeking Guidance

Begin with prayer and seeking guidance from God. Seek wisdom and discernment to understand the situation fully and determine the most appropriate course of action. Pray for the divisive individual’s heart to soften and for the congregation to find unity.

  • Example: Imagine congregants coming together in prayer meetings, earnestly seeking God’s guidance on how to deal with a divisive person. Through prayer, they gain clarity and direction on the steps to take.

#2. Private Conversation

Initiate a private conversation with the divisive individual. Approach them with humility and love, expressing your concerns about their behavior and its impact on the church community. Encourage open dialogue and active listening.

  • Example: Picture a church leader sitting down with the divisive person to have a one-on-one conversation. They express their love for the individual and their desire to see reconciliation within the church.

#3. Active Listening

Practice active listening when engaging with the divisive person. Give them the opportunity to express their grievances and concerns. Validate their feelings and emotions while also helping them understand the broader perspective.

  • Example: In a church meeting, members engage in active listening when the divisive person shares their grievances. They acknowledge their concerns and work together to find common ground.

#4. Seek Mediation

If private conversations do not yield results, consider seeking mediation. Engage a neutral third party, such as a respected church member or a professional mediator, to facilitate discussions between the divisive person and concerned parties.

  • Example: Visualize a trained mediator helping bridge the communication gap between the divisive individual and the church leadership. This neutral presence can guide the conversation towards resolution.

#5. Set Boundaries

Establish clear boundaries for acceptable behavior within the church community. Communicate these boundaries to all members, including the divisive person, and ensure consequences for violating them are known.

  • Example: A church leadership team creates a document outlining the expected conduct of all members, emphasizing the importance of unity and respect. This document serves as a reference point when addressing divisive behavior.

#6. Implement Church Discipline

If all else fails, consider implementing church discipline as a last resort. This should be done with great care and in accordance with the church’s established procedures. Church discipline aims to correct the divisive behavior and ultimately restore the individual to the church’s fellowship.

  • Example: In a serious case, the church leadership, following a defined disciplinary process, may temporarily suspend the divisive person’s participation in certain church activities, with the hope that this will lead to repentance and reconciliation.

#7. Focus on Reconciliation

Keep the focus on reconciliation rather than punishment. The ultimate goal should be to mend relationships and restore unity within the church. Encourage the divisive person to seek forgiveness and work towards healing broken bonds.

  • Example: Picture a church community that emphasizes reconciliation as the desired outcome. The divisive individual, supported by fellow members, actively engages in reconciliation efforts, attending sessions and meetings dedicated to this purpose.

#8. Educate the Congregation

Educate the entire congregation about the importance of unity, forgiveness, and conflict resolution. Provide resources, workshops, or seminars that help members understand how to deal with divisive behavior constructively.

  • Example: The church organizes a series of educational sessions on conflict resolution and forgiveness. Congregants attend these workshops to equip themselves with the skills needed to navigate difficult situations.

#9. Involve Church Leadership

Engage the church leadership in addressing the issue. The support and guidance of pastors, elders, and other leaders can be instrumental in managing a divisive person. They can provide spiritual counsel and ensure that the process aligns with the church’s values.

  • Example: The church’s pastoral team takes an active role in mediating discussions between the divisive person and other members. Their leadership and spiritual guidance help facilitate resolution.

#10. Promote Transparency

Maintain transparency throughout the process. Ensure that all members are kept informed about the steps being taken to address the divisive behavior. Transparency builds trust and helps mitigate misinformation.

  • Example: In a church facing a divisive situation, regular updates are provided during services and through official communications. This openness helps dispel rumors and ensures that everyone is on the same page.

#11. Offer Pastoral Care

Provide pastoral care and support to the divisive individual. Recognize that they may be struggling with personal issues or wounds that contribute to their behavior. Offer spiritual guidance, counseling, or resources to help them address underlying issues.

  • Example: Imagine a church offering the divisive person access to pastoral counseling or support groups designed to address the specific challenges they are facing.

#12. Regular Communication

Maintain regular communication with the church congregation. Keep members informed about the progress of reconciliation efforts and any changes in the situation. Open and honest communication fosters trust and cooperation.

  • Example: The church leadership regularly updates the congregation on the steps taken to address the divisive behavior, ensuring that members are well-informed and engaged in the process.

#13. Conflict Resolution Workshops

Organize conflict resolution workshops or seminars for the entire congregation. Equip members with the skills necessary to navigate conflicts and disagreements in a healthy and constructive manner.

  • Example: Picture a church that hosts regular workshops on conflict resolution, attended by members eager to learn how to address divisive behavior and promote unity.

#14. Encourage Accountability

Encourage mutual accountability within the church. Stress the importance of holding one another responsible for our actions and attitudes. Accountability helps prevent the recurrence of divisive behavior.

  • Example: In a congregation that promotes accountability, members hold each other responsible for fostering a positive and unified church environment. This shared responsibility reinforces the commitment to unity.

#15. Model Christ-like Behavior

Set an example by modeling Christ-like behavior. Church leaders and members alike should demonstrate love, forgiveness, humility, and reconciliation in their interactions. Leading by example can inspire others to follow suit.

  • Example: Visualize a church where leaders consistently exemplify Christ-like behavior by forgiving and reconciling with those who have caused division. Their actions inspire others to do the same.

#16. Rebuild Trust

Recognize that rebuilding trust may take time. Be patient and persistent in your efforts to restore trust among the congregation. Trust is a crucial component of unity, and its restoration is essential for healing.

  • Example: In a church that has successfully navigated a divisive situation, members gradually rebuild trust by engaging in open dialogue, practicing forgiveness, and witnessing the positive outcomes of reconciliation efforts.

These strategies, when applied collectively and with compassion, can help address and resolve the challenges posed by a divisive person within the church community. In the closing thoughts section, we will recap the key takeaways and emphasize the importance of unity and love in maintaining a strong and harmonious congregation.

Closing Thoughts

Learning how to deal with a divisive person in the church is undoubtedly a complex and emotionally charged endeavor. However, as a faith community, we are called to navigate these challenges with love, grace, and a commitment to unity. By recognizing the characteristics of divisive individuals, understanding their impact on the church, and implementing effective strategies for resolution, we can work towards healing and reconciliation.

Remember, the church is a place of spiritual growth, fellowship, and support. It is our shared responsibility to safeguard the unity and well-being of our congregation. With prayer, communication, and a Christ-like attitude, we can overcome division and emerge stronger, exemplifying the love and grace of our Lord.