Fortress Press

Mission Rift: Leading through Church Conflict

Mission Rift

Leading through Church Conflict

David E. Woolverton (Author)


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There are two types of conflict in congregations: conflict that kills and conflict that cultivates growth. So argues David E. Woolverton in Mission Rift: Leading through Church Conflict.

Conflict that kills--that damages or destroys teams, ministries, missions, vibrancy--occurs when we as the people of God forget who we are, why we're here, and where we're going in carrying out the divine mission. Conflict that cultivates growth often begins with the same scenarios, but leaders see conflict as a context for learning how to live together as a people called to transform their neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces.

In Mission Rift, Woolverton reorients our view of congregational conflict. In part 1, he examines conflict from a theological and ecclesiological framework, exploring why it is essential to discipleship and mission. In part 2, he presents six principles of missional leadership, challenging pastors and other leaders to define themselves within the frameworks of spiritual formation and family systems, and then to create environments that facilitate growth in faith communities.

Rather than resolve conflict too quickly, Woolverton explains, lest we inadvertently sabotage the potential it has to draw a congregation toward spiritual growth, wise leaders recognize that a lack of conflict may be a symptom of missional decline, rather than congregational unity.

When the church pursues its divine mission first, conflict may become essential for defining its mission priorities. Successfully leading through conflict toward a transformative end will empower a congregation's witness within its community and beyond.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506464770
  • eBook ISBN 9781506464787
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5
  • Pages 216
  • Publication Date July 6, 2021


"Clearly the best book on conflict I've ever read. It's thoughtful, scholarly, and full of biblical examples. If you're looking for a book on how to constructively lead in the midst of conflict, look no further."

Bill Easum, founder and president of The Effective Church Group; author of Dinosaurs to Rabbits: Turning Mainline Decline to a Multiplication Movement

"As a pastor, Woolverton wants what Jesus wants: for us to grow and develop as we are found in Christ and on mission for his church. Drift no longer; read Mission Rift."

Kyle Idleman, senior pastor, Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, KY; author of Not a Fan and Don't Give Up

"Elegantly written and brimming with gentle, direct wisdom, Mission Rift has the clarity and urgency of a crystal bell. It will be on church leaders' desks for decades to come. I'll be using it in my classes, effective immediately."

Kenda Creasy Dean, Mary D. Synnott Professor of Youth, Church and Culture, Princeton Theological Seminary; author of Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church

"Woolverton offers a unique perspective on how mission-driven churches are shaped rather than paralyzed by conflict. The strain of conflict can be painful. Mission Rift shows you how it can be fruitful."

Sam Rainer, president, Church Answers; lead pastor, West Bradenton Baptist Church, Bradenton, FL

"As I read Mission Rift, I wanted to send it to thousands immediately. This is not a quick-fix conflict resolution book. It brings new light to scripture and the final goal of transformation for all."

Jo Anne Lyon, general superintendent emerita, The Wesleyan Church