How to Address Conflict Among Leaders Before it Gets Toxic : Chris Sonksen

How to Address Conflict Among Leaders Before it Gets Toxic - Chris Sonksen - 17 FrontStage BackStage with Jason Daye

As pastors and ministry leaders we all know that, at times, disunity, misalignment, and conflict can ripple beneath the surface of our leadership teams, whether it’s paid staff, church board members, elders, or key volunteers. In this week’s conversation on FrontStage BackStage, host Jason Daye is joined by Chris Sonksen, pastor, author, and ministry coach, as they look at practical ways to address these subtle conflicts before they grow, and become toxic and painful for your church and your ministries.

Looking to dig more deeply into this topic and conversation? Every week we go the extra mile and create a free toolkit so you and your ministry team can dive deeper into the topic that is discussed. Find your Weekly Toolkit below… Love well, Live well, Lead well!

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Additional Resource Links

Saving Your Church from Itself by Chris Sonksen – The latest book by Chris which explores how to recognize and stop six subtle behaviors that can tear your leadership team apart. BONUS: you can download a free six-week study guide to walk through with your team

ChurchBoom – An online training and coaching platform for pastors who want to grow their church, founded by Chris

Connect with Chris Sonksen – Instagram

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Key Insights and Concepts

  • When the enemy takes a run at your church, he doesn’t do it through those who attend it, he does it through those who lead it
  • It is not ‘if’ the enemy attacks your ministry, it is ‘when’ the enemy attacks
  • Most of the time, it is not seven or eight layers deep into the church where issues are found. It’s usually in that top one or two tiers of leadership where some toxic behavior exists that creates disunity.
  • Disunity can occur between paid staff, volunteers, board members, elders, etc
  • Disunity limits the potential impact of the local church
  • Disunity can divide a local church and cause pain and strained relationships
  • Disunity can derail the momentum and ministry of a local church
  • Disunity can cause confusion in a local church
  • More than one vision creates division
  • It is important to recognize those subtle behaviors that contribute to disunity before they grow and become toxic
  • Many issues are not blatant or “in your face” but are more subtle, and it is best if you can address them when they are small
  • If another leader still cares about your relationship, then you are typically early enough to address the issue and find a place of healing. If they no longer care about your relationship, it has likely festered into a place of toxicity.
  • Some more subtle behaviors of disunity include a critical spirit, pride, isolation, and a lack of teachability or desire to learn from other leaders.
  • Submission begins where agreement ends. There can be no submission, if there’s no disagreement. If everything is in agreement, there is no need to submit to the authority of a leader. It is only when a disagreement occurs that you can actually submit to the authority of another.
  • Spiritual authority exists, but it exists in a place of mutual trust. A leader who lords over other leaders is dangerous. The leader must trust others and the others must trust the leader. Trust is built in honorable ways through relationship.
  • The way that you choose to serve under is the way that God will give you opportunities to serve over
  • The very first sin of the very first temptation of all of humankind was focused on questioning the trustworthiness of God. Because if the enemy can destroy your trust in God, he can destroy the relationship. The same is true with leaders in a local church. The enemy wants to destroy that sense of trust.
  • We must fight for unity and alignment in our local churches
  • Artificial harmony occurs when you know there is a bit of an issue between that staff member and that leader, that leader and that volunteer, or the pastor and that board member, whatever the combination is, but you don’t ever deal with it
  • If you recognize there is even a little bit of tension, deal with it. But never address it in a mean-spirited manner. Always approach these tension as a matter of true concern, with a heart for bringing healing and wholeness to the relationship.
  • When addressing subtle conflict before it grows, approach the conversation with gentle strength. The strength is in your straightforwardness, but it’s brought in a gentle way.
  • When addressing someone where you see some subtle indications of conflict, invite them to share by using the phrase: can you speak into that for me? This gives them the opportunity to honestly dialog about the issue.

Questions for Reflection

  • Do you agree that the enemy tends to attack the local church by causing issues among the leaders? Why or why not?
  • Do you see any subtle behaviors of disunity among the leadership in your church? If so, where?
  • How will you respond to these people so that you can address the issues before they grow in toxicity?
  • Are there some issues with leaders that have already become toxic? If so, what are they? How will you address them?
  • How are you building into your other leaders?
  • Are you keeping lines of communication open amongst your leaders so that relationships can stay healthy? If not, what can you do to change this?
  • Do you sense any of the subtle behaviors of disunity in your own life (critical spirit, pride, isolation, no longer teachable, etc)? If so, why do you think you are feeling this way? What will you do?
  • Is disunity negatively impacting the ministry of your church currently? In what ways?
  • What does submission to authority look like in your church context? Is it healthy? Why or why not?
  • How is the trust among the leaders of your local church, whether paid staff, volunteer leaders, board members, elders, etc? What can you do to nurture that trust?
  • Do you typically address issues when they are small or do you avoid conflict? What does that say to you?
  • How are you practicing ‘gentle strength’ in conversations you are having with other leaders?
  • What do you need to do now to help prevent issues and/or relationships from becoming toxic in your ministry?

Full-Text Transcript

As pastors and ministry leaders, we all know that at times, disunity, misalignment, and conflict can ripple beneath the surface of our leadership teams, whether it’s paid staff, church board members, elders, or key volunteers.

Jason Daye
In this episode, I’m joined by Chris Sonksen, pastor, author, and ministry coach, as we look at practical ways to address the subtle conflicts before they grow, and become toxic and painful for our church and our ministers. Are you ready? Let’s go.

Hello, friends, and welcome to another exciting episode of FrontStage BackStage. I am your host Jason Daye. And every single week we bring a conversation with a trusted ministry leader, to help pastors just like you embrace healthy, well-balanced, sustainable leadership for both life and ministry. We’re proud to be a part of the PastorServe network. And FrontStage BackStage is more than just a YouTube show or a podcast. In fact, every single week, our team puts together a complete toolkit so that you and your ministry leaders can dig more deeply into the topic that we discuss. And so you can find all of our episodes and all the associated toolkits at So be sure to check that out. Now, if you’re joining us on YouTube, hello, give us a like and comment below. We’d love to get to know you better. Share your name and the name of your church and our team will be happy to be praying for your ministry. And whether you’re on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform, be sure to follow or subscribe, be sure to share this with other pastors and ministry leaders so they can receive the help and get to know some of these amazing guests, and some of these really incredible topics that we’re discussing. And as I said, super excited for today’s show. I am joined by Chris Sonksen, who is a pastor, who is a coach to pastors, and author and super excited, Chris, to have you so welcome to the show, brother.

Chris Sonksen
Oh, man, thank you know, it’s awesome to be on the show with you. You got a good voice for this.

Jason Daye
Thank you. I appreciate that. Yeah, that’s funny. Chris, I tell you what, brother, as pastors, we know, and the pastors who are watching along, we all kind of know the dream for the pastor of any local church or any ministry leader is really to have the entire leadership team unified, right, moving in the same direction. Because when we see that sense of unity, so often ministry is more efficient, ministry is more effective. And quite honestly, ministry is a lot more fun, right? But one of the things that you’ve shared, you talk about, you coach about, and you write about in your latest book, Saving Your Church From Itself, is the fact that the enemy knows this as well. Right? The enemy knows that when we’re unified, when we’re all, you know, moving in the same direction, that a lot more can be accomplished for the Kingdom. And so the enemy tries to stir up disunity. So Chris, I would love for you to kind of share with us a bit about disunity showing up in the local church.

Chris Sonksen
Yeah. Well, again, thanks for letting me be on the show, it’s really cool. And so the book, Saving Your Church From Itself, again, yeah, like you said, focuses on this concept of unity. One of the things that I always say is this: is that when the enemy takes a run at your church, he doesn’t do it through those who attend it, he does it through those who lead it. If you think about it, for a moment, it’s kind of funny whenever I say that at a conference somewhere, you can kind of like, people are pondering is that really true. And you’re thinking, well think about it. When’s the last time you heard about a church having a major problem, a split, a big hurtful situation because the guy in the 10th row, who nobody knows his name, is causing all the problems. It’s going to be board member, key leader, key staff. That’s where the problem is. And, and notice it says not if the enemy takes a run at your church, it’s when the enemy takes a run at your church because he’s going to do it. He hates the local church. He hates what we do. Hates what we stand for. And so he’s gonna do everything he can to stop the local church and what greater way to do it than to create disunity and disharmony among the people of his church and the body of Christ. And so, that’s the premise, the understanding of the book is, it is here’s the idea that we got to fight for unity. We got to fight for alignment. We got to fight to be healthy, but we also need to realize that most of the time, it is not seven or eight layers deep into the church where the problem will be found. It’s usually in that top one or two tier of leadership, where there is some toxic behavior where disunity start showing up, and ultimately where the problems occur.

Jason Daye
Yeah, that’s so solid. And, as you said, it just makes sense that if the enemy was was really trying to cripple the church, the way to do that is through the leadership. And so, Chris, talk to us a little bit about what does disunity really breed in leadership in a church? What are some of the things that I mean, I know we all can probably think of some, like you said some scandalous stories that make headlines, but when we’re thinking of just the local church, because not every local… disunity does not mean major scandal, right? Disunity can just be distracting us from the mission. So what really is disunity breeding amongst the leadership in a local church?

Chris Sonksen
Yeah, disunity, I think, well breeds a couple of things, that creates a couple of problems, it’s, the Bible tells us a kingdom divided against itself not going to stand. And so we know that it’s going to, I think it does a couple of things. One, I think it limits the church’s potential, it breeds a limiting of potential. It has the potential of dividing the church, or at least, at the lowest base, causing some pain, definitely has the ability to cause some pain and some issues. It has the ability to keep the church from moving forward with, with what’s going on, and what’s happening. And I think it also can create a lot of confusion. You know, any, any more than one vision will always create division. And so what happens is, is there’s confusion in the church, because they’re hearing this one thing from this one leader, but, you know, sideways conversation, they’re hearing this from this other leader. And so it creates a lot of confusion and a lot of disunity in the church.

Jason Daye
Yeah, and I imagine every every pastor watching along, listening in, is sitting there thinking, Yes, you know, I see this, I see this show up in different ways in my church. We do have leaders who don’t seem to be all on board, or we’re casting fresh vision for a new season of ministry, and a lot of churches are in that phase right now because there has been, you know, a plateau, a decline, especially coming out of a pandemic, there’s have to been a lot of innovation, a lot of stepping back and rethinking, okay, how are we living out the mission? So I’m sure that that right now, probably pastors more than then. I’m not gonna say more than ever, but more than a long time, are dealing with this casting of new vision, and struggling with perhaps getting everyone on board? So Chris, what are some of the ways that a pastor can kind of be proactive in helping, you know, set aside a sense of disunity, and bring leadership into alignment? What are some of the keys that kind of help a pastor move in that direction?

Chris Sonksen
Yeah, well, I do think I think it’s important to to even take that statement and move back a little bit. And what I mean by that is, the subtitle of the book is six subtle behaviors that tear teams apart. And I think it’s important to note that when disunity, and and the kind that, you know, well, hey, you know, that guy’s talking a little bit, creates a little bit of problem. It’s not just not just misaligned, like, Hey, I think we should be more, you know, verse by verse, and the other guy thinks a little, we should be more topical. But when it starts getting a little bit deeper, there are some subtle behaviors that start showing up. And I think it’s important to recognize those subtle behaviors and know that, okay, something’s starting to go a little bit negative, negative here, something’s starting to get a little bit off base here. And it’s sort of answering thoughts to your question like, how do you get back on unity? Or how does that get created? I think it’s important to step back and recognize when you start sensing disunity. There’s a staff member that is talking a little bit. There’s a board member that just seems to kind of be… There’s this one guy that I’ve given a lot of influence, too, and he’s kind of on our teaching staff, and he’s listening to his own press, and everybody loves him and but you can tell he’s, he’s kind of creating his own little tribe. And the important thing is to recognize the subtle, notice that says six subtle behaviors. They are not blatant. They’re subtle behaviors and before they get big, for instance, a couple of weeks ago, I was on the phone and we do a lot of coaching we through our organization. we do a ton of coaching. And I was on the phone with a guy a couple weeks ago. And he’s you know, if I said his name, you might even know him, very large church and he’s hurt. The campus pastor is leaving. He’s going to start a church two blocks away, you know, the whole led by the Lord thing gonna, it goes kind of down that path. And I, and I said to the pastor, in our call, I said, Hey, when’s the, when did you start to recognize this? Because oh, about a few months ago? I go no, no, no, when did you recognize it? And he said about a year and a half ago, and it because that’s where it happens. It’s always a subtle behavior, before it becomes a blatant behavior. One little tip I always tell pastors is this, as I said, you know you’re in front of the eight ball, when they still care about the relationship with you, you know you’re behind the eight ball, when they no longer care about the relationship with you. That’s when you know that that is starting to move in that area. So I think in order to create the unity, I think you have to back up and recognize when that subtle behavior is happening.

Jason Daye
Yeah, that’s excellent Chris. So walk us through a little bit, some of these subtle behaviors, because I think this is golden, I’m glad you went this direction, because this idea that, you know, kind of the whole “nip it in the bud” type of a thing, like, whenever we begin to see a little bit of that. And it makes so much sense, you know, as we’re talking through this, because if we think of just other relationships we have, right, as a parent, or as a spouse, you know, I mean, whenever you see a little bit of dissonance in a relationship, right, we know that if you don’t sit down and have a constructive conversation and try to find out, okay, what are you feeling? What am I, you know, process through that, that just festers, and causes so much more damage down the road? So it makes perfect sense. We all like, intuitively, know this. But, you know, oftentimes in leadership, and I’m guilty myself over the years, you know, there are things you notice a little something, but you figure, hey, there are lots of other things you’re dealing with, you know, you figure, Oh, it’ll pass, you know, whatever. And you don’t address it. And then, like you said, a year and a half later, you know, it’s become an issue at that point. So talk to us a little bit about what are some of those little subtle things that we should be looking for, so that we can address it more in a healthy, constructive manner, as opposed to a year down the road? You know, it’s damaging, it’s more painful, right?

Chris Sonksen
Yeah. Yep. Yeah, that’s great. Yeah. Here’s just a few thoughts on that. One of the things we talk about throughout the book is, is a critical spirit. Something happens, you start to notice it. And here’s the thing. It’s never again, it’s never blatant. It’s never I don’t like you, I don’t like it, if it was it would be a lot easier. But it’s, it’s the subtle thing. It’s the little, that person is getting a little more critical than they used to get. They used to come to staff meetings with solutions, now they just come with problems. They used to be in alignment, but they’re always there’s always seems to be just a little bit of friction with them. It’s nothing blatant. It’s not black and white. But there’s a little bit of that critical spirit. Another one is when pride starts to step in, you start noticing a little bit of pride, a little bit of a little bit of arrogance, especially if you you know, if they gained some influence, if they gained some platform time and then all of a sudden, maybe a little pride starts stepping in and you know, and here’s when and if someone is an associate and they’re listening to this, if someone’s an associate, here’s when you know pride starting to slip in, when you start to internally think not that you would voice it, but when you start to internally think things would be better if I was in charge. The second you start, if you’ve ever thought that before you are heading down the road of pride, and you’re heading down the road of a toxic behavior that will ultimately tear you and the other person apart. And it’ll hurt it’ll hurt the church so it things would be better if I was in charge. Do what you want in the church, leave my department alone. Here’s another toxic thought that goes into pride do like I said do what you want in the church leave my area alone. Do operate however you want. I’m gonna I’m gonna kind of be in my corner. And then here’s another one is it maybe you don’t think it this way but, I celebrate the church, I kind of tolerate the pastor. And when you fall into things better if I was in charge, you know I celebrate the church, but I tolerate the pastor. I love the church, I like the pastor, when when that if you’re that person if you’re not the lead pastor and you since that coming into your heart, you gotta you got to deal with it. And if you’re the lead pastor or the leader of that department or the leader of that organization, whatever it may be, you got to recognize that pride. So critical spirit, pride, isolation, when they start isolating themselves a little bit from everyone else, and they’ve kind of have their own subgroup that they’re developing. It’s not that it’s, it’s not that as again, blatant, but you just start noticing. And I’ll give you one example. Several years ago, there was a guy that went, you know, started drifting a little bit, and I could feel it, and I could tell it, you know, on our team, and he said, I confronted him about it. And he said, What, what, what you didn’t say, What proof do you have, but, you know, like, what, why even get that idea. I said, for the last four years, you’ve always come to this table with a pen and paper, because you thought I had something to teach you. You don’t come with a pen and paper anymore, because you think you’ve learned everything. And it and you think I have nothing else to teach you. And it opened up an incredible conversation, it was a subtle behavior. And I think that our antenna has to be up. Because if we wait until we’re behind the eight ball, they no longer care about the relationship with us, man, that’s when I think it can get really toxic and really ugly. And it can it can, it can happen fast. And I’ll add one more if it’s okay. And that is this is that. I think it’s important to understand, it’s such a good thing to teach your staff. And here’s the statement, submission begins, where agreement ends, let that sink in for a moment submission begins, where agreement in, let me come at it from a different angle, there can be no submission, if there’s no disagreement. There’s only submission when there’s disagreement. So when we say man, I submit to authority as unto the Lord and all the things that we say, but then we as long as everything’s fine. But there can be no true spiritual submission until there’s disagreement. And that’s, that’s the thing, I think, especially in the if we’re serving in the in that second role, or third role, we’re not the lead guy, we have to realize that our true submission is only going to happen when there’s a disagreement if that really shows up. And and I think sometimes we get that sort of attitude, like I think some of the some of David’s men had in the cave, you know, somehow they think it was their job to replace what God put in place. And it’s not, our job is to submit, our job is to submit. And I think the way that you choose to serve under is the way that God will give you opportunities to serve over.

Jason Daye
That’s really good. Chris, I’d like to dig a little bit deeper on a couple of things that you shared there, especially in regard to your thinking about church leadership. And some people watching, listening in, you know, you might be from a larger church, where you have multiple staff, some of you might be from maybe a smaller church or kind of a regular sized church in the US where a lot of your ministry leaders are volunteers. And so this applies, I mean, what you’re sharing applies, whether it’s, it’s, you know, paid staff or volunteer staff, I think, in some ways, you know, we’ve all probably experienced this to some degree, you know, volunteers, there’s a different challenge with a volunteer leader. Because, I mean, not to be crass, we can’t fire a volunteer really, you know, it’s, it’s more it’s more challenging, right? Because it’s not like they’re, it’s a role, it’s a position that they are, you know, being compensated for. So some challenges there. But but one thing you you said, made me think about, obviously, Chris, you have mentored your staff well over the years, because your staff has gone on into other leadership positions. So it’s not like this, this heavy handedness where I, I, you know, I feel threatened or something, if one of my staff members or one of my key volunteers is stepping up, so, so talk to us a little bit about that, that balance because, you know, it’s this idea of, like, the pride issue, right? Like, it’s the idea of, you don’t want them to get prideful, but at the same time, Chris, you You love your team, and you want to see them grow, you want to see them succeed in ministry and become even closer to Christ and greater leaders. So talk to us a little bit about that balance between, you know, wanting them to to succeed and grow and, you know, you want to send them on to do great things for the kingdom, right. I mean, that’s our heart. But at the same time, that you know, balancing that, you know, not getting too far ahead of yourself, right, because that can be tricky sometimes.

Chris Sonksen
Yeah, that’s great. Yeah, that’s, that’s a great thought, great observation. Oh, I’ll tell you I was I was recently I was on the phone with Mark Cole. He’s the CEO for all the John Maxwell companies. So I think John Maxwell owns seven companies. Matter of fact, if you follow them, I think two months ago, John had literally handed the baton over to Mark, Mark Cole and Mark’s been a longtime friend. So Mark and I, you know year ago, when all this was in transition, John’s gonna start handing the authority over to Mark, Mark is going to be the new guy that runs all the all the seven, seven businesses that John has. It was interesting. And here’s the point I was sitting with at lunch in Atlanta with with Mark quite a while back. And I said was amazing. He’s given you all this, like, you know, it’s, it’s a huge, right. The mantle, like, very big. It was interesting, because this is what he said to me. He said, John, the reason John can give me this is because John knows, even though we’ve been planning this for a couple of years, if he decides to take it back from me right now, I will humbly submit to that. He knows my heart. He knows I will not be upset he knows that. It’s like, here’s the keys to the kingdom. Wait a minute, I’m gonna hold on for five years. Okay, that’s fine. Now, I say all that to say, I think that’s really what it’s all about. This isn’t about, okay, you guys got to be in control and submit, submit, submit to me. And it’s not what it is. I do think there’s authority and spiritual authority there. It’s not about that. I think it’s about the heart of the leader, wanting to make sure that his team is excelling, and doing their best. But then there’s trust like John Maxwell with Mark Cole, then there’s trust, because that staff member or that key volunteer, knows that they’re gonna submit to the pastor, know that they’re gonna love them. They know, they know, hey, my pastor loves me wants the best for me, is going to believe in the best for me. And the pastor knows, I can trust this person’s heart. I know that they’re not out to hurt me. I know that they’re not out to do anything to damage the church. There has to be that trust. So yeah, you’re right. I don’t. Because I think that’s, I think when pastors lord over or anything like that, that’s as dangerous. That’s always a sign of insecurity is I think insecurity shows up when we are secretly threatened by other people’s talent. I think that’s a dangerous place to be, or we’re secretly happy when other people fail. But I think those are the two signs, I think of drastic insecurity in someone. But if, but if the lead pastor cannot, can start operating in a place of security, and they can and the and the staff or volunteer staff, in smaller churches, volunteer staff meeting, whatever, there can be trust. I, I know this guy wants what’s best for me. I know this girl, this guy, whatever, would never do anything to hurt me. I think that’s where it has to be. You know, it has to be. It’s interesting that I do a little leadership thing I always say, Isn’t it interesting when you look at Eve, the very first display of sin is Eve in the garden with the enemy. And what does the enemy say? Did God really say? It’s not it’s not really blatant. But I think the spirit of Is God really? Can you really trust him? All the things that the enemy could have attacked Eve on, you know what I mean? Like, let’s go on for lust, or pride or this, whatever. It’s interesting of the very first sin of the very first temptation of all of mankind was did God really say, can you really trust him? Because if I can destroy your trust in Him, I can destroy a relationship. And it’s the same thing in a staff.

Jason Daye
That is so good, that’s solid, solid, Chris. I love this conversation around trust, because one of the things that you write about in the book is this idea of, I think you call it artificial harmony. Is that what it is? Yeah, artificial harmony. So it’s this idea that, hey, kind of seems like, you know, things are things are gelling, like things are going together, but perhaps not. So talk to us, Chris. How as as leaders in the church as pastors, how can we really know if real unity is happening, you know, if we’re really aligned, if we’re really moving forward together? Or if there’s, you know, some artificial harmonies as you call them.

Chris Sonksen
Yeah, well, first of all, I love that phrase, though, you know, I’d like to say I created it, I didn’t, but but I love the phrase artificial harmony, because it’s just two words that never go together. And it usually catches people attention, like, what’s that supposed to mean? Well, and here’s the thing. The basis is and then I’ll kind of I’ll explain a little exercise because I think it actually could be helpful to people. Artificial harmony really is, again, it’s exactly what it says it’s, it’s when we know that there’s a little bit of a problem, there’s a little bit of an issue between that staff member and that leader, that leader and that volunteer, or the pastor and that board member, whatever, whatever the combination is. We know that there’s a little bit of a problem, but we don’t ever deal with it. We don’t ever, as I say, in my culture, we don’t ever Matthew 18 it, we always say that all that’s huge in our culture is like that, man, Matthew 18. Gotta take Matthew 18, it means go to your brother at once deal with the thing. For whatever reason. It’s amazing to me, how much of us want to live in willful blindness, that we, we know that there’s a problem, we know there’s a little tension is that I mean, it’s not like this huge thing, but it’s like, the youth pastor and the volunteer, the board member, and there’s a little bit of tension there and we just kind of think it’s gonna go away, which it normally doesn’t, you know, like, if you have a crack in the cement of your driveway, you know, one day and then you walk out, oh, my gosh, it came back together, it doesn’t come back together, you got to work at it. So I think first of all, is I think it’s important to recognize when there is tension, and artificial harmony, it’s like, we’re acting like everything’s fine. But you two are not fine, or we’re not fine. So let’s have the honest conversation and let’s deal with it. Now, maybe, maybe we’re afraid of conflict, maybe we don’t, maybe we’re afraid of the outcome. Maybe we’re afraid if we tick someone off that they’re gonna get upset, and then they’re gonna kind of come against us and they’re related to 20 other people in the church. And, you know, all that stuff that goes through are crazy. But we’re all guilty of it. But I’m just telling you, here’s the thing I say about artificial harmony. Most of the time, I say willful blindness as well, because most of the time, we know it’s there. We know it’s there. It’s like there’s a little tension here. We know it’s there. But here’s the thing, we don’t sometimes we don’t want to deal with it now. Wow, I’ll deal with it later. Here’s the thing, bro, is this pay now, or pay later. But if you pay later, you’ll always pay more. You’re gonna pay more, and you keep putting it off and putting it off and putting it off. So here’s the thing that I tell I always teach at conferences and stuff like that is how not to live in artificial harmony. So I’ll draw a line and I kind of draw straight line like this, you know, and then I say pull in that I put a line down the middle. So a straight line that’s parallel, a line down the middle. On this side is artificial harmony. And on this side is mean-spirited. So you got a line and they got a little line that divides it’s on this side, this side of the room, if you will, is artificial harmony. This side is mean-spirited. Here’s the thing. I tell people all the time, you want to live as far away from artificial harmony, but never enter it to mean-spirited. That’s the goal. That because there’s two sides to the to this to this parallel line, artificial harmony and mean spirited. You want to live far away from artificial harmony, have the tough conversation. If you know there’s a little bit of tension deal with it, do the Matthew 18 thing. But never ever enter in the mean-spirited, artificial harmony left undone is what ultimately could create a toxic behavior that could hurt the church and hurt the team. So deal with the artificial harmony.

Jason Daye
Right? That’s good. Okay. I want to dig into something here, brother, because a lot of a lot of what you shared, and this is all fantastic stuff about how disunity, you know, kind of kicks up. As you’ve said, a lot of this isn’t like huge in your face stuff. You know, it’s the subtle things that you recognize, and and I guarantee because even as you’re talking, I’m reflecting back across the churches I pastored. Right. And I’m thinking about these little things where, and I’m sure every person watching or listening right now every pastor is thinking of probably someone’s name right right now, like they’re thinking like, hey, wait a second, there is this little thing that I know isn’t quite right. And I have kind of just smiled and moved on and figure it’ll work itself out. Right. So So we’ve all been there. Probably everyone watching or listening right now is thinking this themselves. So for those pastors who are feeling this right now and know there is some subtle disunity happening, right? What, Chris, would you say to them, like, what is their first steps right now? Like, what would you do you so you know, this exists? Right? You know, this is with one of your leaders or one of your staff or one of your volunteers, whoever knows exists. What would you say, Chris, to the person right now listening and watching who’s going, yes. What would you say? What do you do?

Chris Sonksen
Yeah, well, I think that you have to have I think you have to start it off with an honest conversation, if you’re if you’re recognizing if it’s blatant, and you’re like, man, we’ve got tension between each other, there’s no, there’s no elephant in the room, we both know we are mad at each other, we’re angry at each other. I think that’s a little more obvious. When it’s a little more subtle, like, well, like, I notice you don’t bring a pen and paper anymore. Maybe you don’t think I have anything to share with you anymore? Something like that, when it’s when it’s more a little less. above anything else, I think it always starts with an honest, non mean-spirited conversation. A I’ll just use a role model with you. So Jason, you work for me. I’ve been noticing a little bit of Jason. It might be me. But I’ve noticed in staff meetings lately, that you’re a little bit more jumpy and a little bit more critical. You know, you used to come with solutions all the time. But you don’t as much anymore. And I feel like it’s getting becoming a little bit critical. And I was just wondering if you could speak into that for me. By the way, I love that phrase. Can you speak into that for me? It allows you to stop and see what they’re going to tell you. Those are that’s as simple as what I just did right tere is exactly where you start. I don’t know any other way except for to follow that biblical principle of go to your brother at once. I don’t think you go in with a laundry list. Right? No, I don’t think you go in that this is strike three. If you’re coming in, like you said, Hey, someone’s listening going. Yep, I got someone on my team. And that’s a little bit. I think you simply just a, here’s a few things I’m noticing. I don’t know what’s going on. wondering if you could speak into it. Let them speak into it and let it go from there. Here’s a couple things are gonna happen. One, you’ve already initiated the first conversation you might walk away going, they’re not being honest. I know there’s something there. Okay. Okay, wait a little bit. Not a long time, wait another few weeks, watch a little bit more. Bring them in again. Now you bring it up a little bit more? You know, you. Here’s what I always I strengthen a little hey, we talked a month ago and man, I’m still noticing it matter of fact. And then I given an example, I usually don’t on the first one as much. Just two days ago, we’re in a meeting and you rolled your eyes? Was that you a year ago? What’s happening? Why are you doing that? I need you to be honest with me. And you sort of kind of not mean, but to heat up the conversation a little bit, get a little more direct and and allow that person to. And I love the phrase, can you speak into that for me? gives them the opportunity. But I don’t know any other way, Jason, except for you gotta have that difficult conversation.

Jason Daye
Yeah, that’s good. That and that’s very helpful, even just the way that you phrase that and actually walking through some examples. Because, again, sometimes we might feel ruffled as a leader. And so when we enter that conversation, without even really recognizing it, we’re already maybe somewhat defensive or something, you know, and people can sense that edge, you know, even if you’re trying not to be, right. So, the spirit of that conversation, which I love, Chris, is what you’re saying is this, you have a concern, not that that someone’s undermining you, as much as you have a concern that there’s, there’s something not right here. And yet, everything used to be cool. And so like you care, you know, I mean, it’s like, you know, you care about this relationship. And so that’s how you’re seeing it. And like you said, it might be me, but this is what I sense. Can you speak into, I mean, just this, you’re not coming in, to, you know, to write someone off, right. Like, we’re friends here, we’re on the same team, like what’s, I’m just concerned, I love that. It’s so helpful.

Chris Sonksen
Real quick. There’s two words, just don’t throw it in and then go to your next question. Gentle strength. I think in the conversation, you have the strength is in your straightforwardness, but it’s brought in a gentle way. And those are two words that I always share with pastors gentle strength in those moments, gentle. You’re not gentle. We Well, I don’t know. Maybe the time you know, I don’t know could be me, bro. No, no, no. I’ve been noticing something. This is what I’m seeing…dah. dah. dah, dah, dah, can you speak into it? You’re direct. But you’re gentle. It’s a gentle strength. You’re not hem-hawing, it’s a gentle strength.

Jason Daye
Right. Right. And there’s obviously some intent there. Right? I mean, like, it’s not just like, hey, let’s kick it around and hope they bring it up. But you know, I mean, it’s like you’re being intentional. Like you said, You’re being direct, but you’re doing it in a gentle way, in a loving way, in a caring way. Because you’re looking at repairing something, or, and who knows what it might be? Because honestly, like, they could be going through something in their marriage. They can be going through something, you know, a health issue that they haven’t yet shared, or it could be anything. It may have nothing to do with us, or whatever they’re going through. Honestly, we don’t know that at this point.

Chris Sonksen
We don’t know that but you can’t again, that to me, even though that maybe not be a dispute, this artificial harmony, we’re acting like, You’re okay. You’re not now it could be because you’re mad at me it could be mad that you’re mad because you pass it on a promotion could be something happening and personal at home? I don’t know. But there’s an artificialness that’s happening in our relationship, address it, and you have to address it, because it normally just doesn’t fix itself.

Jason Daye
Yeah, that is so good that this entire conversation has been incredible. Incredible, Chris, I certainly appreciate you making the time to hang out with us. And, and this is such a this is such, this is one of those topics that everyone knows exists, right? Everyone knows exists. But most people, for whatever reason, because we don’t love conflict. I mean, if you love conflict, there’s probably you know, something else you need to deal with. Right? If you love conflict, but most of us don’t. So most of us don’t love conflict. So we know these things exist, but we really don’t talk about it much we don’t really dig in. And so this has been so incredibly helpful, just just the way that you, just the posture, and just, it’s so vitally important. So I’m so thankful that you made time to hang out with us. And again, if people want to connect with you with your ministry, you know, when to get the book saving your church from itself? What’s the best way that people can connect?

Chris Sonksen
Yeah, well, two things one, are coaching site you can connect with me at, The book, you can order the book, and here’s something, you can order the book and get a free, it’s a six, kind of a six session outline. So when you if you buy the book, say for your team, which because it is definitely a team book, if you buy it for your top eight leaders, you can download for free at, So if you go to that website, you can, there’s a link there where you can order the book through the publishers and all that. But also you can download for free. And now you can walk through the book together with your team that’s got questions in this in this six session free study guide, and kind of walk through with your team. So go to saving your church from, you can order the books, but also you can get that free download. It is in my opinion, I wrote it with the pure concept, let’s go through it as a team so that we can come out healthier than when we started.

Jason Daye
Yeah, I love that one awesome resource. Thank you so much for that. And for those of you watching, listening along, I’ll have links to everything that Chris mentioned, at in the toolkit for this episode, we’ll have links to all that. So you can be sure to order the book and download that free resource. What a great resource to really take your team through in just a carve out, you know, six, eight weeks, wherever it is, and just everyone dig in, you know, and your weekly staff meetings, you can take some time to really process through in what a healthy way to kind of really establish your team and, and there’s no time like the present to really address these types of things. Because as we’ve said, we all know that these things are bubbling up, right. That’s just just part of ministry, part of part of ministry, and will probably always be part of ministry. So this will be something you’ll want to revisit over time. So man again, so thankful to have you with us. It’s been it’s been absolute joy, so thankful for how you’re giving back to the Church through your coaching, through your wisdom, through your writing, and, and super thankful.

Chris Sonksen
Yeah, no, thank you, man. It’s really been an honor. Thank you so much.

Jason Daye
Awesome, brother. Well, God bless you.

Chris Sonksen
All right, thanks, man.

Jason Daye 
Now, before you go, I want to remind you of an incredible free resource that our team puts together every single week to help you and your team dig more deeply and maximize the conversation that we just had. This is the weekly toolkit that we provide. And we understand that it’s one thing to listen or watch an episode, but it’s something entirely different to actually take what you’ve heard, what you’ve watched, what you’ve seen, and apply it to your life and to your ministry. You see, FrontStage BackStage is more than just a podcast or YouTube show about ministry leadership, we are a complete resource to help train you and your entire ministry team as you seek to grow and develop in life in ministry. Every single week, we provide a weekly toolkit which has all types of tools in it to help you do just that. Now you can find this at That’s And there you will find all of our shows, all of our episodes and all of our weekly toolkits. Now inside the toolkit are several tools including video links and audio links for you to share with your team. There are resource links to different resources and tools that were mentioned in the conversation, and several other tools, but the greatest thing is the ministry leaders growth guide. Our team pulls key insights and concepts from every conversation with our amazing guests. And then we also create engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process, providing space for you to reflect on how that episode’s topic relates to your unique context, at your local church, in your ministry and in your life. Now you can use these questions in your regular staff meetings to guide your conversation as you invest in the growth of your ministry leaders. You can find the weekly toolkit at We encourage you to check out that free resource. Until next time, I’m Jason Daye encouraging you to love well, live well, and lead well. God bless.

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