The Relationship Between Confrontation and Church Growth
The following excerpt is taken from pp. 85-86 the book African-American Church Growth: 12 Principles for Prophetic Ministry written by Carlyle Fielding Stewart, III. ISBN 0-687-16541-5
THE PASTOR AS CREATIVE CONFRONTER
The pastor must not only clarify but creatively confront the people and problems both he and they face. Often in discussing pastoral care, we avoid using the language of confrontation. It seems harsh, almost incongruous with the role of pastor as sympathizer and shepherd. Yet, if we are to seriously consider the elements of prophetic church growth, the pastor must exemplify courage in creatively confronting and addressing the serious problems that arise in the lives of parishioners and the church. God help the pastors who are afraid to take on the critical problems for fear of getting their clothing soiled and their hands dirty.
People today are seeking strong spiritual leadership. They want a leader who can firmly take problems on and help to bring about effective solutions. We stated earlier that a mark of biblical prophecy is a conviction with a prerequisite of courage. The pastor must show fortitude in the heat of battle and not shrink in tough times. He or she must find a way to be tough but tender, firm but flexible, confrontational but not abrasive.
One pastor recalled the necessity of creatively confronting a faithful member rumored to have been stealing money from the church. This person, also a money counter, was seen several times by other trustees slipping twenty-dollar bills into his pocket. This apparently went on for six months, but none of the other six counters ever accosted him with it. Finally, the pastor could no longer postpone the inevitable.
In order to resolve the problem in a Christian manner, the pastor decided to follow the mandate in Matthew 18:15. He went to the man alone and confronted him with the facts. So incensed was the man that he vented his rage at the pastor, who fled in a storm. Resolutely determined to resolve the issue, the pastor took three of the counters with him to confront the man again, but the result was the same.
Because the man refused to meet with the pastor after a third request, the only recourse was to take the matter to the church. The man was summarily "expelled" from his duties as trustee but given a chance for a hearing, which he refused.
Furthermore, the pastor was faced with the added burden of confronting the trustees and counters who had observed what went on but chose to ignore it. As a result, some of them became angry at the pastor because, said one, they "weren't to blame."
The problem was resolved with the establishment of guidelines and policies which recommended a course of action if a member is suspected of stealing money from the church.
Creative confrontation of both the man and the counters, who were unwitting complicitors, was highly expedient, lest the church be torn asunder by potential conflict. The pastor needed to show courage even if it meant risking well-established relationships with certain people. Failure to act would have created a far greater problem, rending the church apart. Fortitude and aptitude were really required here.
People expect pastors to act on their moral authority, to address potential problems and demonstrate a will to resolve conflict, even if it means being seared by its fires. Countless churches have failed to grow simply because the pastoral leadership did not show courage, faith, and strength when the hour called for it. Creative confrontation is indispensable in dealing with the quagmires of human disparity and conflict.