Updated: Jan 5
Conflict is an inevitable part of life. Sometime people just can’t see eye to eye. Whether a business dispute or a personal problem, positions can become so deeply entrenched the situation is impossible to resolve without help.
Mike and Barbara Simpson have worked as Christian Conciliators for the better part of two decades. Mike was drawn to the field of biblical dispute resolution while earning his law degree at St. Mary’s University. Although studying to become an attorney, he was intrigued by the message of Peacemaker Ministry’s Founder Ken Sande exhorting Christians to resolve conflicts without use of the court system. The two met at a Christian Legal Society Conference where Ken was speaking.
Mike and Barbara obtained endorsement from their church to attend the next Peacemaker Conference and became certified by the Institute for Christian Conciliation (ICC). Since 2000, they have been enlisted to help resolve conflicts including personal, financial, and those within organizations and churches. Mike conducts reconciliation among church leaders, negotiating peace to preclude church dissolution or disruption. Sometimes a problem is financial — a disagreement over payment or money owed. Other times, conflict erupts over personal issues — management style, personalities, grudges. Barbara considers herself a conflict coach (helping one party in the conflict) and specializes in relational issues like family estrangement, or marital discord, while Mike is often engaged by church leaders or colleagues.
“I love conflict coaching and mediation because I long to see souls at peace with Jesus and those around them. I believe the Bible provides satisfying and lasting solutions for finding that peace,” Barbara noted on the ICC website.
No matter what the problem, Christian Conciliators believe a solution can be found that provides not just resolution, but also restoration of the relationship through the power of Christ. ICC Certified Christian Conciliators™ assist in resolving legal and personal conflict by providing private conflict coaching, biblical mediation, church or organizational conciliation, or court-approved Christian arbitration. Hallmarks of Biblical dispute resolution are the necessity of Christ, the sufficiency of scripture, the inclusion of a counseling component and the involvement of the church, Mike said.
To begin the process, he’ll present clients with applicable scripture and seek instruction from the passage about the conflict. “If I can help them identify the idols of their heart, the things they are worshipping other than God, there’s real hope for them,” he said.
The reliance on God’s word and its admonition that Christians seek options other than court involvement is a vastly different process than that found in the secular realm. In mediation, parties remain separated, only issues are addressed, and the goal is a compromise. In Christian Conciliation, parties meet together and the conciliator helps determine what’s motivating the differences in their interests.
Secular mediation has no interest in the state of the relationship after the compromise has been reached. Christian Conciliators like the Simpsons actively challenge the couple as they are mediating, express moral values and persuade clients to agree with scripture. They prepare parties to come together, help them identify their own sin and responsibility in the conflict and work toward repair of the relationship.
Mike quotes Ken Sande’s “G’s of conflict.” Conflict exists to glorify God. “How can God be glorified in conflict?” he asked. “Conflict gives us opportunities to serve others and be like Jesus. Most of the time we’re thinking about either winning or ending conflict, when we should be working to make it right.”
Christian Conciliators start with helping a client identify and “get the log out of their own eye,” owning their part of the conflict, which includes helping a client construct a complete confession and apology. Next, they help the other party recognize the way they also have contributed to the problem. Lastly, they help both clients agree to a different path going forward as they face the conflict through a Biblical lens, with the conciliator aiding them as they work through a process of repentance and forgiveness.
Christian Conciliation has some big advantages if people are willing to listen to what the Bible says about relationships, Mike added. If both parties agree to give the process a try, they can resolve their conflict in a matter of months, rather than the years a court or mediation process might take. “In the secular realm, the conflict is all about you, winning, your rights — nothing about serving, following Jesus, picking up your cross daily and dying,” he said.
“You can be in court, and you can have substantive issues resolved —are you going to get compensation, how many days you get the kids — but most people walk out of those situations still angry, hurt or deeply discouraged. Do you want to stay mad about this for three to five years?”
Mike assures clients they can work through a conflict in a way that is obedient to the teachings of scripture and demonstrates the power of Christ. “They will know you are my disciples by the love you have for each other,” he said, quoting Bible verse, John 13:35.
If Christian Conciliation seems to require some heavy lifting and soul searching on the part of the clients, the Simpsons pledge to walk alongside them until they feel confident their relationship with the other party, and with God, is in a good place. For most Christians, there is great peace knowing they have resolved a problem in a way that pleases God.
Mike was a U.S. Army Ranger and Green Beret for 21 years before obtaining his law degree in 2000. Barbara trained to be an English and theater teacher, but spent most of her career raising their four children. She also leads a Reader’s Theater group through the University of Incarnate Word. The couple has seven grandchildren. They are part of the Presbyterian Church of America.
Find out more about Christian Conciliation or the Simpsons at ICCpeace.com.
"The mission of ICC Peace is to boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ by supporting peacemaking communities in resolving legal and personal conflicts and reconciling relationships in a biblically faithful manner."