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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Endless conflicts in Our churches.

Written by: on May 10, 2019

Is there a church that has no conflicts among its members, leaders, pastors and leaders and any other pet conflict despite praying and fellowshipping together on a common goal on God? Since I started becoming severe in church leadership, we have been dealing with very many church conflicts in various categories. However, something interesting is that that Church continues to thrive despite these challenges seen among the followers. What forces always fight the growth of the Church from the time of Jesus Christ. Diane Zemke in her book “Being Smart about Congressional Change” tries to address these areas that affect the Church. She identifies one of the most challenging types to address which is called adaptive problems. In adaptive problems, it is hard to understand precisely what the problem is and its also difficult to generate possible solutions.[1] I can trace since I started in the leadership role of my work on the Quaker church in Africa that this adaptive problem is the main issue in the Church. The Quaker Church has been a victim to change with time, and they always have bee afraid of change for the unknown, and this is affecting its grown by decline. This has created many conflicts in the Church, and more splits in the Church in Kenya is evident in this adaptive challenge.

Moreover, I concur with Diane when she says “Adaptive problems in congregations also generate enormous conflict since people are afraid of how they may need to change and feel they have a lot to lose.”[2] Traditional worship of mainline churches is a severe adaptive problem, and they are always afraid of adapting to a new way of worship or handling their worship business, and that has created conflicts between the older and the younger generation. This has seen the Quaker Church break into many other groups, and still, the older group does wish to give up for any change.

Dian says that as identity shifts people stand to lose relationships that are important to them. They also tend to lose power and status, both within the congregation and in community. These potential losses fuel some boiling emotions, even among the calmest and reflective of members.[3] This is the issues we are facing in the Quaker church in Kenya. Hence my dissertation focus on the clergy and pastoral responsibilities which have been a problem and still not yet resolved for fear of relinquishing power by one group. However, I am so encouraged by Diane argument through building bridges. She notes that One side of the bridge is anchored in the future you are trying to reach. The other side of the bridge is anchored in the past. In the present, people are walking on the bridge as you build it. Wisely enacting change means that you are able to anchor your change in the past and to do that you need to know what the past is.[4] It is always wise and useful to understand your congregation well before initiating a change, again Diane speaks on the same. I have realized that when changes are being initiated without incorporating the past, resistance comes in and creates serious conflicts and name calling. Anything new is built based on the old one so that it is improved for better just as new software and automobile are always building new ones based on the old ones are an improvement. I realized that many of the changes I saw people in Kenyan Quaker church trying to initiate were missing the past but only focused on the future and not carefully considering the past which has been the foundation of the Church. Diane has been of great help to me to handle some conflicts in the Quaker church in Kenya.

[1] (Zemke 2014) location 821 Kindle edition

[2] (Zemke 2014) location 832 Kindle edition

[3] (Zemke 2014) location 843 Kindle edition

[4] (Zemke 2014)Loc. 1941 kindle edition

About the Author

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John Muhanji

I am the Director Africa Ministries Office of Friends United Meeting. I coordinate all Quaker activities and programs in the Quaker churches and school mostly in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The focus of my work is more on leadership development and church planting in the region especially in Tanzania.. Am married with three children all grown up now. I love playing golf as my exercise hobby. I also love reading.

3 responses to “Endless conflicts in Our churches.”

  1. mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Thank you, John. You describe a common problem I have seen among those of us attempting change, a lack of understanding of the past and the culture created by it. Underestimating the effect of both makes change a non-starter. I wonder if it causes the people to feel their past didn’t matter or somehow dishonored? Acknowledging and showing appreciation for the past goes a long way in causing the people to open to future possibilities.

  2. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    John,
    Thanks so much for sharing your observations and insights to the Kenyan Quaker church. God has certainly gifted and called you to be a skilled leader within your context. I would say that for all our respective churches, problems requiring adaptive leadership solutions are by far the most complex along with the most dire consequences. I am so glad you found Zemke’s book a blessing and help for you in both your research and leadership. Thanks so much for reminding us of her construct of a bridge connecting the past to the future with us bringing people along in the present. Many blessings on you and yours!

  3. Digby Wilkinson says:

    One of the things Diane Zemke clarifies is that people often adapt to terrible things too. They adapt to bad behaviour and they expect it. Some people thrive in those contexts. So, when leaders try to change a context of conflict to a context of peace, it upsets those who have adapted and relied on it. Alter all, when the culture conflict is transformed, what will be the excuse for bad behaviour? I have expereinced this all too often.

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