Conformed TO Conflict or Conformed BY Conflict

by Dale E. Redman

Would you be surprised to learn that your pastor, at this very moment, may be thinking of resigning...just walking away and leaving it all? According to a study by sociologist John Koval of Notre Dame University, 30,000 of the nation's present 250,000 pastors are seriously contemplating walking away and leaving the ministry on any given day. The two leading reasons given for this phenomenon are first, the need for more money; and second, a sense of ineffectiveness in the work of the church.(1)

In an attempt to find the major source of frustration in the life of the present-day pastor, Dr. Samuel Blizzard launched a two-year study of some 1,300 ministers, and asked them to arrange six roles of a pastor in their order of importance-preacher, pastor, priest, teacher, organizer, and administrator-in what they believed to be an ideal pattern for the ministry. Most of the 700-plus pastors who responded felt that a minister is: first, a preacher; second, a pastor; third, a priest; fourth, a teacher; fifth, an organizer; sixth and last, an administrator. However, Blizzard also asked the respondents to arrange the same six roles functionally, according to the amount of demand placed upon their schedule, and according to the corresponding amount of time they spent performing these roles. The results were: first, administrator; second, pastor; third, priest; fourth, organizer; fifth, preacher; sixth, teacher. During an average ten-and-one-half workdays, these men spent an average of only thirty-eight-and-one-half minutes preparing to preach! The time spent on administration was seven times more than that spent on preaching!(2)

Dr. Blizzard's initial study, which was originally published in 1985, has recently been revisited via additional research conducted by Dr. Sandi Brunette-Hill and Dr. Roger Finke.(3) Once again, an emergent pattern of pastoral frustration has surfaced and Dr. Blizzard's initial findings have been corroborated.

Congregations Frustrated, Too

On the other hand, pastor, would you be surprised to learn that your congregation, at this very moment, may be considering replacing you by seeking a different pastor? According to the results of a study of four major denominations conducted by the Alban Institute, in the case of 117 churches which were polled where senior pastors were dismissed, they were terminated primarily for the following reasons:

Congregational conflict that existed before the pastor's arrival,

Presence of factions within the church,

Disapproval of the minister by a powerful minority,

Unwillingness or inability of the congregation to identify problems early,

Disagreement between laity and pastor on goals, norms and values, and

Frustrated desires of members for big successes in the church's ministry.(4)

Today, the conflict between pastor and parishioner, and dissatisfied members of the same congregation, has the ecclesiastical world reeling under its impact and literally splitting congregations apart at the seams.

Conflict Normal, Necessary

But wait! Would you be surprised to learn that certain types of conflict within groups are considered to be a normal function of organizational behavior? Would you be surprised to learn that not only is it normal, it is also necessary if the group is to become an effective and cohesive body? Would you be surprised to learn that, while the devil laughs at us and has his heyday over our splits and pastoral quits, we just might be fragmenting over what is considered to be a normal healthy trait in the development of a functional and performing group? You see, the problem may lie not so much in the conflict, as in the manner in which we react to that conflict. In short, will we allow ourselves to be conformed to the conflict, or will we be conformed by the conflict? Will we arm ourselves with the knowledge to meet the challenges of conflict head-on, using that conflict to temper and mold our group into a well-oiled machine? Or, will we allow the conflict to dominate and destroy us?

(to be continued)

Dale E. Redman is presently serving as pastor of the Wesleyan Covenant Bible Methodist Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, a work which he pioneered in 1996, in addition to being vice president-director of engineering services for LSB Industries of Oklahoma City. A former bi-vocational missionary in Latin American and the Slovak Republic, he is also founder and chairman of the Heartland Holiness Association.

Footnotes:

1. Edgar W. Mills and John P. Koval, Stress in the Ministry, (New York: IDOC-Ministry Studies Board, 1971).

2. Samuel Blizzard, The Protestant Parish Minister: a Behavioral Scientific Interpretation, (The Scientific Study of Religion, monograph series #5, 1985).

3. Sandi Brunette-Hill and Roger Finke, "A Time for Every Purpose Under Heaven: Updating and Extending Blizzard's Survey on Clergy Time Allocation" (Review of Religious Research, Vol. #1, pp. 48-64, 1999).

4. Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations, Signs of the Times, Bible Communications, Inc., Dallas, 1998.