“No one has to convince missionaries that conflict exists in missions. It has been a part of missions since the very beginning in the early chapters of the book of Acts. Not only has there been conflict, but the basic issues are still the same in that there are cultural conflicts which bring disagreement between missionaries and headquarters as well as conflicts between individual missionaries on the field. Why do we have conflict? What should we do about it? What steps can we take to resolve it? What do we do if you feel like we are attacked? What if it cannot be resolved? Let’s consider some of these questions.
Why do we have conflict?
Conflict is normal whenever people who hold different opinions are in a close relationship. Conflict occurs whenever people who care have different opinions on important issues. The more the people care and the more important the issue, the more intense the conflict. Conflicts are simply a fact of life, and they are destructive only if not handled correctly.
Let’s take as an example the conflict that arose in Acts 15. Paul and Barnabas returned from their first term of service to the local church that had commissioned them in Antioch. They held a mission conference and told about all that God had done through them. Everything went well for a long time until men from the culture in which headquarters was located visited the church in Antioch.
These men began teaching that unless the men who had responded to the message preached by Paul and Barnabas were circumcised, they were not saved. The issue was whether or not this “custom taught by Moses” was a cultural issue or a salvation issue. Thus we have a situation in which missionaries who cared deeply (Paul and Barnabas) disagreed with others on an important question (Salvation). This brought the missionaries into “sharp dispute and debate with them” (v.2).