Confront The Problem Not The Person

How do you get along with people, repair relationships, and generally keep the church on a straight path?

The pastor who can do that will be both rich and famous–oh, wait, that won’t work, he’s a pastor :).

Maybe you won’t be rich and famous, but you can help the people of God to work together and accept one another in spite of flaws and quirks.

Two years ago, First Baptist Church, Covington, Louisiana, honored me with a way over the top celebration of my twenty years as pastor. At the conclusion of the celebration, I stood before the congregation speechless. But since I had to say something. This is what I said: “I have been able to stay at the same church for twenty years because you have put up with my flaws.”

That, of course, is a true statement. The only way that a church stays together is because we bear with one another. Marriages work that way. So do business partnerships.

Could I give you another suggestion? When the inevitable time comes that you have to repair relationships, confront the problem and love the people. We usually talk about confronting people but that way of dealing with the issue may create more issues. The better way is to confront the issue. Most people can handle an issue, it’s the personality that becomes a problem. By confronting the issue rather than the personality, we preserve friendships and establish solid relationships.

Here is my favorite way of dealing with a problem of relationships. When I have to confront a problem, I always begin with these words. They are true words. They come from the bottom of my heart. I certainly don’t mind your knowing these words. I’ll let “Waylon” be the person that I am talking with.

Waylon, I feel like we have a problem, and I don’t want us to have problems. I want us to be the good friends we have always been.

Those are the soft words that turn away wrath. I’ve found that it is hard for even the most difficult person to react wrongly when he knows that I value our relationship and want to be friends. Reasonable people will respond by saying,  I don’t want us to have problems either. I also value our friendship.

Having good relationships demand strong people with secure egos. When we go out of our way to preserve good relationships, we build up the body of Christ and help the world see the Savior. I hope that you will read how Paul helped restore Onesimus.

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4 Comments


  1. Ed Matthew
    Apr 11, 2012

    Thank you Dr. Bailey!

    I remember the recounting of a State Law Maker who shared over dinner: Governor Roemer, a good man once elected, spent so much time trying to accommodate the other party he neglected the purpose and people who elected him and thus lost his base.

    I reflect on that statement often as I consider I have lost most of my support group to death or distance and chose Truth over relationships as I hang on to Purpose: declared, rewarded then denied, at least for a time. My support group positions have not been replaced in the face of adversity (the context is too great and too complicated). The one I finally trusted proved my trust was misplaced when he fell into difficulty. It reminded me of the testimony of a young man who shared, “Jesus will invite you out on a branch only for you to experience the branch being cut. And, when you look, it’s Jesus with the saw, in His Hand!” I expected God to provide and protect. I am sure by Faith He is, in His way. Isaiah 55: 8 & 9.

    Thank you for wise words and great sentiments (instructions) for all; but especially for people who are within a structured relationship enjoying a common view and are not in competition. It would be easy to “shake the dust off ones feet” and move on (get over it), but sometimes that is not an option. Sometimes one needs professional help to deal with problems in society such as from legal and financial experts with peers just as a Church Body does in a world whose professionals see only ($’s) the material short term spendable bottom-line. Thus the struggle of ideas, theology, recognition of (Dominate) authority becomes the field of action in the battle of life to Acknowledge (Proverbs 3:4-9) what is often perceived as the “intangible” Authority of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in life; and after having put on the whole Armor of God, Stand. As ones barns are depleted, perhaps, those member types who had influence and watched Stephen be stoned for his words, God’s Word, will not continue to be passive again and again and again. (Hard to know how best to spend seemingly limited resources apart from God when trying to keep the wolf off ones door.) Wasn’t that how a “Hitler” came to power (how after so much damage and the truth of his character finally realized; the wolf was at our door) and was defeated?

    So much “good works” evidence perhaps should not be tainted by Truth just to agree to perhaps disagree. Many think that way on a case by case basis. Even so Lord, not my will but Thine Be Done. AMEN.


  2. Lonnie Thompson
    Apr 11, 2012

    Dr. Bailey,

    I found this very helpful and practical. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and insight. We all face difficult problems and people. I must admit that I dislike confrontation about difficutlt issues. I think you have given me good advice to win over a friend and to influence people. I will try now to see that the issue should be with the problem and not the person. I have highlighted and copied this and will leave it on my desk to review and hopefully learn. Thanks again for the insight. May God bless.

    Lonnie Thompson


  3. Harvey
    Apr 11, 2012

    Great word…Thanks!

  4. […] “Confront the Problem, Not the Person,” by Waylon Bailey in his blog, with advice about how to deal with a problem involving a friend (especially in ministry). […]

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I am the senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Covington, Louisiana, a position that I have held since 1989.

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As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; — Psalm 103:13 (NIV)