Conflict Among Believers

By   •   July 15, 2010

Several years ago, a church received a new pastor. A group of members decided they did not appreciate him or his style of preaching, so they decided to boycott the services, while still attending the Bible study/Sunday School classes.

After just six months, this man resigned from his position. The tension among the group of church members not only hurt the pastor and his family; it hurt the remnant of the congregation who lost a friend when he resigned.

Unfortunately, examples like this are all too common. How did we get to this point? Read what James wrote to a group of Christians:

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. – James 4:1-3

Cultural Influence

The passage says, “You lust and do not have; so you commit murder.” Why is this? We can attribute much if these lusts to human nature, but what about the messages that we get from our culture? We are taught from all avenues of media to serve ourselves and give into our carnal desires.

When James uses the phrase “commit murder,” he refers to the hate that can manifest in our hearts if our selfish desires are not kept in check. 1 John 3:15 tell us that “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” When we allow our desire for control in the church to overtake our desire to love one another, we allow hate to creep into our hearts.

Our culture does not teach us to consider others first. Unfortunately, this way of thinking seeps into the church and results in power struggles over things like who gets to decide the style of music or which program volunteers and/or church staff members have more say in how things are run.

It is crucial to know the Word of God if we are to resist these types of influences.


Insecurity does not discriminate. In some ways, it could be classified as an epidemic among God’s children. Sometimes, this insecurity takes the form of conflict among believers.

James 4:2 says, “You are envious and cannot obtain.” Envy often stems from an insecurity issue. When we are not satisfied with where we are in our earthly journey (in a worldly sense), or the lot God has given us, there is a fertile breeding ground for insecurity.

If our hearts are left untreated, feelings of envy will overtake us and often result in an outward, argumentative behavior. We are not to deny our feelings of envy; we are only to deny their authority over our lives. Be honest with God; take your feelings of jealousy toward a brother or sister in Christ and lay them before Him.

Only He can treat them.


James writes in 4:3, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives.”

We might truly believe that God wants us to have the very position of power or status that we crave among our church body. When we want something badly, we can convince ourselves that it is God’s will. It is important to take inventory of your motives. Ask yourself questions such as: Why do I feel this way? How would God’s Kingdom be advanced as a result of this?

Don’t buy into the cultural message that if you believe it to be true in your heart that it must be “right.” Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that our hearts are deceitful. Ask God to reveal your motives, and ask Him to direct your prayers according to His will.

God will never answer a prayer in a way that contradicts what He tells us in the Bible. It is important to stay grounded in Scriptures so that we can know if our desires are worth fighting for.

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  1. Perry says:

    I am a medically retired pastor. I ministered full time for 15 years. Sadly but truthfully, my family and I have experienced just what you spoke of. Right on target! I also saw in many churches an attitude of “seek first our likes, dislikes,our welfare and that of my family and community. “Instead of, ” Seek first the Kingdom of God “

  2. Betty says:

    If ever there was a time for ALL Christians to come together it is now. Stop the gossip, jealousy, one-upsmanship, judgmental attitudes. Our Father needs us to emulate Jesus in acts as well as words.

  3. annette says:

    Thank you for words of confirmation, encouragement and blessing today.

  4. Teresa says:

    This has ministered to me so much! I'm ashamed to say I've been struggling with feelings of envy. God has touched my heart by reading this, and I am turning those feelings over to Him. I'm so thankful for His forgiveness and mercy!

  5. Rita says:

    Still Thanking God for Prople who stand reardless of the conflict or opposition. God is in control ~ Let us stand stedfast unmovable in the things of our GREAT GOD He is coming soon ~ Let us continue to preach the good news ~

  6. jack says:

    The church needs Jesus still many of us go to church only for name sake…please pray we need to make Christ the center of our hearts. Then only the change will come.

  7. amanda says:


  8. Patrick says:

    This article is about avoiding conflict. What about once we have conflict? How should we handle that?

  9. Ben says:

    This is a very informative piece. It deals with the heart of many problems in many churches. I cannot fault the pastor for resigning. Even Christ left some places where he wasn't wanted. God sends us to a certain place for a season. And that season may be a very short one, or it may be a long one, or it may be for a lifetime.

  10. jani says:

    I can not understand why people in church do little nit picky things just to start something. It always ends up in a dispute. Why not leave things alone and not try to upset God's people. i.e. Taking it upon themselves to move musical instruments out of the sanctuary without any notice (two or three people did this), move out church furniture without notice. We came in one Sunday and the furniture was missing (one person did this). These are the conflicts we don't need. There are people dying and going to hell right past our argumentative noses.