God's Answers For A Church In Conflict

 “I think that the local churches should be allowed to ordain women.”

 “Well, I think that it’s wrong—because the world church voted against it.”


 Back and forth, this issue is being heatedly debated within the Seventh-day Adventist Church and most Protestant churches today, with little reconciliation. One of the most thought-provoking comments concerning this controversy was made by a wise elderly saint who said, “I’ve heard both sides, and I just want to know what GOD thinks!”

 May we prayerfully consider the counsel God has given to His church in conflict today:

 What principle does God give in resolving conflicts within the church?

“Without counsel, plans go awry, But in the multitude of counselors they are established (Proverbs 15:22 NKJV, See also Proverbs 11:14; 24:6).

Some have a natural independence which leads them to think more highly of their own judgment than of that of their brethren. . . . It is his plan that there should be a counseling together. In the multitude of counselors there is safety. There should be harmony in sentiment and action among the workers. Doctrines and plans should be compared with the law and the testimony. We should never feel too independent to learn of one another. While it is not according to God’s plan that one man’s mind shall control all other minds, he is not pleased to have individuals strike out on a new track, and present new theories independent of the body” {Historical Sketches of the Foreign Missions of the Seventh-day Adventists, 125.1}.

“He (God) has not provided that the burden of leadership shall rest upon a few men. Responsibilities are distributed among a large number of competent men” (Testimonies for the Church 8:236).

How is the representative government of God’s modern church in line with the Biblical model of the apostolic church?

 “And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue” (Acts 15:2 (ASV). 

“The entire body of Christians was not called to vote upon the question. The “apostles and elders,” men of influence and judgment, framed and issued the decree, which was thereupon generally accepted by the Christian churches” {Acts of the Apostles, 196.2}.


What did Paul do when he faced dissension in the church body and what was the positive result?

 “Throughout his ministry, Paul had looked to God for direct guidance. At the same time, he had been very careful to labor in harmony with the decisions of the general council at Jerusalem, and as a result the churches were “established in the faith, and increased in number daily.” Acts 16:5” (Acts of the Apostles, 402). 

How were the early believers expected to react to a voted decision among the representatives from the churches? 

“  . . . All controversy was to cease until a final decision should be given in general council. This decision was then to be universally accepted by the different churches throughout the country” {Acts of the Apostles,190.2}.


Applying the Biblical principal from above, how should a voted decision by representatives from all parts of the field be received by God’s church today?

 Never should the mind of one man or the minds of a few men be regarded as sufficient in wisdom and power to control the work, and to say what plans should be followed. But when, in a General Conference, the judgment of the brethren assembled from all parts of the field, is exercised, private independence and private judgment must not be stubbornly maintained, but surrendered. Never should a laborer regard as a virtue the persistent maintenance of his position of independence, contrary to the decision of the general body. . . . God has ordained that the representatives of His church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference, shall have authority” (Testimonies for the Church 9:260, 261).


Like the apostolic church, should our modern-day church accept decisions voted by representatives from God’s church at large, even if it contradicts current political culture?

 “For I am the Lord, I do not change. . . .” Malachi 3:6 (NKJV)

 “Conformity to worldly customs converts the church to the world; it never converts the world to Christ” {The Great Controversy, 509}.


Does following the Biblical model of conflict resolution lead to complete harmony within the church?

 “Not all, however, were pleased with the decision; there was a faction of ambitious and self-confident brethren who disagreed with it. These men assumed to engage in the work on their own responsibility. They indulged in much murmuring and faultfinding, proposing new plans and seeking to pull down the work of the men whom God had ordained to teach the gospel message. From the first the church has had such obstacles to meet and ever will have till the close of time” {Acts of the Apostles, 196.2}.


Is administering discipline loving and beneficial to God’s church and should the church have a system of rules and order relating to discipline?

“My child, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves the one he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11-12 (RSV).

“Satan well knows that success can only attend order and harmonious action. He well knows that everything connected with heaven is in perfect order, that subjection and thorough discipline mark movements of the angelic host. It is his studied effort to lead professed Christians just as far from heaven’s arrangement as he can; therefore, he deceives even the professed people of God and makes them believe that order and discipline are enemies to spirituality; and the only safety for them is to let each pursue his own course and to remain especially distinct from bodies of Christians who are united and are laboring to establish discipline and harmony of action. . . . I was shown that it is Satan’s especial work to lead men to feel that it is God’s order for themselves and choose their own course, independent of their brethren” (Testimonies for the Church 1:649, 650).

Those who will remain low and will not be elevated and disciplined by the rules of the church, those who will not be elevated but fight against reform, order, and advancement, should not be dragged along against their will. And if they choose to intrude among those who love order, system, and discipline, and annoy them with their bold and rebellious speeches, the church should cut loose from them and leave them. It is a wide world. They can take the course which they love and leave the saints to enjoy their peace, order, and system without intruding themselves among them” {Manuscript 3-1861.24}.


How does the order of governance in God’s church compare to the structure of a family?

 “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:3 (NKJV). 

“The great Head of the church superintends His work through the instrumentality of men ordained by God to act as His representatives” {Acts of the Apostles, 360.1}. 

“I was pointed to this text in (Isaiah 3:12): “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them.” Women and children rule in these perilous times, and they are unconsecrated and lead the wrong way. I saw that it was time for God to work and set things in order” {Letter 20-1861.11}.


What is the responsibility of every church member concerning unity in the body of Christ?

 “I . . . beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called . . . endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1, 3 (NKJV). 

“God is leading a people out from the world upon the exalted platform of eternal truth, the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. He will discipline and fit up His people. They will not be at variance, one believing one thing, and another having faith and views entirely opposite; each moving independently of the body. Through the diversity of the gifts and governments that He has placed in the church, they will all come to the unity of the faith” {Manuscript 135-1901.43}.


Do individual church leaders have the right to go against the voted decision of the church body at large if it is not going against a plain, “Thus saith the Lord?”

 “Though we have an individual work and an individual responsibility before God, we are not to follow our own independent judgment, regardless of the opinions and feelings of our brethren; for this course would lead to disorder in the church. It is the duty of ministers to respect the judgment of their brethren. . . . God is moving upon His ministers to be one in doctrine and in spirit” {Review and Herald, June 3, 1884, par. 3}.


What if the issue of disagreement is based on social discrimination and defends those being misrepresented, discriminated against, treated unfairly, etc.?

 “It was not the apostle’s work to overturn arbitrarily or suddenly the established order of society. To attempt this would be to prevent the success of the gospel” {Acts of the Apostles, 459}. 

“Again and again Christ had been asked to decide legal and political questions; but He refused to interfere in temporal matters” (Testimonies for the Church 9:218).


Instead of perceived social injustices, what message should be the focus of the church’s mission?

“I saw the burden of the message should be the first, second, and third angels’ messages, and those who had any hope in God would yield to the force of that truth” (Manuscript Releases 5, 228).


What is the secret of working together in unity of mission within the church today?

 “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” I Corinthians 1:10 (NIV)

 “Let every department of our work, every institution connected with our cause, be conducted on considerate, generous lines. Let every branch of the work, while maintaining its own distinctive character, seek to protect, strengthen, and build up every other branch. . . . Each worker must give his own branch special effort; but it is the privilege of each to study and labor for the health and welfare of the whole body of which he is a member” (The Publishing Ministry, 158).

 “Man is fallible; but the message is infallible. With it all should be in harmony; it is the center of interest, in which all hearts should be united.  . . . None should feel that it is of no special importance whether they are in union with their brethren or not; for those who do not learn to live in harmony here will never be united in heaven” {{Historical Sketches of the Foreign Missions of the Seventh-day Adventists, 124.5}.


What is God’s promise that gives us hope for His church today in conflict?

 “. . . For he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.” Zechariah 2:8 (NKJV)

 “Enfeebled and defective as it may appear, the church is the one object upon which God bestows in a special sense His supreme regard” {Acts of the Apostles, 12.1}.

 “I know that the Lord loves His church. It is not to be disorganized or broken up into independent atoms. There is not the least consistency in this; there is not the least evidence that such a thing will be” {Selected Messages, 2:68.3}.

 “The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. It remains . . .” (Selected Messages 2:380 (1886).


Praise God that His church will prevail to the end! May we all stay faithful to Jesus and remain united in the mission of spreading the Three Angels’ Messages to the world in preparation of Christ’s soon return!



Melissa Sexson Hanson is an avid student of Bible prophecy and an active member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. She has elementary education and English secondary degrees from Union College and is currently working as a freelance writer with the purpose of preparing souls for Christ’s soon return.