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William D. Bontrager, J.D.

1710 C.R. 121, Hesperus, CO. 81326

970-259-3384

wdb@frontier.net

CONFLICT PREVENTING AND LIMITING COVENANTS

I have written extensively about what I believe the Bible teaches about how God wants us to deal with conflict. But I also believe the Bible gives principles which we can apply and avoid conflict, prepare in advance for conflict, and which will help us deal righteously with conflicts when they do arise. These are particularly true of conflict in business affairs.

For example, most often when two people are going to enter into business they either have no lawyers, or each has a lawyer. In the first case, there is no one to help them discover, and address, issues which might be the source of future conflict. In the second instance, however, the lawyers normally keep the parties separated and focus only on matters of law.

An alternative, and one which I have used with great success, is for the lawyer(s) to bring the parties together in a wide-ranging discussion. This looks at many different aspects of life, and how those other parts of life may or may not impact the business relationship. Spouses should also be invited.

In one case, two men (who had known each other casually a number of years and now found themselves attending the same church and living near each other) decided to go into a cabinet-making business together. They asked me to help. I began by asking them if their wives were in agreement with this venture. The question surprised them. After all, what have the wives to do with the business affairs of the men? But the Bible says the two are to be one, and if husband and wife are divided over the doing of the business, much mischief could result.

So the two men, their wives, and I met. I asked which each thought they were bringing to the new business. One said a saw; another a planner; another a drill; another a hammer; etc. Then I asked who would build and who would go solicit customers -- these are, after all, different talents and motivations. We spoke about what each was normally optimistic about, and what each was often pessimistic about. We spoke of their individual fears. We spoke of the true financial condition of each so that neither would think the other could keep the business going alone in hard times.

Then we spoke about where the business would be done. They were going to use the garage of the one as a manufacturing facility. But that would mean his car would be outside during the winter. It would mean the other man would use the bathroom in that home (and the wife was pregnant with her third child and would be doing the cleaning!).

We spoke about who was going to keep the financial records -- it was the other wife. So we then spoke about the natural fear the one who was pregnant would have over honest record keeping, for their financial needs would be great with the medical expenses of birth. Can you see how many may be the sources of future conflict which can be, as it is said, "put on the table for examination" before the business is begun?

We then identified who would be called in to help if conflict did arise. Each man named two men he would listen to if they were brought to confront him. The parties then made an agreement to use the COMMUNICATION WITH HELP OF MUTUALLY RESPECTED PEOPLE process. The pre-named friends were asked to serve, and agreed to serve. They were even granted power to terminate the business if business became a stumbling block to the continuation of the relationship.

When the written contract was prepared, the two men, their wives, the four friends, the pastor, and I all gathered together to read and sign the document. The men and their wives then hosted a celebration meal for all. Now 10 years later, the men and still in business together, and prospering. That "contract" follows this introduction as "A Covenant of Business Relationship." But I think it would have some equal help in a marriage relationship with a slight tweaking of the language.

Of course, we can apply the same concepts (face to face conversation with the help of others) to all forms of conflict after the conflict has begun. I have used this process in the following settings: marital strife; medical malpractice; auto accidents; internal organizational conflict; breach of contract; property disputes; family disputes over inheritance; and others.

Well, I have hinted at possibilities. No one can design a program for all needs, for people and circumstances are always different. But a model concept gives us a beginning point -- it gives us a paradigm. May we be up to the challenge.

So here are some conflict-prevention forms for your consideration:

A COVENANT OF BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP

(Partnership Agreement?)

Recognizing that anything devised by man without Jesus Christ as the cornerstone causes God to laugh and scoff (Psalms 2), we, ______ and _______, desire to enter into a covenant: (1) with and before the Lord Jesus Christ; and (2) among ourselves as to the glory of the Lord and not ourselves.

By this document, each of us reaffirms our acceptance of Jesus Christ as personal Savior, submission and subjection to His Lordship, and commitment to the Holy Bible as a light to our paths of relating one to another. Each of us accepts the profession of faith of the others and see ourselves as bound together in an inseparable oneness in the Body of Christ which oneness shall always survive any other relationship which we may have with one another.

We accept that our first relationship must be with God through Christ, and that Christ asks to be center of all our other actions -- spouse, family, friends, church, community, and business. We covenant one with another, to seek after such equality of His centeredness.

___________ and ____________ are entering into a joint business venture. For this venture we have selected the name _______________. The business will operate in the area of __________ for the purposes of ______________________.

We proclaim that this business is the business of the Lord Jesus Christ and not the business of either of us, individually, or of us jointly. As such, this business has the right to fail, in the eyes of man, but the relationship between us does not have the right to fail as to God.

__________________________ and _______________________ as the spouses of the parties, each consent to their spouse entering into this business relationship. We, the spouses, covenant with one another to keep our spouses, their relationship, and the business lifted up in prayer. We further covenant with one another that we will not receive from our spouse any gossip concerning the other or the spouse of the other and will call forth witnesses to confront such should it occur.

_________________________ and ________________________ have discussed with one another what each brings to the business -- not merely money and property but gifts, talents, skills and life experiences given us by the Lord. We see all of these matters and things as of equal value and worth in the sight of the Lord, and necessary for the building of us up in unity in Jesus Christ and in unity in business and personal relationship.

All those who sign this document also acknowledge that we are sinners, saved only by grace, and that we often walk after the flesh instead of by the Spirit of God. We recognize that as we hereafter walk after the flesh, such actions can serve to divide us and bring dispute among us and offer our common adversary, the Devil, an opportunity to prey upon us. We also recognize that Jesus Christ taught us, by Word and action, how to deal with dispute and division when it occurs. Therefore, we each pledge to the other, and agree with the other, to practice the principles of Matt. 22b-26 and Matt. 18:12-35, and to refrain from action at law as directed in I Cor. 6:1-8, should disputes arise among us.

_________________________ and ________________________ also acknowledge that should dispute arise among us, it is likely we will not "listen" to the other (Matt. 18:15). Therefore, to assist us in carrying out the Lord's principles of Biblical peacemaking, to serve as "witnesses" (Matt. 18:16), and to serve as "wise men" empowered by us to decide matters between us (I Cor. 6:5), we each name our witnesses as follows:

Witnesses of Party A: ________________ _______________

Witnesses of Party B: ________________ _______________

If, after having gone to the other party, the dispute remains unresolved, then whichever of us believes himself offended shall inform the other that he intends to call the witnesses of the other for further confrontation. If such notice fails to resolve the matter, he shall then ask the witnesses to come forth, without bearing any tale against the other in the process.

After confrontation with the witnesses and the matter still being unresolved, then the remaining two witnesses shall be called in and the four witnesses shall than act as "wise men" and render decision. In so doing, the witnesses may call upon expert assistance from whomever they deem necessary. Any decision of the witnesses shall be based upon Scripture, and not man's law, and the parties agree to be bound by any such decision.

The parties further agree that should there ever be a need to divide the business -- because of dispute, or death, or upon request of a party, or any other reason -- the witnesses shall be called upon to determine values, manner of division, and method of payment if the parties are unable to agree among themselves.

Acknowledging that no disagreement among us can ever separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:38-39), nor from the love of one another for each other, we now sign this covenant as unto the Lord and unto one another this ___day of ______.

(Signatures)

As the "witnesses" named above, we also sign this covenant, understanding our role as witnesses, and bound to the Lord to serve Him as His witnesses as (Signatures)

A COVENANT FOR LEADERSHIP

(A Board Of Directors?)

The undersigned occupies, as to (organization name) a position of membership and/or authority. But I also know that unless the Lord builds the house we all labor in vain. I know I am His workmanship in that process, and He has prepared the work. I know nothing good lives within me (Rom. 7:18), and know that disputes and dissensions may arise among us. I also know that we are destined to sit together at God's banquet table in heaven. Thus I now execute this covenant to express my commitment to deal rightly one with another.

I hereby profess Jesus Christ as my Savior and state that I have granted Him Lordship over my life. At the same time, I know that while I have committed my heart to Christ, I continue to hold control over areas of my life which Christ would control.

Thus, I express my desire and willingness to receive fraternal admonition, in love, one from another as to my personal life. I also commit to give, should the need arise, fraternal admonition, in love, to others. I accept as genuine the profession of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior made to me by all others involved in this organization.

I am committed to the practice of peace in my relationships -- personal, marital, commercial, or other -- and will strive to display Christ in my daily life. I will seek to avoid doing acts, personally, professionally, or otherwise, which prevent reconciliation of others.

I believe that this organization is one founded upon the Word of God, as best expressed in the Holy Bible. So I will look to His Word for guidance of this organization. But I also know that His Word is, first and foremost, a lamp unto the path for my feet; secondly, a sharp sword against my adversary, the Devil; and, thirdly, that as to my fellow humans His Word is for teaching, reproof, correction, and for training in righteousness that all may be adequate and equipped for His works (II Tim. 3:16-17), and to be used only with kindness, forbearance, and patience (Rom. 2:4).

I acknowledge that it is my desire to be led by the Holy Spirit in all that I may do, or we may collectively do, in the organization. I set no boundaries upon those doing His work as to what they may or may not do under His leading. Should one commit an act I believe to be error before God, I will deal with it according to Matt. 18:15-17a with the attitude displayed in Matt. 18:12-14 (a searching shepherd) and Matt. 18:21-35 (forgiven more than can be owed or repaid).

I further believe that this organization is a ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, worked out through our individual hollow vessels, which He has filled with good gifts, working together and deferring one to another in love, for His glory and not our own. As such, I am willing to have my name associated with this organization although the organization shall lack any measure of success before man, or be considered a failure, or disband, or suffer due to errors of leaders. I also trust the ministry of Jesus Christ will continue regardless of what may happen to the organization or to any one of us individually.

I am committed to an attitude of oneness to all those involved in this organization, as I am one with them in Jesus Christ. That oneness shall persist, in so far as it rests within me, regardless of what shall happen to the organization or my participation in it.

Should I discover there is any issue between me and another in this organization, I will quickly seek to resolve it as provided in Matt. 5:23-24 or 18:15-17a, understanding that reconciliation of our relationship is more important than victory in the conflict.

Prior to executing this document, I have gone to every person within this organization with whom I have had an unresolved matter, confessing my own faults as God has displayed them to me, extending forgiveness, and recommitting my love and fellowship to them.

If any person involved in this organization has a dispute with me, now or in the future, I entreat them to come and speak quietly with me that we may be reconciled. Should any person feel that I am not listening unto them, and desire to bring witnesses to confront me, I declare the following persons to be ones whom I respect and to whom I am committed to listen when they speak: (insert names).

Dated: Signed:

SUBMISSION TO OVERSIGHT

(Certificate of Assumed Business Name?)

I know that no good thing dwells within my flesh. I do things which I ought not to do, and do not do all that I ought to do. The more I stray from the Lord Jesus Christ, or the deeper I become immersed in self, or the moment I become involved in a dispute, I know that I will place logs in my eyes and ears, impeding me from seeing or hearing truth. Even as I do what might be considered a "good work" for the Lord, I give Satan an opening to take me into excess of self-adulation and excess of action, turning me from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, I know that I must have oversight by others as to every area of my life -- physical, spiritual, and emotional; as to all with whom I make contact: spouse, family, neighbor, friends, people at church and people to whom I strive to minister; financial -- what I have, what I want, what I spend, what I receive and how I receive it and what I give back to the Lord Who gives to me.

But my overseers must be strong and courageous people, while being tender, patient and long-suffering. They must never become awed regardless of how far I may rise. They must never desert me -- except for a season as discipline -- regardless of how far I may fall. They must seek me out in the dark of night when I strive to avoid them. They must sit silently on my dung hill when I refuse to speak my pain and am immobilized in confusion or when I speak forth words without meaning. They must be willing to take the initiative and be knowledgeable of when to step back and await the hand of God. They must know God's Word and be comfortable in the use of It to instruct, reprove, correct, and train me up. Finally, they must be committed to the practice of Matt. 18:15-17a upon me and willing, should the need arise, to publicly declare me "rendered unto Satan".

Having said all of this, I declare the following persons to be my overseers, having secured their agreement to serve: (names)

I commence this oversight, this ____ day of _________, 19____, with the following acts: (1) Displaying to them the entirety of my finances, including a viewing of my physical assets; (2) Giving to them, by copy of this document, written authority to obtain information from any other person or institution concerning me; (3) Granting my wife and children authority to approach my overseers with complaints against me at any time, and releasing them and my overseers of any need to avoid gossip or tale-bearing; (4) Establishing a regular meeting time with one or more of my several overseers; and (5) Attempting to share with my overseers, as the Lord gives me the strength, the struggles of the flesh with which I currently struggle so that they may exhort me, pray for me, and hold me accountable to delivering such matters over to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Finally, I have also delivered a copy of this document to _____________, who is pastor of _______________________ Church, that portion of the Body of Christ which I call my church home. (Signed)

A BIBLICALLY BASED GRIEVANCE/DISCIPLINARY POLICY

Conflict is no more foreign to employees (members of management, students, etc.) than to any other person. Conflict is a natural result of our sin nature. Conflict, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad -- it is neutral. It is inevitable. How we deal with conflict will either be good or bad for us, and others, to the extent that we do or do not bring the conflict and our manner of dealing with it under the guidelines provided by God. From God's vantage point, all conflict is capable of being used by Him for His glory if we will focus on Him, and His Light, and methods in faith.

As an employee (student), you will have many possible conflicts, yet all may be boiled down to one of two types: (1) a conflict where you believe another has wronged you; and (2) a conflict where you discover another thinks you wronged them. This other person may be a fellow worker (student), a supervisor (staff member), or a member of management (faculty). It does not matter who the other person is as to how you are to deal with the conflict -- the steps are the same.

Step 1: Pause and take spiritual inventory. Get yourself right with God so that you will be of "right relationship" with Him (righteous) before you embark upon Step #2. Allow His Spirit to search you for your fault in the matter, and for the things you must confess to this other person when you first meet with them. Search His Word for direction. If you are unsure of your own actions, gather two or three other people together in a room, and take counsel of them. In doing this, do not divulge the identity of the other person unless absolutely necessary. Select people who are not awed of you, and will be forthright with you. These counselors are to help you place your actions, inactions, attitudes, etc. against the plumb-line of God. They are to help you turn your focus away from the wrong possibly done to you and towards God's call upon your life for unity, reconciliation, and peace.

Step 2. Physically go to the other, seeking reconciliation and resolution of the conflict, rather than victory. Your going is more important to God than your corporate worship or sacrifice (Matt. 5:23-24). You go as a searching shepherd (Matt. 18:12-14), and as one who has been forgiven more than this other person could possibly owe you and more than you could ever repay (Matt. 18:21-35). Go confessing your faults, such as tale-bearing, so that you may be healed regardless of the actions of the other (Jas. 5:16). (The only exception to this need to personally go alone would be if you feared physical harm. In such an instance, move to step #4.)

Step 3. Seek God. If Step 2 did not resolve the matter, should you drop the matter or proceed further? Take counsel of the others, of God, and the Bible. Regardless of your decision at this point, do not allow relationship with the other person to be terminated. "In so far as it rests with you, live at peace" - Rom. 12:18. After all, God does not stop relationship with you sinned.

Step 4. Take one or two others along. In seeking out these "others", there are two things to be aware of: first, you cannot tell them what the problem is, only that there is a problem, for you would be otherwise gossiping; and, second, select people whom you have reason to believe the other party respects and will, therefore, listen to -- a fellow-worker (student), a close friend, etc. Do not select this person from a position of authority over the other party, or from the leadership of the other's church.

Step 5. Seek the Lord. Repeat step 3!

Step 6. When the other party is a fellow-worker, and you have attempted step 4 without success, have the people who became involved at Step 4 contact (Name of Official). When the other is a supervisor, have them contact (name). When the other is a member of management, have them contact (name). In contacting the appropriate person, the witnesses are not to disclose details, only that conflict exists, they were witnesses, and the conflict continues. Those who helped at Step 4 are to make the contact because they are witnesses, not parties, and not biased. You must begin to release this conflict to God and His authorities so that if judgment should become necessary, you can accept the judgement of those placed in authority rather than become a complainer and possibly divisive. In each instance, the appropriate official will then assist. This step is the equivalent of Matt. 18:17a. These officials have people available who have been trained in helping disputants be reconciled and conflicts resolved. If necessary, these people may even render a judgment and order appropriate future conduct. If your dispute is with a person in authority in this company (college), you may bring your own "witnesses" from people who fear God to any meetings held under this Step 6. We, as those in authority over you, are, nevertheless, always willing to have others who fear God view and review how we act, and give fraternal admonition to us when we stray.

Step 7. Seek God.

Step 8. Appeal. If, as a result of the above steps, actions have been taken against you which you consider disciplinary in nature, you have a right to appeal that order to _________________ who has the right (not duty) to exercise grace and mercy in the matter. As an example, let us say that you have ben terminated from work. That is an act of discipline from which an appeal would lie. The ___________________, as might God, could remove any or all of the penalty from you although you might be totally unworthy. As another example, let us say that you were ordered to pay the other party $500. That is not an act of discipline, and there would be no appeal. You are required to accept the judgement of those the Lord places in authority -- right or wrong -- and trust for your ultimate justice from Him Who judges righteously, as God will some day.

OUR PLEDGE TO OUR CUSTOMERS

(Warranty or Guaranty?)

Many places and people give guarantees of their workmanship or products. But, a guarantee is actually a statement of limitation of one's word and behavior. A guarantee says: "My word is only good for so long, and under such and such conditions." In comparison, Christ said: "Let your yes be your yes, and your no your no." Finally, in most guarantees, you will see that the final decision on honoring the guarantee rests with the person or company itself. The customer is often left with no recourse but to hire an attorney and start legal action. We believe that lawsuits are a very poor way to resolve disputes. They tend to exhaust a great amount of time, they tend to exhaust a great amount of money, they tend to exhaust a great amount of emotion, they tend to have a "win-lose" outcome only, and, worst of all, they tend to divide people and relationships.

We are Christians, and we strive to do what we do as we believe the Lord Jesus Christ would have done. But, we are humans, and we have and will make mistakes. When that happens, or when someone thinks we have made a mistake, we want to deal with the conflict as Christ teaches. This flyer has been prepared to explain to you, our customer, how we would like to deal with any disputes we may have with you. We hope that you will choose to meet us in this process.

STEP #1 If you decide that we have, in some manner, wronged you, we invite you to promptly come to us in person and discuss the matter. We promise that, if you come, we will cease all our other labors in order to give you our undivided attention. Should you call us, and suggest that there is a dispute and that it would be better to meet where our workmanship or product is actually involved, we pledge to meet you there within 24 hours. If we decide that you have, in some manner, wronged us, then we will promptly come to you, in person, and seek to discuss the matter. We will strive to come without judgment, or anger, or conviction of the rightness of our beliefs. We will come prepared to speak quietly, to listen to you, and to ponder all that you may say. We will come in person because we value you as a person and customer.

STEP #2 If meetings such as these fail to resolve the matter, we believe that it is best to move quickly towards a decision. We are aware that the longer matters go unresolved, the greater may grow anger and bitterness, and the greater may grow our separation from each other. Now, the question is: what will be the decision making process? We cannot require that you submit to any one process for decision, for that must always be your decision. However, we can offer a process which will result in a decision being declared and we can say that we will accept such a decision. We can invite you to participate, and accept your participation even if you do not want to commit in advance to accepting the decision.

The process which we offer is through the Christian Conciliation Service of _________. In that process, they appoint a panel of three people to investigate and make a decision. These people are drawn from all walks of life and all denominations. Generally, one will be an attorney. These people serve as volunteers. They will interview us together, look at any physical evidence, review any documents, and render a decision. If you agree, in advance, to an arbitrated decision, there is a nominal charge of CCS for the service.

As we have said, we are willing to be bound by their decision. However, you do not have to so agree, although we hope that you would. It is a part of our policy to contribute to CCS whenever they render assistance to us in disputes, for we believe in the ministry and desire to help support it.