Unresolved personal conflict is similar to mold, especially in the church. The original problem that could have been easily dealt with using the Matthew 18:15-17 principle begins a process of fermentation. Within a short time the small misunderstanding turns into bitterness and hatred. And then "fuzz" begins to spread, many times undetected by the pastor or church leadership. The "offended party" starts to talk. It takes the form of a prayer request or a small group session of "unburdening." The "offended party" needs support. He or she needs people to be on his or her side. Certainly such benign intentions could never be harmful. However, at this point individual problems become small group problems. Soon small group problems become larger group problems as the "chain of concern" continues to grow. The mold is everywhere! Each person interprets the information received through the filter of their own experiences and prejudices. It doesn't' take long for the unresolved personal conflict to be transformed into a "full-blown" church division.
Once mold begins to grow it is so hard to kill. One missionary family who lived by the ocean had throw out their "damp" couch because there was no way to destroy the mold. I believe that Satan enjoys destroying the church from within. His work often takes this "innocent" route.
The afore mentioned Matthew 18 principle gives the following steps:
1. If you have conflict with someone, go to them personally
and work it out.
2. If you can't fix the problem, then find a friend or your pastor to
go with you. Try again to resolve the conflict.
3. If this doesn't work, then take the issue to a still larger, neutral
group, like the church board.
4. If everything fails, forgive them, separate yourself from them
and move on.
This process takes time and it takes work. But the results are miraculous. I've seen it work on every level. As a pastor I'm motivated to follow this plan because it is God's way of dealing with conflict and because I know that no one wants to be a part of a "moldy" church.