Bob sounded frantic and distraught when I answered his call.
“Pastor,” he said, “you’ll never believe what I did.” He went on to talk about how he’d made one of those dreaded and embarrassing texting faux pas we all hope will never happen to us. He was responding to a member of his community group who had been hosting parties at their house to try and connect with those outside the church. Bob told him that he couldn’t make it this time but that he was really pumped to see how many people from outside the church were getting involved and connecting. He mentioned one couple in particular: “Josh and Sherry have really appreciated being invited. They don’t have a lot of money and aren’t able to get out and do things very often. ” The problem of course, was that he had unknowingly responded to a group text which included both Josh and Sherry. So when he called me he was apologizing and wondering what to do.
I suppose that a couple of years ago I might have shared his anxiety. Is this going to cause a riff in the group? Is this going to leave a sour taste in Josh and Sherry’s mouth? I spent much of my earlier years in ministry worrying about conflict and doing everything I could to make sure it happened as little as possible. But more recently, I’ve started to actually get excited when conflict occurs. Not all the time of course. Some conflicts can be down right ugly and have devastating effects on a community. But often conflict is the very thing a community needs to go to the next level.
If people in your small group have never gotten in an argument, that doesn’t mean they are close and get along really well. It may mean they are still just scratching the surface of what true community and genuine relationships look like. Just like when you overhear someone say, “My boyfriend’s great, we never argue about anything,” you immediately assume they haven’t been dating very long. Conflict isn’t fun, but it is often exactly what your church needs to really grow.
This proved to be the case with Bob’s texting mishap. Josh and Sherry are now regular members of Bob’s community group, and the incident has become a favorite inside joke.
Kevin Hanly is Pastor of River Vale Community Church located in northern New Jersey (35 minutes north of Manhattan). He and his wife Laura are blessed with two kids Grace (age 4) and Caleb (age 2). He holds an MDiv from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and ThM in Church History from Princeton Seminary. In 1994 he fell one match short of playing Mark in the Wyoming state men’s tennis final where they planned to lead the crowd in gospel-centered devotionals during each changeover.