The solution to church conflict resolution can be summed in one word—revival.
A popular misconception among evangelicals today is that “revival” means a fresh outbreak of new conversions. However, etymologically, revival denotes a re-revivification, that is, being brought back to life. Only those once brought to life can be revived. New conversions are a consequent of revival.
Conflicts within churches are visible manifestations of sin, which is disobedience of God’s commands. Bitterness, rancor, ungodly alliances, spiteful withdrawal, passive aggression, disrespect, and gossip derive from putting oneself as the authority of judgment. We have lost our fear of God’s judgment. It seems in our haste to assure non-believers that their sins can be forgiven, and that they can experience God’s love, we have forgotten God judges spiritual miasma. Historically and prophetically, God does discipline believers through his punitive judgment.
Revival has both personal and corporate manifestations, and God has given its pattern. One must note, however, that revival is not normative; it is the resuscitation of life in Christ. Living by and through the direction of the Holy Spirit, and being compliant to his will and timing is normative. The pattern for revival is confession, repentance, restitution, reconciliation, and prayer. We must also be aware that revival is a work of God—we cannot bring ourselves back to life. Similarly, great revivals are also a work of God. Engaging the elements of God’s pattern for revival does not entail that God will manifest himself through a great awakening—the great awakenings are God’s business and will occur when, where, and as God decrees. We are to be faithful in the little things.
Earlier we wrote that the pattern for revival is confession, repentance, restitution, reconciliation, and prayer. Among the faithful there seems to be a false understanding that confession equates to repentance. Confession of sin is not, in and of itself, repentance, although it can lead to repentance. Confession is the public or private acknowledgement of sin—publicly if the sin is public, or privately, before God, if the sin is private. Repentance is the repudiation of a confessed sin, a commitment to be accountable before God for that sin, and a concomitant commitment to repudiate that sin in the future. Repentance cannot occur without, and absent, the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, repentance cannot and will not occur. Restitution is the act of returning to the rightful owner that which was taken through sin. Reconciliation is the restoration of relationships broken through sin. We must note, however, that reconciliation is not always bi-directional. There will be times when our attempt to reconcile a broken relationship that our attempt will be rejected. Rejection, however, does not absolve us of our God-driven responsibility to remain willing to receive the reconciling overtures, however late, of our brethren. Prayer is the catalyst for revival whether it is private, corporate, or a greater awakening—without honest, heartfelt prayer, nothing will happen.
We often mouth the words that God is infinitely incomprehensible, beyond understanding, and the judge of all things. Yet we seem to have abandoned our humility before the Creator of the heavens and the earth—we have abandoned our fear of God, and thereby abandoned the concept that God has historically brought disciplining judgment upon believers. The warnings to the churches in Revelation is clear—return to your first love, return to the commandments to love God, to love your neighbor, and to love one another as Christ has loved us, or be subject to his punitive judgment.