Conflict & Real Peace on the Mission Field

Feb 28, 2024

There’s conflict in the workplace, and then there’s conflict within mission teams. Both happen on work teams, both can affect life significantly, and both can mess with your headspace in huge ways, but the stakes of mission team conflict are typically so much higher. Failing to resolve a workplace conflict doesn’t usually have the potential to get you pulled from the country you’re living in or drive you out of it. And because you are in that country as a missionary––a light for Jesus intended to draw people to him––there’s the fear that failure to resolve the conflict could blow up everything you’ve been working to accomplish.

Yep, it’s a really big deal. You know that, which is why you’re reading this article.

As heavy of a start as that was, there is hope, so hang with us! And not only hope but also practical steps you can take toward pursuing peace and finding it.

In our recent podcast episode with Dr. Janeen Davis of Purpose and Peace Solutions, she shared a fresh, practical way of approaching conflict within mission teams. 

Where to Begin

When it comes to making peace within your team, we can’t run straight to tips and tricks. We may be missionaries, but we can forget as easily as anyone that our spirits and their connection to the Holy Spirit come first. Instead of jumping straight into our heads and relying most heavily on our communication skills and negotiation abilities, we’ve got to lean on the Holy Spirit for guidance. 

Shifting from “I got this” to “Let’s let God lead the way” can make a huge difference, not just in resolving conflicts but also in our personal growth and faith journey.

My Way, Your Way, or God’s Way?

Team conflicts often kick off because we’re dead set on getting our own way. We tend to believe that our way is the only right way, and that’s where the trouble begins. This mindset links our well-being to what’s happening around us and how others behave. So, when things don’t go our way, we end up feeling hurt and angry. 

It’s so hard to remember, but our well-being isn’t tied to external factors––it’s rooted in our relationship with God. Realizing this can totally change how we see ourselves and where our real peace comes from.

There’s a reason Jesus is called the Prince of Peace.

Conflict Resolution Myths

The Matthew 18 Myth: Some people think that the Matthew 18 model for conflict resolution is the be-all and end-all. It suggests that every offense is a result of sin, but let’s face it, most conflicts aren’t about sinning against each other. They usually pop up because of unmet expectations.

The Pressure Myth: We often falsely believe that cranking up the pressure and making people hash things out will magically solve the problem. But it doesn’t work that way. More pressure often leads to more resistance and makes finding peace even trickier.

The Silent Myth: If we don’t talk about it, it must not really exist, right? Or, if I told that person what I was upset about and they said ok, we must be ok! This describes false peace. Silence or power-playing someone into “agreement” is just a bomb waiting to explode. 

A New Approach to Conflict Resolution

So, what’s the better way to deal with team conflict? 

  1. Self-reflection and Vertical Forgiveness: Before you go all out confronting the other party, take a moment for self-reflection and talk things out with God. Ask for forgiveness if you’ve been harboring bitterness or anger in your heart. Drop the need to win or prove a point.
  2. Compassionate Conversation: Once you’re at peace with God and have let go of personal grudges, approach the other person with compassion. Talk it out with listening love instead of attacking anger. Share your concerns with the aim of making things right, not making someone pay.
  3. Outside Help: If the problem doesn’t budge, think about involving others to mediate or provide guidance. But remember, it should come from a place of genuine care for everyone involved, not from a desire to win or prove someone wrong.

*We want to say that if there is any abuse involved of any type, it is essential that you reach out to someone you can trust and ask for help. God cares about those you are there to serve, and he cares about you too. 

Team conflict resolution is a big deal anywhere in the world it occurs, but especially in missionary work. We are called to be God’s witnesses abroad—to reflect the Prince of Peace. Jesus can give us that true peace! We must begin with faith, humility, and a willingness to let go of personal agendas. With dedication and a commitment to understanding, we can tackle challenges together, building unity that not only strengthens our mission but also brings hope to those we serve.

Connect with Dr. Janeen Davis
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