Ironically enough, I woke that morning with a spring in my step.
The exhaustion of mothering our three stair-step babies had settled in, but amidst the chaotic, oatmeal in my hair and juice spilled on my pants, kind of day, a renewed passion stirred in my heart at the thought of taking my overwhelmed state and funneling it into a new ministry position.
I looked at the handwritten note that had just come in the mail from the ministry leader and smiled.
“What a great first week, Jen. I can’t wait to see what God will do this year as we encourage young moms. Thanks.”
I gathered my diaper bag, loaded up our three boys and headed to church for our team meeting. As I entered, I was surprised to find only a handful of the team already gathered in a small circle.
I sat down and immediately the leader began reading a Bible passage. I can’t remember it now, but I knew a problem must have occurred.
As she finished, there was an awkward silence. Being so passionately naive, I kind of chuckled and exclaimed, “Oh no, we already have an issue with someone? It’s only the first week.”
“Yes, Jen, I’ve prayed about this and sought counsel from others and I just don’t think this is a fit for you.”
Clutching my four-month-old baby, I felt like I was going to throw up. Had I heard her correctly? This was the same woman who just sent the note. Surely not. I was a young mom in love with serving my Jesus and this came out of the blue; a devastating sucker punch. Not only was I was shocked and confused, but after probing about her reasoning, no answer was given.
The meeting adjourned. I rustled up my toddlers from the nursery, and by the time I got them in their car seats, I put my head on the steering wheel and sobbed.
For the first time, I experienced that deep-down, soul-altering, barely-can-breathe kind of grief that only comes through a ministry-type of betrayal. While I hadn’t developed a deep relationship with this woman, it still cut to the core because somehow I equated that time as a barometer of my love for Jesus. It was almost as if I heard her whisper, “We don’t need your kind of encouragement,” cloaked behind some “Christian-ese words.”
Twenty years ago, that meeting marked me.
That encounter was a defining ministry moment for me. My style of leadership changed in profound ways. I never wanted someone to experience an ambush confrontation like that. There had to be a better way.
My parents’ Christ-like modeling sprang to the forefront of my mind. Over and over I prayed, “The Lord is the defender of my reputation.”
I contemplated launching a successful justice-oriented defense. I knew I’d “win” because this had been done so quietly without the entire leadership team’s knowledge, but I chose to stay silent and elevate the ministry over my own agenda.
I’ll be honest, my silence was a year-long struggle, and sometimes I wanted a medal for my self-imposed martyrdom — not the most Godly confession, I admit. I dove into studying the peacemaking principles on conflict resolution found in Matthew 18:15-16.
If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen,take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
Do we understand how much healthier the Body of Christ would be if we followed Jesus’s instructions?
Imagine how different this encounter would have been if this leader had come to me one-on-one as Scripture instructs, and shared her concerns with me. Would I have been hurt? Yes, but she would have shown that she was for me, for unity, for building the Church in healthy ways. We could have prayed together, talked it through, and built on our relationship. All these years later and I still don’t understand what happened.
The first step Jesus outlines is a private matter, not a communal one. We should never gather others around to discuss and confront first because, often, it may be a misunderstanding that has taken flight.
I’ll try not to get on my soapbox, but my heart is grieved when Christians circumvent God’s Word and determine their own interpretation. I’m seeing it everywhere. Instead of dealing with it in love, truth, and compassion, we either tiptoe around it, push it under the rug, get everyone else’s opinion about the situation first, blog about it when it’s not our business, or declare we just don’t want to be judgmental.
I no longer confront someone. Since 1997, that defining ministry moment opened the door for my heart of carefrontation.
In carefrontation, we desire to build and strengthen the Kingdom, not tear it down through caustic gossip hidden behind prayer requests and probing Christian sentiments.
With a heart of “carefrontation,” we care more about the relationship than being right.
With a heart of carefrontation, we don’t approach with fingers pointed, ready for war, but rather, humbly approach with a heart of compassion and restitution. Carefronting seeks community building. It’s a heart ready and willing to look at ourselves and the fact that we may have done something to offend as well.
It’s hard, it’s messy and it requires great courage.
I no longer start a ministry year without first walking our group through the biblical model of confrontation. Practically, we talk through the biblical expectations to observe if any of us have a problem with one another.
I commit to holding their reputation close to my heart and vow that I will not entertain discussions about them with others from the group. “Your reputation is safe with me,” is my motto.
When someone approaches me about another, I immediately ask if they’ve approached their brother or sister in Christ. If they haven’t, I encourage them to go to him/her first before talking with others about their grievance. I take this approach in my everyday life with friends and relatives as well, and we’re teaching our children the very important steps of biblical conflict resolution.
Does it always go smoothly? I wish.
Have I always guarded my tongue? Regretfully, no.
Is this easy? Never, but it’s revolutionized my relationships.
Unfortunately, we live in a broken world where more are concerned about their rights than relationships. The biblical model of confrontation is a two-way street and both hearts have to be willing to lay down their own agendas to peacefully work toward a resolution. Whether or not you want to, it’s always the best option.
Today I’m grateful for that heartbreak because it refined my relationship with the Lord. It allowed me to follow His leading, rather than my own, and prayerfully determine how any difficult situation can ultimately bring glory to His name.
How have you seen relationships restored through “carefrontation?”
Author at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, host of The Becoming Conference
Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Sadly, I have to say that I have witnessed many cases of “Christian” sabotage. I’ve seen the destruction that it can cause. A youth group leader, who had an issue with my son, instead of confronting him face to face, brought it before a whole youth group. I suppose he thought he’d use my son as a prop in a teaching lesson?? Anyway, my son walked out of church and vowed never to walk back through the doors of a church every again. My heart ached. If that was what Christians were all about, then my son didn’t want any part of it. He looked up to this “leader”. I couldn’t blame him. It took almost 7 years of me on my knees praying for God to woo my son back to Himself and my son walking a prodigal path for my son to set foot in a church again. I think, as a church, we do need lessons in “carefrontation”. We’re pretty good on the forgiveness message, but in how we approach a brother or sister in Christ, our skills are sorely lacking. I see a book, Jen, that needs to go out to all who are in leadership roles (and all members of the church) about this lost art and Biblical principle. Share the message!
Yes. Same thing happened to my grandson’s in middle school. They will not got back. I changed churches also.
I liked what you said about rights versus relationships. So damaging.
Thank you for your voice and perspective.
Jennifer Schmidt says
Oh Bev – my heart aches as I read this. How we hurt our own church family can cause so much destruction.
And yes, the church doesn’t teach on this and trust me, it’s something I am quite passionate about because I see the examples of health when done well and such hurt (more often) when not followed.
And your sweet encouragement about a book on it? I know I have enough stories and passion for it, but phew, that would be a painful one. Don’t think it’s my season. xoxox
Rebecca L Jones says
Christian sabotage is a good description, wouldn’t it be nice if they realized they just switched sides, we’re supposed to be on the same one.
Jasmine Ruigrok says
Oh wow… I too carry ministry scars with similar tales to this. Thankyou so much for sharing your wisdom and what you learned. This is something I’ve learnt and am still learning through healing. Aren’t soul scars so slow to fade? It’s been almost two years, and lies and pain still act up for me at times. I desire to have a heart that strives to protect a person’s reputation like this, and to approach people in the spirit of love and truth. Thankyou for the encouragement to do so.
Jennifer Schmidt says
We are all still in process, aren’t we? May we never be women who stop learning and growing and changing. Thank you for your encouraging words as well. 🙂
I carry ministry scars from 1995. I can only say that God uses that situation for good. I know this because He said that He would work ALL things for our good because we love Him and are called according to His purpose. Remembering this has made a world of difference. He has allowed me to help others going through similar difficult situations and be a part of their healing process.
Sarah Geringer says
I have been hurt by the church like you. But I have also been one who hurt others in church. Let’s just say that I won’t be confronting via email any more–ugh. Even though I’ve been hurt, I still keep going back, because it’s one place where I receive true healing.
Jennifer Schmidt says
So much “Yes” to your comment, Sarah. The “church” at large is a place full of people who need Jesus, which means we get hurt and we hurt others but so thankful for your heart that continues to go back. I am a firm believer in the local church.
Mary Hood says
Praise God that He is slow to anger and great in mercy. I have been on both sides of this, and have learned, sometimes painstakingly that Jesus’ instructions ring true every time.
Thank God you didn’t just continue in your hurt. I have seen many lose so many opportunities because of a soul wound becoming infected. The body of Christ needs much prayer and humility as we serve together in our individual callings.
Jennifer Schmidt says
Yes, we sure do, Mary. Prayer, humility and a continual heart that desires more of Him and less of us. It’s hard but so worth it.
Kim B Smith says
Carefrontation, my new model, my new word, my new approach. Thank you, Jennifer.
Jennifer Schmidt says
You are so welcome, Kim.
Linda Shukri says
Yes, I’ve been in a situation where I had to confront a close friend of her obsessive behavior towards me, which included improper behavior towards men, including my husband. I even backed my exhortation with scripture. Instead of her discussing the relationship with me, she went to the pastor. He and the other elder (my husband was one elder) came to our house and instead of support, I was raked over the coals for admonishing her. Not once was her behavior deemed improper or even discussed. It was all about me. It didn’t matter that a few months previous, the pastor gave a series on conflict and restoration in the adult Sunday School class. No restoration was sought in this situation. We discovered that this is a cultural thing on this island in Canada (my husband and I are “from away” – from the States). This cultural belief permeates believers and non-believers alike. People here do not want to confront anything, small or great – they look the other way. They don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. This includes children’s behavior. Their excuse is “they’re just children.” And for my situation….”couldn’t you have told her in a nicer way?” Their faith in Christ only goes so far. We have seen it. We have known these dear people for many years. They have been saved for years, yet their faith is still in babyhood. Their is no depth of spiritualness in their hearts. The teaching of scripture only touches the surface. They don’t exhort or admonish or encourage from the pulpit. Before this situation occurred, I was counseling my friend about her own family situations – specifically her sister-in-law’s behavior towards her. It needed to be addressed, but my friend couldn’t do it. She didn’t want to lose her family. She would rather put up with the bad behavior, bad language, etc., just to keep her relatives from parting ways. Not even her husband or father would deal with it. And these people are supposed to be believers. This is the belief here. My husband and I had to resign from this church. That was 18 months ago. We realize the LORD brought us here to learn and experience things we hadn’t experienced before and to grow in our spiritual life – walking closer to the LORD. We came here to help this church congregation. We were even instrumental in starting this new ministry. But that is not what the LORD brought us here for as we have discovered. We have been without a church family all this time. There is no other church here where we feel comfortable attending because of theology or music standards, etc. As we wait for the LORD to provide the resources for us to move back to the States, we have our own private worship services and listen to messages online from a church in SC (where my family attends). We are so blessed from these messages. They are very pertinent and the pastor teaches the word the way a pastor should – admonishes, encourages, exhorts his congregation. He is not afraid of speaking the truth and hurting people’s feelings. Isn’t that what the scripture is supposed to do for us? It is the LORD’s words, not man’s. We feel sorry for these people here that we had to part ways with. We can only pray that their blindness will be lifted. That is up to the LORD to do that, if He so desires.
Jennifer Schmidt says
Oh Linda – I can “hear” the ache in your heart as I read this. I wish I knew the right words to say, but I know that nothing can fully mend those deep wounds but Him. I’ll join you in prayer that their blindness will be lifted as well and I do pray for a full reconciliation in the future. Hoping you can join your family again soon.
SO many hugs for you from NC,
Linda Shukri says
Hi Jen! We are fine, really. No ache at this point. We were sorry the situation occurred, but the LORD meant for us to leave that assembly as we could see we weren’t on the same page. If that situation didn’t occur, it would have been something else. We could feel it. There will be no reconciliation. Both of us were told we hurt the body of Christ. It didn’t matter what my friend did to me to almost drive me to insanity with her obsessiveness. We’re really okay about the whole situation. The wounds have healed and we do not feel bitter. We feel sorry for them – for the lack of spiritual maturity. I think we are actually relieved in a way, as I said – we weren’t on the same page spiritually and this incident made it very clear that they don’t deal with issues, no matter how small or trivial. As “our” pastor (online in SC) mentioned in a recent message – people with this mind-set will not listen to other believer’s admonitions. They want the Holy Spirit to convict them. If the Holy Spirit doesn’t convict them of wrong doing, then they won’t change.
The LORD brought us here to learn, as I mentioned earlier, and learn we did! 🙂 And we are all the better for it. But we do have a financial roadblock. Because of the exchange rate (US/Canadian $), we would lose money from the sale of our house, plus we have a loan that occurred – most of which is owed to us by a fellow believer in another province – and won’t pay us back. All these things have been taken to the mercy seat – The LORD knows and we are waiting for Him to provide the deficit. We came here with no debt and “things” happened that were out of our control. It’s just like another message we heard online from SC – about the Israelites being purposely led by God to the Red Sea. They couldn’t go anywhere, right? God did it on purpose. He was leading them somewhere else and then turned them around to go to the Red Sea. It was His glory that was to be revealed by the parting of the waters. That’s exactly where we are now. We don’t believe the Lord wants us to just sell and move and lose a lot of money, which would leave us with not much money to buy a house with, or to live with relatives. We are in our 60s and getting a mortgage is out of the question. We are praying to have the wherewithal to have our own home again, if God wills. Even though this has been a long road of waiting – 18 months now – and are anxious to move back to the States, attend a church and have fellowship again with like-minded believers, we are forced to wait. It’s been a bumpy road and many tears, but we still trust in the God who can move mountains! 🙂 ……..I really appreciate all the “in-couragement” from the daily devotional writings from this blog. I’m so glad I happened upon it. It has also given me an outlet to comment on my own experiences that I’ve gone through and perhaps help others in their Christian walk. 🙂 thank you, Jen!
I actually have not seen any relationships restored by carefrontation… I have never ever known a church to Biblically uphold that aspect of scripture, which is saddening. I have however seen plenty of wounded hearts and deep shame/embarrassment be the result of poorly executed “discipleship”. When we follow the God given formula for how to deal with a grievance or concern about a sister in Christ, it may not be well received, but at least we know that we did the best we could to preserve their heart in the process. I have been at the receiving end of it and because of that, for many years, I just hung around the edges of ministry. God a absolutely healed me of that with a wonderful, spirit led, loving church in Texas. I have since moved to Virginia, but I carry with me that healing.
Jennifer Schmidt says
I am so thankful that you had a loving church that wrapped themselves around you when you most needed it, but my heart grieves knowing that you haven’t witnessed relationships restored by carefrontation. It definitely means we as Christ followers have so much learning and growing to do in this area. We have to do better.
Eunice B says
Thank you so much for sharing truth, Jen…I, too, have been on both sides, and such a good reminder for me to think carefully and measure my words before they exit my mouth. So sorry you were hurt those many years ago, but thank you for choosing to grow and learn from the experience, and help us to break the cycle. <3
Jennifer Schmidt says
Thank you, Eunice. And yes, while it was so painful at the time, it’s completely shaped me and for that, I am forever grateful.
I currently have a situation with a family member that I’m struggling with….rolling scenarios over & over in my mind….you know ‘I’ll say/do this then she’ll say/think /do that” …all speculation that only deepens my hurt. This morning I woke up determined to change this course of action! I know what scripture says & God expects so I dove into study & prayer gathering the strength God offers…then opened in.COURAGE.com – found your lesson & found the word that will direct my thoughts & actions going forward.
CAREFRONTATION…COURAGEOUS CAREFRONTATION…thank you!
Jennifer Schmidt says
Oh Trish – God’s timing never ceases to amaze me. I will be praying for you and your family situation. Often, these conversations with family members are the most difficult.
Thank you – a prayer partner is what I need!
Gretchen Mercer says
Thank you for sharing your story and describing your carefrontation approach. Oh, if only we all lived this way with our relationships every day! I know that your thoughts will stay with me and help me be more aware of how I approach family and friends and others.
I absolutely LOVE this. Carefrontation ♥
Jennifer Schmidt says
Jennifer Schmidt says
Can you imagine how many lives the “church” would impact if we did? You’re right, it’s so hard and I don’t always get it right either, but it’s my heart and I’ve seen how when done right, it impacts so many in a beautiful way.
Oh boy, this opens a bag of worms for me. In the past year it seems that all of our (hubby and I) close relationships have come to a place of confrontation. It is the most difficult thing for me to do, yet if the Lord asks me to do it, I have/will do it. I pray my self up before actually talking to the person one on one. Sometimes my heart is hard and angry, and I wait until I know that the Spirit is leading me to confront scripturally. This is something that I have not seen modeled in the church. I know it’s in the Bible and so it’s the right thing to do. And yes it is very important to be open to correction from the other person, or be willing to be wrong and say sorry. The point of confrontation is healing and restoration, not being “Right”. And I try to keep that in mind, cause my pride sure likes to take over and get in my way. Jennifer thank you for sharing how you allowed the Lord to turn a painful experience into a blessing. What a testimony of our Great Lord. This write up is very timely. I can’t wait to share it with my hubby when he gets home. Blessings
God forgive us our many mistakes in relationship. Careconfrontation is the only way to go as all Gods’ people are equally loved, and valuable, and relationship with God the Father, and each other is of paramount importance! We pray for your Holy Spirit to help us daily in our attempt to be richeous; for only you are richeous! We pray for Love & Unity, Peace & Harmony, Reconciliation, and restoration. We pray Lord that you will move in our hearts, minds, body, and soul to bring forgiveness, and healing to all your precious people. God give us the faith the size of a mustard seed to move mountains; and move forward in continuity of Gods will of full surrender of our lives daily; to accompolish His perfect plan, and will for our lives in continued Love & Community in Jesus Name Amen! CB
Thanks so much for talking about “carefrontation.” I love Oswald Chambers’ quote “It is impossible to exhaust God’s love, and it is impossible to exhaust my love if it flows from the Spirit of God within me.” So often I think when trying to “fix someone,” we leave out the love part in favor of our point that we want to get across. Having a spirit of “I want to help you, and I’m not sure if I have the right read on the situation or the right words to say, but here’s what I’m thinking” is so different than “I know this hurts you, but this is what I think needs to be done.” I would love for a friend to say “I want to help you know how to be a better friend to me during this season in my life” when I’ve done something that’s been hurtful rather than “I need space from you right now, and I know that’s hard for you, but this is what I need.” Keeping Christ’s love at the center of our words and our hearts changes so much how we carry out our best intentions of helping someone else on their road to become more Christ-like.
Pearl Allard says
Jennifer, this is so powerful! I used to get mad watching movies where the plot revolves around a problem two people could solve in minutes if they were just willing to do what you’ve excellently coined carefrontation. I’m far from perfect on this, but I’ve found through painful experience that even if only one person lives this out with God’s enabling, things can go remarkably better (though at great cost – but hey, that’s following Jesus, right?). I so love your motto! Thank you for sharing your pearl from your pain. Hugs!
Praying that, as you pray about sharing your wisdom with others, that God will heal your pain as well as teach brothers and sisters how to deal with each other in His Love.
Audrey Hackett says
I have an experience which goes back a number of years. My husband and I attended our son’s baby dedication overseas. One of the ladies from their church chose to ring me once I was home again and began to judge my daughter in law on how she kept the house. I tried to dissuade her from this subject and after several conversations along the same lines and her opinion that she and her mother were not getting from the church or the pastor the ministry they needed . The next thing that happened was a phone call from my son accusing me of being a gossip for speaking to this lady and one other lady in the congregation over the telephone. The upshot of that was no more phone calls from my s on or my daughter
in law on a regular basis. I attempted to explain that it was an example of an unmet need but my son did not agree. It has taken years to repair the damage (15 to be precise) but I have learnt a powerful lesson praise the Lord. Just another rung in the ladder to climb
Jessica C says
Thank you so much Mrs. Jen for posting this. When I look back on a past confrontation I endured I think I realize perhaps my pastor was in the right when he called a meeting about me at church. He and I had spoken on the phone several times about choices I was making and I wouldn’t listen to him. Therefore he took it to the church. I was bitter about this afterwards but now as I think about it, perhaps he was in the right after all.. I mean Scripture does tell us to go to your brother and tell him his fault between him and you alone and if he won’t listen to take two or three witnesses…it was a rough situation but I have since healed from the experience. I still go to that church and there’s really no hard feelings between me and that congregation. Praise God! But yes I totally agree. Conflict resolution should be called “carefrontation.” I would love it if you wrote a book about this principle because it is sorely needed in the church as well as our everyday Christian lives. Please pray for me for the wisdom and right words to say to a coworker about a conflict that I’ve failed to address. I am someone who shakes in her shoes when it comes to confrontation and also lack in verbal communication skills. I’m better at writing my thoughts down. Please pray for wisdom and guidance courage and opportunity. Thank you! I love reading your posts and I’m so sorry you had to endure this hurtful experience.
Rebecca L Jones says
This great Jen, sorry you went through that, but it has taught us all a lesson. I know why people quit church, or actually it quits them. I know I have done more with a blog than I ever did with a Women’s Bible Study at home, some people didn’t show up, or weren’t prepared to teach, and sadly just came for lunch.
Beth Williams says
Christians are just flawed people. They hurt people & gossip without regard for others feelings. I have heard of people asking why “those” people-meaning less fortunate-are in “my (their)” church. Would love to walk up to those people & say/ask “Oh, I thought this was Christ’s church & you are Christians.” “Apparently you don’t want to invite God into your church either. Because if you did you would welcome those people also.” This country & the church needs more Biblical Carefrontation. We should examine the Bible & do exactly as it says. Lovingly go to one sister & admonish her. I pray we stop this hurting & start loving!!