The #1 Cause of Church Conflict

Perhaps the greatest indicator of growth in a church is the quality of leadership, which also happens to be the largest source of conflict. The issue comes down to who’s leading who.


Many churches seem to want their pastor to be a shepherd, however, many of them don’t want their pastor to be a leader.

The apostle Peter gives us an idea of how a pastor/elder should act,

Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. 1 Peter 5:2-3

So, a shepherd should:

  • Care for the flock – No problem there. We expect the pastor to care about the people in his church. Visit the sick, comfort those who are hurting, form friendships, all those things.
  • Watch over the flock – The pastor should care about the spiritual well being of his flock. That means preaching and teaching the word of God and equipping people to do ministry. We’re ok with that.
  • Be a good example – No arguments there. Pastors should do their best to live a life above reproach. They shouldn’t be ill-tempered, hot headed, or a drunkard.
  • Lead the flock – Ok, the passage above doesn’t specifically say lead in this context, but when was the last time you saw sheep leading a shepherd? Yet, we see it in the church all the time.

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have a shepherd who isn’t also the leader.

If your church is having business meetings in which the entire congregation is voting on issues, you’re allowing the sheep to lead and not the shepherd.

How do you think that’s going to turn out? Sure, it may work out for a short time, but it won’t be long before the sheep turn on one another. When this happens, people get hurt, people leave the church, and Christianity takes another hit.

I’m not saying you should let a pastor do whatever they want without any guidelines or accountability. Those things need to be in place, but you have to allow the shepherd to lead the sheep.

If not, you’re asking for an ongoing series of conflict after conflict where no one wins, and everyone loses.

If you’re a part of a congregational led church, I hope you’ll wisely start taking leadership away from the sheep and placing it back in the rightful hands of the shepherd.

What is the leadership structure of your church? How does it help or hinder your ability to do ministry? Let us know in the comments below, and if you haven’t already make sure to subscribe to the blog to get weekly tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered straight to your inbox.

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