Posts tagged ‘Church Conflict’

June 20, 2012

It’s Not the Structure, It’s the People

In 2011 my church was going through serious, high level, internal conflict.  We had government by eldership, and underneath the eldership there was a board of management.  I was on both groups.

Our problems became so great that our senior pastor called on the State Executive of the Assemblies of God to make some recommendations and help us sort out our mess.  The State Executive sent along Ps Ian Kruithoff, who is in charge of church health and church planting in Victoria.  This means that Ian spends half of his entire working life travelling around the state putting out fires like ours and the other half of his time goes to church planting.

After church one Sunday Ian took the Board out for lunch.  As soon as we had him in the car he was peppered with questions about what the best structure for church government is.  Where do the eldership, the Board, the senior pastor, the congregation and everyone else fit in?  Who should be accountable to whom?  If anyone was going to have an opinion on this subject it would be Ian.  His answer stunned me.  He said, “It doesn’t matter.  It’s not the structure, it’s the people.”

He went on to say that he has seen all sorts of systems used and every variation of them – and his conclusion is that they can all work well, and they can all blow up.  The thing that makes the difference is the people.  Where there is holiness, humility and submission then the structure will work.  Where those are absent the structure will fail.  And that is true for every single structure that exists.

I was stunned.  I was sure that in his role Ian would have seen so many different systems that he would have an opinion on what works best and what does not.  I mean even if it is ultimately the people, surely some systems work better to facilitate people being at their best, and others would be unhelpful?  I actually didn’t believe him, so I pressed further.  “But Ian, after all that you have seen around the state surely you would have a preference for one particular model?”  No.  All I got was, “It’s not the structure it’s the people.”

I am someone who finds church government very interesting.  If you have been following this blog for the past 17 weeks you have probably picked that up.  I could not believe that someone with so much experience of church government could have such a view about the different ways it is done.

It’s not the structure, it’s the people.  It’s so blunt, it leaves no room to move.  I keep thinking that there must be an exception to the rule, some sort of scenario in which yes, the structure is finally to blame.  But not according to someone who has seen a lot more church conflict than me, or anyone else that I know of.

So what your church needs is not the right system.  You don’t need to re-work your constitution, or re-jig the organisational flow chart.  If you do those things, don’t expect the changes to transform the place.  What your church needs is people who love God, love each other and are filled with holiness and humility.  That, and that alone, is what will safeguard you from conflict.

Do you agree?


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