The Bible says that pastors are accountable to God to manage and direct the church (see 1 Peter 5, 1 Timothy 3:5, 1 Timothy 5:17). Good shepherds are good protectors against wolves, and wolves are everywhere.
The Bible also says that members of the flock are accountable to submit to the leadership of the church (see Hebrews 13:17 and 1 Corinthians 16:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). God warns pastors about people in the church that have an unhealthy interest in controversy, arguments that result in envy, quarreling, strife, evil suspicions and friction between men.
Satan’s favorite way to destroy a church and its effectiveness is to make it ingrown by creating dissension. If you’ve been a pastor for any length of time, you’ve seen this happen. Much of the email that we receive from Pastors pertains to handling conflicts and sorting out the relational issues that occur in the church. You may have personally seen a good church go under or be neutralized because of dissension.
Because it is the advancement of God’s kingdom that is at stake, pastors are charged by God to do whatever is necessary to prevent this. Specifically, there are six things pastors are called to do.
1. Pastors are to avoid situations that cause arguments. The Bible says in 1 Timothy 2:23-24 “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments because you know they produce quarrels and the Lord’s servant must not quarrel. Instead he must be kind to everyone, able to teach and not resentful.” That’s quite a job description. Pastors are to avoid things that cause arguments.
2. Pastors are to teach troublemakers to repent. 1 Timothy 2:25-26 says, “Those who oppose him [the pastor] he must gently instruct in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil who’s taken them captive to do his will.” The Pastor is to gently instruct those creating dissension and opposition.
3. Pastors are to warn them how negative words hurt others. Pastors are to warn those causing trouble how negative words hurt others. 2 Timothy 2:14 says, “Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words. It is of no value and only ruins those who listen.” Don’t quarrel. Don’t get into quarrels. It only ruins those who listen.
4. Pastors are to make a plea for harmony and unity. An example of this is Paul in Philippians 4:2, “I plead with Euodias and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.” The background of the story is that there were two very strong willed women in the church named Euodias and Syntyche and they were causing so much friction in the church that Paul put it in the Bible. He says, I’ve got to warn you ladies: Lighten up! Knock it off! When you start fighting in a church, it’s never just two people. You always influence everybody else. And people start taking sides. So the pastors are to make a plea for harmony and unity with those who are causing problems.
5. Pastors are to rebuke with authority if necessary. Titus was the pastor of the church on the island of Crete and Paul says to him in Titus 2:15-3:1, “These then are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Don’t let anyone despise you. Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one and to be peaceable and considerate.” So pastors, if it comes to it, are to rebuke the contentious person.
6. Remove them from the church if they ignore two warnings. Titus 3:10-11 says, “Warn a divisive person once and then warn him a second time. After that have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful and he’s self condemned.” This doesn’t mean there isn’t room for grace. There is always room to forgive and show grace for someone who listens to counsel, but the flock is worth protecting even when it’s tough to do so.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America’s largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.
For the original article, visit pastors.com.