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A View From Level IV*

Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.

Number 247

Conflict In Ministry
 
"Conflict is the confrontation between differing expectations, purposes, goals, values, or desires; and/or the competition for limited resources."
 
Though often unwelcome, conflict is a part of ministry. Sometimes it's good. Other times it's destructive.  Several scales have been developed to measure the relative severity and destructiveness of conflict. The two most notable are Lederach's "Seven Point Scale" and Speed Lea's "Five Levels Of Conflict." Of these, Leas' classification appears to be the most familiar and commonly used in church circles.
 
Levels Of Conflict
 
Speed Leas of the Alban Institute has identified five levels of conflict in order of ascending complexity, difficulty, and intensity. They are:

I. Problem to solve: Goal—Collaborate mutually beneficial solution

II. Disagreement: Goal—Problem solving (more public arena)

III. Contest: Goal—To win

IV. Fight/Flight: Goal—Hurt the opposition

V. Intractable Situations: Goal—Annihilate the opposition

Level IV: Not Just More Of The Same
 
Speed Leas indicates that though the differences between Level I and Level III conflict is one of degrees, Level IV and VI conflict differ in essential ways. Level IV is not just more of Level III. It is a totally different type of conflict. Whereas reconciliation was the implied goal of Levels I-III, at Level IV-V the transformation of conflict is such that it seeks to hurt and destroy the opposition.
 
Conflict consultants such as Leas initially had difficulty finding materials describing Level IV and V conflict. After looking everywhere in church, business and mediation materials, Speed Leas noted that the only manuals which accurately described Levels IV and V conflict were military manuals.

What Happens At Level IV

1. Christian Values Run Roughshod. As Vice-President Kostizen noted in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod's "Circuit Counselor Manual" "the higher the conflict, the lower the value level people are operating on." Pastors experiencing Level IV conflict will simply be in awe at the wanton sinful rebellion. In such an environment it may be difficult to keep oneself from succumbing to the pressure.
 
For more information, consult his excellent summary of how to minister to churches in conflict in his chapter, "Circuit Counselor in Conflict Ministry."
 
2. Severe Character Testing. You may think you're an excellent pastor. But Level IV conflict will test it and see whether it's reality or fantasy. The testing corresponds to the intensity of the level of conflict and is akin to Peter's experience of satanic "sifting" when he denied Jesus.  Numerous Ministry Health articles deal with this seldom-addressed issue, including such articles as #127  "Conflict: The Ten Tests Of Character"  and numerous others.
 
3. Traumatization. No doubt the experience of Level IV is one of the most excruciating spiritual, emotional and physical experiences you can endure. As the Ministry Health article 192, "Traumatized!" describes personal emotions will run the gamut. You will get angry, but in response to the intense shock you'll withdraw from members, family, spouse, denominational officials, everyone.
 
Level IV conflict, virtually by definition, will require professional therapy. After all, when all others have apparently abandoned you, at least you know you can count on the therapist if, for nothing else, because they're paid. But competent therapists will be the necessary inexhaustible listening block who will help point you toward healing and hope.
 
4. Discovering The Experience Of The Habitus Practicus. Brothers may try to encourage you by saying, "You don't have to crucify yourself. Jesus already did." The problem with this and other types of well-intended encouragement is two-fold.
 
First, once at Level IV, there really is no backing out. Damage momentum started will continue until it runs out of energy, things to damage, or people to hurt. The damage cannot be undone. It cannot be stopped. It is out of your power. It just has to burn out.
 
You may be tempted to give up, back out under the guise "It's better for the church." Not always. Sometimes the greater irreparable damage occurs when the pastor does back out and give up instead of remaining steadfast and standing firm in battle.
 
If the conflict is focused on essential "un-compromisable" Christian values (which is often the case), it will require God's servant to maintain an evangelical but strong stand. One's best hope is to look to God's power to end the conflict and salvage whatever will be left.
 
Second, the phrase "you don't have to crucify yourself" and others like it ignore and deny one of the essential aspects of ministerial strength, the habitus practicus. Simply stated, the habitus practicus is the recognition that suffering is an essential element of ministry.
 
The prophets of old preached to prevent the wholesale destruction of God's people. As they watched and experienced the destruction and aftermath, their focus was directed to hope. Ezekiel's response to God's question, "Can these bones live?" was aptly answered, "Only you know, Lord."
 
By this experience of seeing God's miraculous working in an absolutely hopeless situation, Ezekiel learned something about the character of ministry, the habitus practicus. For more insights, see Ministry Health Article #244 "What Ever Happened To 'Habitus Practicus'?"
4. Dismantling Of Leadership. When the ship appears to be sinking, it's always the captain who goes down with the ship. Aside from a few faithful, most of the crew will grab a lifejacket and jump. Instant "promotions" may be the rule of the day. An average member may instantly become congregational chairman. Trusted and qualified leaders, always difficult to find in any situation, are even less likely to come forth under the highly charged Level IV environment.
 
5. Precipitous Membership Decline. When a congregation experiences Level IV conflict, at least one-third of the membership will leave. Included in this group are key leaders, those who have rebelled and no longer wish to fight, and those who simply don't want to be involved in any conflict at all. They will not come back. In most cases, you don't want them back. What you really want, as painful as the admission may be, is a flock of individuals with true Christian character who can hold up to the stress of trial.
 
6. Survival Of The Fittest. As members leave, one or two a day for weeks on end and sometimes in groups, leaders will asked the virtually unanswerable "Why?" The bottom line reason is that a strong church requires individuals who can stand in battle. Those who cannot stay, who leave, rebel, or just can't take anymore pain, experience the very real "survival" of the fittest dynamic. However, just because someone "survived" doesn't mean they are "fit." They may need lots of support from the wounds of war and the "shell shock" of Level IV conflict.
 
7. Widespread Betrayal And Withdrawal of support by a vast majority of key influencers in the congregation. Prior to the outbreak of conflict, there may have been a strong group of influencers to protect you. At Level IV, these are largely non-existent. This leaves one feeling hopeless, defenseless and lonely.
 
8. Extreme Sense Of Powerlessness: At Level IV there is virtually no means to control the conflict. It is a forest fire gone rampant. Mediators may give support, but they too must wait out the conflict until the appropriate time comes. The best analogy for Level IV conflict is being on a passenger jet. The pilot has died. Fuel is almost empty, and the auto pilot doesn't work. Who will take the controls? Will it be the pastor or will he jump, too?  (Cf. Ministry Health Article #11 "When In Conflict, Lead Like A Pilot."
 
9. Major Multiple Staff Resignations. In Level IV conflict pastors and other staff are seriously considering writing a resignation and filling out applications for employment elsewhere. The intensity of Level IV can overwhelm one's sense of calling. The pain is so great that the normal response is to "get out." The pain of the ministry can make even the most resolute, gifted, and successful pastors throw in the ministry towel to seek secular employment.
 
10. Leadership Vacuum. One of the reasons Level IV conflict breaks out is that the essential core leadership base has been disrupted. Equilibrium can be severely disrupted by a vast shift in the congregational power center due to resignations, deaths, transfers out of the area of key, influential, supportive leadership in a very short period of time. Even if second string leaders are available, the disrupted equilibrium caused by the massive, rapid shift in congregational power centers cannot be easily or instantly filled. It takes times for leaders to develop into influencers and gain credibility. Level IV conflict thrives on the vacuum created by that lag time.
 
11. Marked Drop In Offerings. One of the most obvious marks of Level IV conflict is the precipitous drop in congregational offerings. The rate of decline is seldom less than 10-20% of the annual budget per month.  At peak, offerings may decline as much as 80 to 90% of previous annual budget levels before they "bottom out."
 
Whether the finances recover is due to a number of factors. The key here is that Level IV congregational conflict is not characterized by the loss of a few families and a concomitant drop in congregational offerings. It is not losing your top five largest givers. Though these events can be painful, and though the individuals who leave may individually be at Level IV interpersonal conflict, this is not Level IV congregational conflict.
 
12. Denominational Involvement. At Level IV, you must contact the denominational officials and advise them that everything is breaking out immediately. When you call, don't be surprised if they already know. They just couldn't ethically intervene without you first coming forward to seek help.
 
Since they will know, the question is not whether or not to tell them. The question is whether they will find out early enough to intervene or too late to be of any help. If you're fortunate, they will immediately support you after your first contact for assistance. If they don't respond, keep on trying. Level IV conflict is not something a pastor can lead by himself and survive. 
 
13. Coping Relationship Blow-out. Many of the relationships which you enjoyed and relied upon have collapsed. Some have collapsed from others' fear of conflict. Others have been convinced by the opposition of your "guilt." Others may not have the capacity to support you at this level. Still others may feel uncomfortable as they witness what may be a frightening "dismantling" of your personality. You may not be able to support them, either, as you start falling apart.
 
Whatever the reasons, coping relationships are also severely threatened in Level IV conflict. Tragically, many of them break permanently and painfully. For more on coping relationships see Ministry Health Article 14 "Five Necessary Coping Relationships."
 
14. Family Support Blow-out. Your family's capacity to emotionally support you has dissipated and or metastasized into a raging hatred of the antagonists, the church, the denomination, and God. When your own best supporters get out of control, they are no longer able to be supportive, listening, encouraging and calming.
 
Family members may have held you up over the years and also during the gradual, nagging climb up the intensifying conflict. But at Level IV chances are strong that they, like you, have reached their emotional, physical and spiritual limit. This has numerous consequences on the family, the spouse, and the marital relationship. 
 
15. Successive Avalanches Of Chain-Reactive Stress Shifts. Nobody seems to be themselves, including you. Virtually everyone is caught up in the emotions. Many cannot understand reality. It's as if everyone's flipped. The truth is that they have...to their stress shift mode. As Ministry Health Article #81 "Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde" describes, some resulting stress shifts can be totally opposite of one's normal personality.
 
16. Widespread Communication Failures. At Level IV, active listening simply doesn't work with the opposition. Sometimes it doesn't work with the support, either. Emotions are so high that people are driven by self-guided principles. Many of these are irrational. Some are destructive. You can try to talk with people but often it is of no visible immediate effect.
 
Why? Because virtually no one is listening.  There are several reasons why they aren't listening.
First, it's part of the Level IV spiritual condition.  That's specifically what Jesus referred to as the mark of being in the Satan's clutch. "He who has ears to hear..." requires a humble, spiritual condition of the grace-filled, Christ-centered heart.
 
Second, its a physiological phenomena. Individuals in conflict experience a blood pressure change which diverts blood flow from their brain to their muscles. Assumed to be the body's instinct defense response to give strength where it is needed in danger to run, fight, et al,  the downside is that the brain is deprived of normal supply of air- and blood-borne nutrients. The result? They just aren't thinking, can't think, and aren't poised to think.
17. Predominance of The Irrational. "What ARE they doing?" "Why are they doing it?" "Don't they see they are destroying the church?" "Don't they see that if they don't stop, the church they are fighting for won't exist?"
 
At Level IV, things are confused and irrational. Everything appears driven by out-of-control emotions. Senseless words, accusations, and actions proliferate throughout the entire organization...or what is left of it. If one tries to confront it directly, one ends up being attacked, slandered, or at the short end of some sort of victimization strategy.
 
Edwin Friedman, in his book From Generation To Generation, described how family and organizational systems are emotive-driven. At perhaps no other time is this more obvious than it is in Level IV conflict.
 
18. Pervasive Lawlessness. Rampant, obvious, and arrogant disregard for Constitutions, precedent, and established policies. Many congregations are deceived into the belief that if their constitution is clear and that if safeguards are set up, they can "structurally" avoid Level IV conflict by having the right rules.
 
The truth is that though these may be effective at Level I-II, at Level IV, Robert's Rules, Constitutions, bylaws, policies, and the Scriptures are all virtually ineffective means to help control the conflict. Indeed, attempting to apply and enforce these means may escalate the conflict further.  
 
19. Unrestrained Micro-Enforcement Of Legalism. Everything anybody on the opposing side does is, de facto, demonic. Since the opposition is under control of Satan, it is your God-given responsibility to go on a holy war to investigate, find, enforce, and punish every single form of evil discovered.
 
20. The Means Justifies Ends. In a holy war there are no rules. The only thing that matters is the end result. Those leading antagonistic efforts in Level IV conflict may reason that since the opposition is so evil, who cares what happens to them? Who cares what price needs to be paid to stop them? Who cares if the church falls apart as a result of the conflict? The most important thing, in their minds, is to keep the opposition from getting away with whatever they are doing...at all costs.
 
21. Avoidance Of Accountability. If you think you're going to get the elders to go to someone's house and excommunicate them during the heat of Level IV conflict, your fantasy life is richer than anything Disneyland can concoct. In Level IV conflict you will be unfairly attacked, railed, libeled, slandered and accused of everything from not having your shoes tied during your sermon to being a child abuser, embezzler, sex maniac, and a raging psychopath about to commit murder. Of course, the accusations are not true. But they demonstrate just how far the Level IV avoidance and denial of accountability can go. Is it hideous? Is it satanic? Does it hurt? Yes, Yes, Yes! 
 
22. Self-Survival Strategies. When survival is the issue, there are two basic strategies for self-protection. The first is flee, hide and totally separate oneself from the threat as far as possible. The second strategy is relationship fusion.
 
Relational fusion is marked by extremely tight dependencies on certain individuals and groups. It is a defense strategy akin to the "old west" Pioneer's practice gathering the wagon trains in a circle to protect themselves from the enemy. The American Revolutionary motto, "United we stand, divided we fall," is another example of defensive fusion.
 
Because of the ultimate importance of self-survival, whatever differences might have existed before may be ignored. Sometimes this makes for some rather "strange", irrational associations. These associations may seem more like "packs" or "gangs." But, whatever their actions, their presence indicates a remarkable directing of energies for self-survival.
 
23. Uncertain Church Future. At Level IV conflict there is no guarantee the church will survive at all. Certainly, having experienced Level IV conflict, it will not be the same as it had been. Though timely intervention, churchmanship, and other interventions may help, at Level IV one gains an acute realization that the church exists only by the grace and will of God. If the church will survive, it will be a demonstration of Christ's promise, "I will build My Church."
 
24. A Sense Of Uncertainty For Your Own Professional Future. The experience of Level IV conflict is such that it entails an unprecedented degree of personal and professional trauma. The weight of guilt, worthlessness, shame, failure and rejection may combine with an overwhelming feeling of professional ineptness and incompetence.
 
Resignation considerations can appear to be the only possible escape from the pain. Other important decisions with long-term consequences, both personal and professional, may also be strongly considered in reaction to the circumstances. Such decisions, however, may be unwise and imprudent.
 
Robert Schuler's "Peak to Peak" principle ought to be the guide for any decision at this time. "When you're at the highs in life, change your direction. When you're in the valleys of life, change yourself." Level IV is the lowest valley you may ever experience. But don't jump out of the proverbial frying pan into the fire. Don't just react to the confusing stimuli which appear to engulf you.
 
You're in the valley. Stop, find spiritual solitude, and let God change you. As He does, He'll also be changing the organization in positive ways that will result in the basis of a passionate, dynamic, vision-driven organization.
 
What Happens In The Aftermath
 
The description of things which occur in Level IV conflict above is by no means anywhere near exhaustive. However, it does give an adequate picture of what occurs in Level IV conflict.
 
As devastating as the Level IV experience can be, in the aftermath of conflict many extraordinary and remarkable things occur. Those able to "hang in there" will experience the greatest joy in their entire ministries as they witness many things, including the following.
1) Organizational Attitude Change. Though initially it appears "dead" and lifeless, the reality is that after a few months a new, more positive attitude starts to emerge. New leaders become more confident and form ministry teams to get things done.
 
2) Increase In Individual Responsibility. Members--both passive and active--who may have relied heavily on the pastor to do it all and take the heat, realize that the pastor cannot do it all. They step in and take initiative. For some it is their first time. They key, however, is not their experience. It's their heart. They love the church and will do what is necessary.
 
3) Change in Spiritual Level. After Level IV is done it is obvious to those who remain that God has been in charge. He has brought them to this point exclusively by His gracious protection. As individuals in pain seek God, so also churches which suffer also seek God for refuge and strength (Psalm 46).
 
4) Return to a New "Normal" Equilibrium. When the conflict subsides, it will be akin to Noah's experience when the ark finally stopped on dry ground. It will be the same building, but everything will appear to be so different. Church attendance will stabilize and begin a rebound. People will start shaking hands. Involvement in normal groups may resume or be replaced by new groups. Last, of course, the finances will start to rebound.
 
5)  Restructuring Of Leadership. When virtually everyone else's character has failed, there are a chosen few in the remnant who rise to the top. These are not necessarily the existing leaders. Often they come from the silent majority, from among those who have previously refused elective service or simply prefer to work in the background. Their love for the Lord, His church, and for the pastor, turns into a passionate and effective camaraderie and confidential support for the ministry during this difficult time.

6) Appreciation Of The Tenacity Of The Church. One of my favorite sayings is "You can't kill a church." Though over-simplistic, this saying does make a point. Churches are strong. Their social fabric is rugged. They can go through decades and centuries of conflict, rough-riding, severe schism, doctrinal controversy, a variety of pastors and leaders...and still endure.

Churches are tough. That's how God intended them to be. Trust this special God-given characteristic of the church. Leaders who, in spite of Level IV conflict, are able to muster up enough tenacity to function--even on the most minimal level--resource and reinforce that tenacity. Such tenacity is solidly based on Jesus' promise, "I shall build my Church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it."

Churches are divinely strong. Leaders and churches undergoing Level IV conflict have a first-hand experience of beholding the realization of Christ's promise right before their very eyes.

What To Do If You're In Level IV Conflict
 
1) Persevere.
 
The word "persevere" is interesting in that after the prefix "per-" is the word "severe." That's what perseverance is--the ability to endure the "severe."
 
2) Connect With God.
 
Perseverance at Level IV conflict requires more strength than what individuals can bear on their own. One desperately needs God in this kind of weakness. Get that connection with God going by reading the Bible in a deeper manner than ever before. After all, the Bible is more than just a source for sermon material, isn't it?
 
Level IV conflict will create an environment for you to see and experience the greater riches of God's Word. Your connection with Him is your greatest defense.
 
3) Seek Denominational Guidance and Support.
 
Granted, it appears that in too many cases finding denominational executives willing to get their hands dirty and risk political capital for the brother is difficult. Start at the top and work down. Don't be afraid to contact them too soon. The lesser the level of conflict when intervention begins, the greater the chance of avoiding direct and collateral damage.
 
If those at the top don't wish to intervene, keep searching. Every denomination, somewhere, has people who really have a heart and conviction for ministry. They are gifted, able and supportive to assist you. Hopefully they will facilitate mediation and reconciliation processes. Whether them or others, you will need competent mediators/reconcilers.
 
Whatever happens is partly their responsibility, too. They are responsible to God for you and your congregation. Their responsibility is to admonish when necessary, intervene when appropriate, and encourage at all times.
 
4) Seek Peers For Support.
 
If need be, put out some "feelers" for peers who may also have experienced significant conflict. As they say, "There's a new one born every minute." Certainly one hopes that it is not the case. The point is, however, that by the time one completes their ministry, they have probably had some severe conflict, perhaps at Level IV. 
 
Talk with other brothers and sisters in ministry inside and, if necessary, outside your denomination. Community clergy associations can be helpful. Go to community leaders, therapists, and those who are "in the know" in your greater community. Those which may be most helpful when denominational sources fail, are
a) Mega-Church Pastors. A favorite, but not always accurate, saying of mine is "Little churches, little conflict. Big churches, big conflict." Large church pastors, pastors who have grown a church from 0-1000,  and pastors of fast-growing congregations, are generally skilled and gifted conflict managers. They have a "conflict management intelligence" as part of their leadership gifts which gives them a helpful supportive perspective.
 
Get that perspective. Don't be too proud. Call them up. Ask for their quality time. Sit at their feet and learn. They will most likely be willing to help. After all, they have paid the price too, perhaps many, many times.
 
Of course, don't forget the pastors out in "Nazareth" too. Great things come from the unknown, obscure, forgotten and neglected corners of the Kingdom. In fact, it is from those "Nazareths" that the greatest things can arise to give special strength.
 
b) Conflict Consultants. There are many of them out there. The difficulty is finding the one right for you. In addition, there may also be a consultation fee. Don't let that scare you. As the saying goes, "Advice is worth what you pay for it!"
 
c) Community And Organizational Leaders: Have you ever chatted with a CEO? A University Chancellor? The Head Of The University Business or Law School?  The Director of a Social Service agency? The President of very large religious or secular organization? A Lawyer, Judge, or Politician?
 
Some of the trauma individuals experience in Level IV is the result of not having repeated, regular, daily experience of conflict. Though a blessing, it can also be a curse. Leaders of organizations experience the same thing as pastors and other leaders do in the church. Rub shoulders with them. Experience how God can bless and support His ministry in you through what Luther called the "Kingdom of the Left Hand" (i.e. the secular vocations).
 
Don't be shy. Just pick up the phone and give them a call. It doesn't matter if they know you or not. If they are respected in the community, it is probably because they give respect and support. They'll probably give it to you, too.
 
d) Funeral Directors (!): Because of their frequent association with a wide variety of pastors and church families, they are a surprising possibly excellent source. They know everything about everybody everywhere, including pastors. They know many of them personally. They know the good, the bad, the inside and out. They hear it all. They can be very helpful and professional. They also are familiar with dealing with grieving, troubled individuals. Just be sure that they are confidential, too! You don't' really want to add more to the funeral home rumor mill, do you?
 
e) Cyber-support: As Internet resources grow and electronic mail becomes more commonplace, pastors will find a growing network of support in this medium. Resources such as Ministry Health, the Ministry Health And Leadership WebRing, or others sites which deal with various aspects of leadership, organizational dynamics, conflict, codependencies, health and wellness, psychological well-being and Christian spirituality will undoubtedly become more numerous.
 
Email gives unique access to individuals and professionals like no other medium. Many noted doctors, consultants, and other ministry professionals are available by email. Of course, striking up an old seminary friendship via email can be an excellent source of sharing and support in difficult times.
5) Keep The Vision Alive.

Level IV conflict stalls ministry momentum. It tends to kill vision, too. Keep the vision alive. Keep fanning the flames of what the church is about. Bring in denominational specialists on outreach, vision and ministry directions. Attend and invite others to attend leadership seminars and other discipleship and leadership events.

Keeping the vision is essential because, after the flames of conflict burn out, the vision planting and preservation you have done with leaders during the conflict will emerge as the cutting edge of unprecedented congregational renewal.

6) Start Or Expand Home Bible Studies.

People in stress study the Bible. Those who had never been in Bible study before may feel a strong need for pastoral and Scriptural support during the trials of Level IV conflict. So will you. It's a positive reaction to self-preserving fusion. The study of Scripture in small home groups can be an excellent time to support each other. In some congregations, Level IV conflict may provide just the opportunity to get those home groups up and running.

Publicize these meetings. Don't let these sessions be secret. Don't let them be "gossip centers" either. Antagonists will deride them as the pastor's "CIA" clusters. Publicize the home studies at every public opportunity possible. Don't give anyone an objective reason or substantiation for their accusations.

Personally invite the antagonist(s) to attend. If they refuse (which in most cases they will), you haven't lost anything. If they accept, you've gained an opportunity to have them be influenced by the Word. Let the Word work. Whether in Level IV conflict or not, it's all you have. Use it!

7) Pursue Continuing Education.

Whether formal or informal, reading can be wonderful therapy. While educating the reader, reading also gives a welcome diversion. The pain of rejection of Level IV conflict can help individuals discovery the joy of just taking a book, studying it, and learning or getting enjoyment from it. As one writer said, "Books are my best friend."

The continuing education experience can vary from taking up a new hobby at the community center or formally registering for university courses...or both.

8) Find Something You Can Control, Enjoy, And Get Self-Affirmation From.

In a Level IV environment where everything is out-of-control, leaders may feel lost, alienated, alone and worthless. Hobbies and other activities can help alleviate that feeling. In addition to reading (cf. above), many find that the arts are any excellent way to cope with the feelings of the loss of control at Level IV. Music, painting, acting, crafts, woodworking, writing, poetry, photography, collecting are just some of the possibilities.

An unusual phenomenon is that people often find their most relaxing and enjoyable activity is something that they enjoyed in adolescence or in their early adult years but never really developed. If you have difficulty deciding what you might like, that's an excellent place to start.

9) Stay Physically Fit.

Trauma causes people to withdraw. It takes up energy. Don't let it. Eat healthily. Get out for walks, but only for as long as you can without brooding. Excessive brooding can reinforce potentially deadly depression. Call members up for lunch (but remember, salads only! Your energy levels may not be able to metabolize multiple lunches!)

10) Expect Personal Transitions

            One of the most difficult things about Level IV conflict is that it often breaks the proverbial "straw" on one's back. This "breaking" leads to a sense of profound brokenness marked by an extreme sense of aloneness. Understanding the emotional and spiritual transition that may be occurring can help provide a blueprint for renewal and strength. (Cf. Ministry Health's "Keys To Making Life's Necessary Transitions" available for purchase).

11) Never Give Up!!!

The end will come in God's time. Of course, that is never soon enough. As each of the dynamics characterizing Level IV conflict subsides, a new era of ministry will begin. Most churches go through chapters every 2-3 years. Level IV conflict begins a whole new book. If God enables you to stay, do so. The rainbow of God's promises of renewal following Level IV conflict is one of the most brilliant you will ever see. Stay the course and anticipate renewal!

Yes, There Is Hope!
 
Churches can and do recover from Level IV conflict. So do pastors. Unfortunately, too few resources exist which recognize the reality of Level IV conflict. Ministry Health was borne out of the Editor's personal experience of severe Level IV conflict in a congregation which was characterized by several severe Level IV conflicts in its short history.
 
Many of the hundreds of articles deal specifically with the issues and dynamics of the pastoral experience of Level IV conflict. That is one of the unique contributions of Ministry Health. Indeed, it is one of the primary reasons that Ministry Health was written.
 
Ministry Health has numerous articles dealing with items related to Level IV conflict. Articles on dysfunction, antagonists, spiritual transformation, and others dealing with the habitus practicus (cf. Ministry Health Article # 244) may be specifically helpful to help hold you up and bring you through Level IV conflict in your church.
 
But don't do it alone. You can't. That's why we have the Lord's promise, "I will never leave you or forsake you." He never will. Once you've been through Level IV conflict, you will know God's power first-hand. You will witness the amazing power He has for you and for your ministry.
 
Jesus promised to build His church against the gates of hell. Level IV conflict will make a believer of you. He does build His church. You may have to suffer to realize that. But remember, He had to die and rise to make the victory reality. 
 
Thomas F. Fischer

* This article is based on my reflections of severe Level IV conflict. Those interested in further insights on Level IV conflict are invited to contact me at Director@ministryhealth

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This page was revised on: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:02:41 PM