Tension Stages

Diagnosing Nine Stages of Conflict Escalation

Currently posted are brief summaries of fuller articles yet to come.  Unfortunately, the blessed Sabbatical (summer 2013) is over and the daily duties of congregational ministry require my attention.  But with God’s guidance a rhythm of work and writing will prevail to enable a steady building and expansion of content.

Incidentally, this full connection to active ministry is what provides a unique perspective for this Web site.  Articles are not theoretically written from a vantage point removed from the churches.  The contributions directly arise from lived out experiences.
Stages of Church Conflict Escalation

1. Discomfort, Tension, Annoyance


Family Systems – How things normally work


2. Problem with Some-THING

Benefits of Conflict

Facilitation and Collaboration

Conflict Proofing: Vision and forward movement


3. Problem with Some-ONE


Matthew 18:15-17, three steps of mediation

Leviticus 19:15, “…but judge your neighbor fairly.”

Small Town syndrome

Politics of Scapegoating


Dysfunctional Conflict Management


4.  Forming Sides

Differences evolve into “Disputes”

Polarization and Clandestine meetings

Proverbs 18:17, waiting for both sides

The Slide of Appeasing Antagonists

Psychology of Groupthinking; “… and everybody feels this way!”


5. Hyper-Righteousness

Proving spiritual superiority — “Doing God’s wrathful will”

The Intoxication of Power — Pride and ego – “saving face”

Spinning Perception; what they believe about what happened

The psychology of human evil (M. S. Peck, People of the Lie)

2 Corinthians 11:14-15, Satan masquerades as an angel of light

The process of Victimization

“Frankenstein Churches” – Enabling Antagonism


6. Antagonism

War is officially declared and skirmishes are intentionally sought

“Spiritual Toxins”    Toxic Congregations

Displaced Anger

“The Keilah Syndrome,” 1 Samuel 23:12

Church Coups

2 Timothy 3:12-13, godly life will yield persecution

Antagonist Trigger Points

“Dishing and Taking”

“Wearing Down”


7. Escalation  ~~ Fallout

An “eye for an eye” would be a welcome strategy relief

The psychology of Displaced Anger

Seeds of Escalation: Resentment

1 Kings 12:1-24, Rehoboam, “The Curse of Power Leadership”

Matthew 5:38-39, not resisting an evil person

Why would/should a Minister stay?


8. Punishment

Winning is not enough; the other side must suffer

Religious jihad: “Take no prisoners”

MAD (“Mutually Assured Destruction”): “Together into the abyss” they go



9.  Aftermath and Consequences

Shock at their behavior, and yet a subconscious readiness to do it again!

Hebrews 12:15, Resolve the bitter “roots”

Repression, Guilt, Shame, Disappointment, Lost Faith and Depression

PTSD — Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

How long will recovery require?

When is a “Win” not a Victory




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