Leading By Confrontation

I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh, I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church (Colossians 1:24, ESV).

A leader suffers for the sake of others.

Too often we insist others suffer for us – even when we are wrong.

Yesterday, I was sitting at a stop light with two cars in front of me. The driver in the car closest to the intersection was texting as the light changed and didn’t move. 

The next driver honked.

Both cars then moved forward to the next intersection with the “texting” driver turning right and the “honking” driver passing on the left to go straight. The “texting” driver rolled down her window and threw a Happy Meal on the “honking” driver’s car as he passed – french fries, hamburger, box, toy, and Coke.

The “texting” driver had gray hair and looked to be in her 60s. Yes, probably a grandmother with a child and throwing the child’s Happy Meal!

The gut reaction of this age is that we are right, others are wrong, and they should pay, even if it is our fault.

The Apostle Paul had a different idea of what it means to be an adult as he filled up in his body what was lacking in the afflictions of Christ for others. Paul suffered for others, he took the blame, and he was patient even when others in the church were wrong.

As a pastor, I had to tread carefully if I was going to talk with someone about an inadequacy. Often resistance, and even anger, was their first response.  Sometimes, they would leave my office mad and gather friends for support.

Now it was me against several; I would rather have french fries thrown at me.

My reaction – nothing, patience, and prayer.

If I was right, it would become more and more apparent, and if I was wrong or had approached the matter without wisdom – well, I needed to know that too.

Many times, because I didn’t over-react, the door was left open for honest evaluation and restoration of friendship.

Through 49 years of being a senior pastor, I did a lot of confrontation, or as the Bible says, “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Some of the messes that I had to wade into were bogs of denial, deception, accusation, anger, and vengeance. 

Yet, that is what a leader, a pastor, a friend, or a parent does – walks right into it.

Rules of Survival

  • Have the attitude of Paul – a willingness to suffer or pay the price of honesty so that others can mature.
  • Realize that you will misstep in any confrontation.  

In every situation in which I dealt with the sins of others – I made mistakes. I misspoke, didn’t listen, didn’t speak honestly, or didn’t inform the right people. My minor “slip-up” often became a point of contention used by the confronted to hide behind or cover up the “major” difficulty that had originally caused offense.

I took the hit… the suffering… and kept pressing on. I admitted my error but kept insisting on truth with everyone involved.

  • Don’t yield to fear. There are potential consequences in telling the truth, yet truth is best. I often knew my honesty would cause others to leave the church or that they would attack me. 

I found solace in my leadership team. I asked them for guidance and wisdom before entering the swamp.

Paul said that he “rejoiced” while suffering for others. I admit that I don’t. 

I do pray for myself and others to find God’s grace and mercy in confrontation.