First published in Sunday U Magazine.
Most church conflict is not about worship styles, theological affiliations, or carpet color. Most church fights are about metaphors.
Everyone has an operating metaphor for what the church is supposed to be. Some think it should be a cruise ship, where the staff offer stellar customer service and glittering performances. Some expect it to be a classroom, whose primary purpose is to instill a hearty theology in the minds of the students. More than a few want a circle of wagons that keep them safe from the evils of post-Christian culture. Some just want a punch clock that they use at Christmas and Easter to check in. Whatever the preferred analogy, most people have one, and that frames all of their expectations for the church. Nothing is more disorienting than a new pastor who comes to town with a fresh, vision-inspiring metaphor that isn’t the one the last pastor preached.
One of the biggest conflicts in churches in the 20th century came when….
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