Ironically enough, I woke that morning with a spring in my step.
The exhaustion of mothering our three stair-step babies had settled in, but amidst the chaotic, oatmeal-in-my-hair and juice-spilled-on-my-pants kind of day, a renewed passion stirred in my heart at the thought of taking my overwhelmed state and funneling it into a new ministry position.
I looked at the handwritten note that had just come in the mail from the ministry leader and smiled.
“What a great first week, Jen. I can’t wait to see what God will do this year as we encourage young moms. Thanks.”
I gathered my diaper bag, loaded up our three boys and headed to church for our team meeting. As I entered, I was surprised to find only a handful of the team already gathered in a small circle.
I sat down and immediately the leader began reading a Bible passage. I can’t remember it now, but I knew a problem must have occurred.
As she finished, there was an awkward silence. Being so passionately naive, I kind of chuckled and exclaimed, “Oh no, we already have an issue with someone? It’s only the first week.”
“Yes, Jen, I’ve prayed about this and sought counsel from others, and I just don’t think this is a fit for you.”
Clutching my four-month-old baby, I felt like I was going to throw up. Had I heard her correctly? This was the same woman who just sent the note. Surely not. I was a young mom in love with serving my Jesus, and this was a devastating sucker punch that came out of the blue. Not only was I was shocked and confused, but after probing about her reasoning, no answer was given.
The meeting adjourned. I rustled up my toddlers from the nursery, and by the time I got them in their car seats, I put my head on the steering wheel and sobbed.
For the first time, I experienced that deep-down, soul-altering, barely-can-breathe kind of grief that can come through a ministry-type of betrayal. While I hadn’t developed a deep relationship with this woman, it still cut to the core because I somehow equated that time as a barometer of my love for Jesus.
Twenty-four years ago, that meeting marked me. It was a defining ministry moment for me. Afterward, my style of leadership changed in profound ways. I never wanted someone to experience an ambush confrontation like that. There had to be a better way.
I remembered my parents’ Christ-like modeling, and over and over I prayed, “The Lord is the defender of my reputation.”
I contemplated launching a successful, justice-oriented defense. I knew I’d “win” because this had been done quietly without the entire leadership team’s knowledge. But I chose to stay silent and elevate the ministry over my own agenda.
I’ll be honest, my silence was a year-long struggle, and sometimes I wanted a medal for my self-imposed martyrdom — not the most godly confession, I admit. I dove into studying the peacemaking principles on conflict resolution found in Matthew 18:15-16.
If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
Do we understand how much healthier the body of Christ would be if we followed Jesus’s instructions?
Imagine how different this encounter would have been if the leader had come to me one-on-one, as Scripture instructs, and shared her concerns with me. Would I have been hurt? Yes, but she would have shown that she was for me, for unity, for building the Church in healthy ways. We could have prayed together, talked it through, and built our relationship. All these years later, and I still don’t understand what happened.
The first step Jesus outlines to confront someone is to do so privately, not communally. We should never gather others around to discuss and ambush someone because, often, it may be a misunderstanding that has taken flight.
That difficult but clarifying moment opened the door for my heart not to simply confront someone but to care-front.
In carefrontation, we desire to build and strengthen the kingdom of God, not tear it down through caustic gossip hidden behind prayer requests and probing Christian sentiments.
With a heart of carefrontation, we care more about the relationship than about being right. We don’t approach one another with fingers pointed, ready for war, but rather, we do so with a heart of compassion and restitution. Carefrontation seeks to build community. It’s about being willing and ready to look at ourselves and the fact that we may have done something to offend as well.
It’s hard. It’s messy. And it requires great courage.
Now I start every ministry year by first walking the group I lead through a biblical model of confrontation. We talk through expectations to observe if any of us have a problem with one another. I commit to holding their reputation close to my heart and vow that I will not entertain discussions about them with others from the group. “Your reputation is safe with me” is my motto.
When someone approaches me about another, I immediately ask if they’ve approached their brother or sister in Christ. If they haven’t, I encourage them to go to him or her first before talking with others about their grievance. I take this approach in my everyday life with friends and relatives as well, and we’re teaching our children the very important steps of biblical conflict resolution.
Does it always go smoothly? I wish.
Have I always guarded my tongue? Regretfully, no.
Is this easy? Never, but it’s revolutionized my relationships.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where people are more concerned about their rights than their relationships. The biblical model of confrontation is a two-way street, and both hearts have to be willing to lay down their own agendas to peacefully work toward a resolution. It may not always result in reconciliation, but we can strive to follow Christ’s instruction as best as we can.
Today, I’m grateful for that heartbreak because it refined my relationship with the Lord. It allowed me to follow His leading, rather than my own, and prayerfully determine how any difficult situation can ultimately bring glory to His name.
This line made me audibly speak “wow” … “we live in a world where people are more concerned about their rights than their relationships.” Last night I was trying to find the words to describe my discontent with what I was seeing on social media, and I believe those were the words I was looking for. This is such an important piece, full of reminders and lessons and I need to go print this out and stick it up on the wall.. so glad you shared this. I pray that more of society can look to the Bible for conflict resolution, how much better off would we be? Thank you.
Jen Schmidt says
Thank you, Bonnie. Honestly, these are principles that I come back to often because life is full of challenging relationships (I may be that challenge to someone else and don’t even know it.) I want to keep His Word at the forefront but phew, in the moment the enemy certainly tries to steal joy.
Ruth Mills says
In college a friend kind of on the opposite fringe of our friend group was making some unwise decisions concerning her boyfriend. The group loved her & wanted to encourage her to change to godly guidelines. I got “elected” to carefront her. I knew it needed to be done 1 on 1 but even as I went into my time with her I knew the group discussion ahead of the 1 on 1 wasn’t right either. I did not tell her I was representing the group’s thoughts but she knew I wasn’t alone in my concerns. She dug in her heels & continued in their sin & slowly backed away from the group altogether. She seemed to respect me more than the others but withdrew from me also. Decades later I’ve heard she is walking faithfully with Jesus. The success of my carefrontation was Jesus working in me to confront in love & let Him work in others in His timing.
I love your word carefrontation!
Jen Schmidt says
Ruth – thank you for sharing your story. I know years ago it was probably so painful to have her pull away and yet I know if she’s no walking with the lord, she looks back on that conversation as a pivotal marker . Thank you for loving her enough.
This is a lot of food for thought, Jen! These principles are important ones to keep in our minds, when conflict arises. I’m thinking of conflict between my children and how that could be handled better. Even though they are all adults now. Thank you for nudging me to examine these interactions and try to find better ways of coping.
Love in Christ,
You’re so welcome, Irene. As I have young adult children now too, we really try and flesh out our differences and challenges right away – without letting things fester. It’s not always easy but worth it.
This is such a good word for all of us today! Not an easy word, because no one wants to have their “rights” trampled on, but building a caring relationship, and doing things the way God would have us to do is always best, even if it is hard. Thank you for this message.
Thank you, Judy. It’s definitely not an easy word and a reminder that I continually need to bring before the Lord. I still don’t always get this right but through the years, it’s amazing how many relationship rifts or church hurts could be avoided if we followed His Word for our model.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Jen words hurt. People actions hurt. I know how you feel. I was hurt by someone. With there words. I was telling them nicely about something to do with something that could have landed on her head. All because I care. People say I care to much. I too kind for my own good. This person said it in our Church ladies TLC group. Which stands for Tender Loving Care. If it annoying you. This thing. Why do you take it down yourself in a not a nice voice. They are saved. They go to my Church. I wanted the world to open up and eat me up. Plus cry at the time. If there not been others from other Churches there that come to our TLC group. I got up and went home. I was that hurt. This person out of my Church. Should not have said what she said the way she did. I was so hurt. My Husband said next time just come home. So I told good friend of mine about it. Who is saved. She said even if you went to that person. Said you hurt me with what you said. She probably not listen. So I then told my friend. I going to pray for her and Forgive her. That is what I did. Then the next time TLC was on yes when I did see the person again. It all came flooding back what she said. But I was braver and with Gods help. I got over it and didn’t let it annoy me any more. But another person who goes to my Church said. Dawn she shouldn’t have said that too you. You were only being kind. So as the thing would not land on her head. I said to that person in my Church. I know. But I am glad I done what God would have wanted me to do. Plus what my Friend told me to do. I didn’t have words with her the Lady in our Church who said the thing in not a nice way to me. As it would have only made me worse. I probably end up saying something I shouldn’t have. That would be wrong in God’s eyes. So I did the right thing I prayed for her asked God to help me forgive her. As my Friend was right she said the person that said the thing in the wrong way probably wouldn’t have listened to you. Think she done nothing wrong. She could have had answer for me. So now it doesn’t annoyed me anymore. I can talk to the person out of our Church that said the words in not nice way. I am so glad. Jen you did the right thing in your situation. God will honour you for it too. I know it hurt at the time. That not nice. But you done the right thing. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little. In my prayers all you incourage. My God richly bless you all for this good work you do in his name. Xx
Dawn – Thank you for sharing your story. It is something how words sting so much, isn’t it? But thank you for trying to be loving in your response and offer kindness even when sometimes it feels undeserved.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Yes Jen. I did especially when I could have had words with them. I know I still come of worse. They think they are always right. So I did what Jesus would want me to. Pray for them and Forgive them. I just wanted to thank you from my heart for shearing you heart too. Yes people’s words and the way they say things can hurt. So we have to be very careful with our words and what we say. But you also did the right thing too. God is prod of you for doing that Jen plus me to. I know in my case. It was hard. But I knew I had to pray for them leave them with Jesus and Forgive them. To get my piece. Thank you for replying back to me and what you wrote. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
I’m not a confronter and only do it as a last resort. If I am forced to. Years ago (I still have a big scar in various ways) our church leaders wanted a new pastor as our old was retiring. I checked his website and saw many of his beliefs were not the same, and he was very arrogant and legalistic. I went through the biblical path with the church leaders, becoming more and more concerned (and insistent) but only getting figurative pats on the head and they poo-pooed away my concerns. I asked them to at least tell the congregation about his website so the congregation could see and hear his writings and sermons, but they refused. A year later, after he arrived, the church split and most of the leaders split, too, to other states.
I have (as a last resort) confronted a couple other friends. And I was SO VERY CAREFUL to speak to them with care and concern and love. Because I did love and care for them.
1. one was an ex-addict taking newly prescribed uppers and it seemed she was becoming addicted to them. She yelled at me and never spoke to me again.
2. The other was a friend who told me she was “done” with her son, full of anger and rage at him (and God for her life not turning out the exact way she wanted). She also told her son “I am not your mother anymore” because he did not meet her expectations. She only speaks to me now when forced.
I am sorry to say these relationships were never the same.
I have quit confronting people and tell myself they are God’s to deal with.
Is it wrong of me? I don’t know.
But I would REALLY like to know how this “revolutionized” your relationships. Mine were revolutionized out of existence…
I’m so sorry for the deep pain that confronting in love has caused. I completely understand and do need to clarify that learning and leaning into the biblical model definitely doesn’t mean it’s been easy or always received well. I’ve had multiple responses similar to yours and it’s been painful. i’ve needed to step back and lift those relationships up to the Lord knowing that it’s to of my control. But I also know that in one instance while a relationship rift occurred, over a decade later, I found out that what I said had made a difference. We never know how our words may have made an impact. For me the way it’s revolutionized my personal ministry is that when I hear gossip or people come to me about someone else’s grievance, I typically bring them back to the principles in Matthew and ask if they’ve first gone to their friend/coworker etc first before talking to others about it. There may be exceptions but typically it’s helped elevate the relationships.
Thank you, Jen. And thank you for the reminder that we don’t know now, and may never know, how our words impact people.
And gossip, yes! The Holy Spirit spoke to me very loudly in my heart a couple years ago about that… ouch. He has very much helped me get progressively better in NOT doing that. It’s a very popular sport, and people get annoyed when I let them know I can’t listen to them talking bad about someone else, and suggest they talk to the other person.
It’s hard for me to realize sometimes that everyone is at a different place in their Christian journey, when that place seems to be stagnant. And that’s when I tell myself “I am not God, and that is between Him and them.”
Sometimes I feel like locking myself in my home with my dogs and husband and my garden! HA HA HA
Beth Williams says
Thank you for giving us food for thought. Society today is definitely not Christ oriented. Everyone doing what they want. Its more about my rights than your feelings. For me though, I care about people & relationships. That’s why I treat everyone the same. If I have a dispute or disagree I come to you & talk about it. Showing Christ’s love always. Life is to short to live unhappy & unloved.