Disagreements are not always negative even though they often lead to conflict. This is just natural. Many interpret conflict as extremely negative however; there are often times that disagreements can produce a positive outcome. There is a perfect example of this in the New Testament when the apostle Paul and Barnabas got into a dispute over a young team member called John Mark.
“And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” And Barnabas was desirous of taking John, called Mark, along with them also. But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.” (Acts 15:36-39)
Arguments that arise from dealing with different personalities are probably some of the most common conflicts. The type of leadership style that the Apostle Paul possessed was one that was not always agreeable with his fellow missionaries. Although this was his character this does not mean that this is a negative personality trait.
The conflict between Paul and Barnabas over John Mark gives strong support to the statement, “Leadership demands persistence and moving people out of their comfort zones.“1 There can be little doubt that Paul and Barnabas were involved in an adverse situation over what should be done with the young John Mark. As a result two differing opinions, two missionary teams evolved. Paul went his way and recruited a man named Silas while Barnabas took John Mark and headed in a different direction.
Although Paul’s leadership was strong this type of leadership can engender conflict. Twice the work and more territory were covered when Paul and Barnabas parted ways due to their disagreements. Leith Anderson believes that such an event is an opening for the work of the Lord. He says “Adversity is often the widow of opportunity of change.”2
The challenges faced by controversy and disagreement can be opportunities of expansive growth. Anderson also says, “Don’t resent the tough times. Don’t mark off the days until the problem will be over. It is in hardship that we learn endurance. It is in difficulty that we become strong.“3
Dealing with various personalities can be a great challenge. In dealing with conflict there is often a desire to sign off, to throw in the towel or to quit. Never forget disagreements that lead to conflict can produce great results. Just know that disagreements and conflicts will take place whether you want them or not. People will butt heads. Sometimes this will happen when you least expect it. Hang on and trust the Lord to help you through a difficult time. He is able to produce great things even out of conflict, just ask Paul and Barnabas!