Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit

Church Conflict: The Hidden Systems Behind the Fights

I have been deep in Charles Cosgrove and Dennis Hatfield’s book Church Conflict: The Hidden Systems Behind the Fights the past two days. The work is extremely insightful. They state their purpose in the first chapter.

Our thesis is that behind the official systems of local church (its offices, boards, committees, etc.) there is another system, a familylike system, which powerfully determines the way that church members relate to one another, do business together, care for one another, and fight with one another. (p. 5)

Few pastors would discount this truth. Most of the time, we recognize these systems only in hindsight. Cosgrove and Hatfield suggest that leaders take the time to map these systems. While acknowledging that maps are incomplete, they believe the work will be helpful in identifying church dynamics.

Once systems are mapped, the work of pastors is to positively affect these systems. This can only happen if leaders are willing to identify and “join” the family system. The authors admit that this is an act of faith. At the same time, if pastors are unwilling to “join”, their work is trivial.

Ministering without joining the family makes the pastorate a professional activity at odds with the way of Christ and the Spirit. (p. 184)

This work is full of wisdom nuggets. Cosgrove and Hatfield write from experience and are keenly aware of people dynamics and dysfunction. Taking the time to reflect on your particular family system should prove helpful.

In terms of church decision-making, this work offers valuable communication counsel. The work of hearing every voice is not easy; yet we must strive to make this possible. Those who abuse power need to be identified and called out. Only as we learn to function as a healthy family can adequate discerning take place.