There are two types of conflict in congregations: conflict that kills and conflict that cultivates growth. So argues the Rev. David Woolverton in his new book that is drawing much attention, Mission Rift: Leading through Church Conflict.
Conflict that kills–that damages or destroys teams, ministries, missions, vibrancy– occurs when we as the people of God forget who we are, why we’re here, and where we’re going in carrying out the divine mission. Conflict that cultivates growth requires that leaders see it as a springboard for learning how to live together as a people called to transform their neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces.
In Mission Rift, Dr. Woolverton reorients our view of congregational conflict, exploring why it is essential to discipleship, mission and effective leadership. He challenges leaders to create environments that utilize spiritual formation and family systems to facilitate growth in faith communities. Indeed, creative conflict can lead to spiritual growth; but the lack of it may reveal missional decline, rather than congregational unity.
Mission Rift is the conference Congregational Development Team’s next CDT Book Club selection, beginning next week. Woolverton, lead pastor at St. Paul’s Church, Elizabethtown, frequently teaches courses on overcoming church conflict in Eastern PA. He will lead the four-week study on Wednesdays, August 11 to Sept. 1, at 11 AM.
An ordained elder here for three decades, he has served and consulted in congregations of various sizes and now. He teaches and directs the Master of Arts in Leadership program at Evangelical Theological Seminary in Myerstown, PA.
“Clearly the best book on conflict I’ve ever read” is how renowned church leadership expert Bill Easum describes Mission Rift. “It’s thoughtful, scholarly, and full of biblical examples. If you’re looking for a book on how to constructively lead in the midst of conflict, look no further.”
“Woolverton offers a unique perspective on how mission-driven churches are shaped rather than paralyzed by conflict,” writes Sam Rainer, a Baptist pastor and president of Church Answers. “This is not a quick-fix conflict resolution book,” says Jo Anne Lyon, of The Wesleyan Church. “It brings new light to Scripture and the final goal of transformation for all.”
(Note: Some of this description was adapted from reviews of the book on Amazon.)