Posts tagged: unity
At some level, it is simply not possible to avoid negative, dysfunctional conflict from occurring. Due to background, experience, or conscious decision, some people are narcissists and are incapable of empathy and other-centeredness. Self-entitled narcissists simply do not possess the emotional intelligence necessary to operate in a healthy environment of constructive conflict. They tend to see all conflicts as socioemotional in nature, as attacks against persons rather than ideas. Therefore they always view conflict as being destructive in nature, rather than being a functionally positive experience.
The entire interpersonal strategy of the narcissist is a “self-defeating” one (Moeller, et al., 2009, p. 448) that prevents him or her from achieving genuine emotional and social growth in life. The extreme defensiveness of the chronic narcissist creates a self-fulfilling and repeating bubble-cycle of conflict that can be extremely difficult to penetrate apart from the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit of God. From a pastoral and Christian community perspective, perhaps it is true that such deeply embedded self-centeredness “cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:29). 
Regardless of the presence or absence of narcissists, the leader must do what he or she can to nurture an environment where others can feel comfortable with a certain level of creative conflict. One of the ways that this can be done is to emphasize superordinate goals and values. Superordinate goals are “common objectives held by conflicting parties that are more important than their conflicting departmental or individual goals” (McShane and Von Glinow, 2008, p. 381).
In a church setting, and example of a commonly held superordinate goal would be the furtherance of the saving gospel message. A reminder of this message should collectively foster a missional mindset in all participants in the discussion, which should assist in bringing a unity of purpose to the situation at hand.
In times of conflict and in times of relative peace, the leader figure should always be bringing his or her people back to the remembrance of the core values of the organization. This helps to foster a long-term communal, team-, and goal-oriented mindset among the group. For example, at Grace Church of Philly, we have identified our core values as such: transformational, relational, incarnational, and missional. When the leader brings clarity to these values, our overall commitment to Christ and his gospel are empowered and socioemotional conflict can be depersonalized.
If conflict arises, the leader can bring clarity to the situation by reminding the participants that we are a transformational community. This means that we are prayerfully depending on the power of God’s Word and the ministry of the Holy Spirit to transform people characterized by selfishness and death to selflessness and life, from destructive conflict to constructive creativity.
If conflict arises, the leader can bring clarity and resolution by reminding the group that we are a relational community that joyfully offers love and grace to everyone unconditionally, regardless of their opinions on a particular matter.
If conflict arises, the leader can bring clarity by reminding everyone that we are an incarnational community that is fully committed to embodying the Spirit of Christ and practically living out the gospel of grace face-to-face with everyone we meet.
If conflict arises, the leader can bring clarity by reminding the group that we are a missional community that is intentional about our engagement with those who have not known or have misunderstood Jesus Christ.
It is by fostering a unity of purpose in the values of the community that leaders and facilitators can help overcome socioemotional interpersonal conflict in the midst of the organization. However, as was pointed out previously, leaders should never strive for the total abscense of conflict altogether, for the dangers of groupthink loom as large or even larger than the dangers of socioemotional conflict. I agree wholeheartedly with a saying that is attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr.: “There is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.”
McShane, S. L. & Von Glinow, M. A. (2008). Organizational Behavior: Emerging Realities for the Workplace Revolution. New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
Moeller, S., Crocker, J., & Bushman, B. (2009). Creating Hostility and Conflict: Effects of Entitlement and Self-image Goals. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 448-452. Accessed 9 June 2009.
1. On the omission of “and fasting” from this reference: “Most witnesses, even early and excellent ones have ‘and fasting’ (kai nesteia) after ‘prayer’ here. But this seems to be a motivated reading, due to the early church’s emphasis on fasting (TCGNT 85; cf., e.g., 2 Clem. 16:4; Pol. Phil 7:2; Did. 1:3; 7:4). That the most important witnesses, as well as a few others, lack kai nesteia when a good reason for the omission is difficult to find, argues strongly for the shorter reading” (NET Notes on Mark 9:29).
A few of my favorite verses that speak of the unity of all in the body of Christ:
Gal. 3:28 (ESV) – There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Col. 3:11 – Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
As we can see in these verses, there remains no room for prejudice, which is born out of ignorance and stereotyping, or “assigning traits to people based on their membership in a social category” (McShane and Von Glinow, Organizational Behavior, 2008, p. 73). When people become unfairly stereotyped, it is relatively easy for the one doing the categorization to become prejudiced toward members of this or that particular group.
Through His Scripture, the Lord teaches us that “here” (Col. 3:11) in Christ, is where our true identity is to be found. All of those who remain outside of Christ (the last Adam) are to be considered part of the race of the first Adam (1 Cor. 15:22, 45). There can be no further qualifications or distinctions made other than this. To attempt to create further divisions within humanity is to travel into territory that is foreign to God’s teaching in the New Testament.
The presence of racism in the body of Christ is one of the most abhorrent, destructive, and satanic ways of thinking imaginable, for in Christ there cannot exist any spirit of alienation or schism.
1Cor. 15:22, 45 – For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive…. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
A sermon on the truth of Colossians 3:11 entitled “Christ is All” delivered by C.H. Spurgeon on August 20, 1871 can be found here. A small excerpt:
According to the connection, Christ is all by way of national distinction, subject for glorying, and ground for custom. Observe, “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor tree,” in the new creation, but “Christ is all, and in all.” In the new world there is no difference between Jew and Gentile; barbarian simplicity and Greek cultivation are as nothing. I suppose as long as we are in the flesh we shall set some store by our nationality, and like Paul shall somewhat glory that we were free born: but surely the less of this the better. Within the gates of the Christian church we are cosmopolitan, or rather we are citizens of the New Jerusalem only. As a man, I rejoice that I am an Englishman, but not with the same holy joy which fills me when I remember that I am a Christian. When I meet another man who fears God, I do not want him to think me an Englishman, nor do I desire to regard him as an American, a Frenchman, or a Dutchman; for we are no longer strangers and foreigners but fellow-citizens. If any man be a Christian and a foreigner after the flesh, he is yet in spirit ten thousand times more allied to me than if he were an Englishman and an unbeliever. Greatly is it to be deplored whenever the convulsions of nations drag Christian men into opposition to one another on the ground of politics. One part of the body of Christ cannot be at war with another. It is a shameful thing whenever we suffer our earthly nationality to dominate over our heavenly citizenship. Queen Victoria and President Grant are well enough in their places, but King Jesus is Lord of all; we are above all things subjects of his Imperial Highness the Prince of Peace. Nobody comes into the church as a Jew or a Gentile, nor does he remain there as a Greek or a Scythian, whatever he may have been before; when he becomes a Christian, Christ is all. Earthly distinctions of rank, if they still exist, as they must while we are in this world, are brought to a minimum within the church, they are almost obliterated, and what remains is sanctified to sacred ends.