Church Life · Conflict · Leadership · Marriage · Resolution

Praise in Public, Confront in Private

I first heard the phrase, “Praise in public, confront in private,” years ago. I was with a group of leaders from my church and we were at a conference in Rochester, NY. The speaker talked about how this was one of the policies that they had in their church.

Conflict is one of the things which tears churches apart. It is what often ends many relationships between groups or individuals. Let’s be honest – conflict is everywhere. Especially as Americans, we like to debate and disagree on everything. Maybe it’s our competitive nature, but often we talk about things that divide us more than things that unite us.  It’s not whether or not we will have conflict, but how we will handle it that is important to understand


In some ways conflict can be good. Conflict comes from being conflicted. In the sense of our discussion being conflicted is the opposite of complacency. If a marriage, church, or business never has any conflict, most likely they are complacent.

Are you ever felt conflicted within yourself? If you have, it’s because you were mentally agonizing through a set of options which you were considering but may be unsure of. When a church has conflict from the beginning it could be good because it could mean some people are thinking and not just being lemmings diving off a cliff in alphabetical order.

There are extensive ways in which conflict should be handled. But if you could simply live by the phrase, “Praise in public, confront in private,” major conflicts would be minimized by this simple rule.

Let’s break down the simple phrase. The first thing it does is talk about where conflict should not take place. If you were to look to Matthew 18:15-20 you would say that if someone has an issue with someone else, they should do so with that person in private first.

Confronting someone in private does not only address not shouting your problem with another individual in the public square. It even means you’re not going to discuss the issue with your best friend about the conflict, or two or three people at a small dinner party. The intent is to handle the problem that you have with the individual that you have the problem with.

This allows a problem between you and another individual to stay private. It gives the other person some time and respect to allow them to work through repentance and forgiveness if they have truly wronged you. Or maybe it allows the other person to clarify with you something that you have misunderstood. It’s easy to tell the world your problem with someone, but remember, rarely does reconciliation make the news.

The first part of this says that we are to praise in public. Now some Christians have misunderstood the idea of only praising God. We are told in scripture to praise our mothers for example. Proverbs 31:29-31 says  “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”

We are also told to give honor to whom honor is due. Romans 13:7 says  “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” We can recognize the accomplishments of others. However, we are not supposed to praise people for the  things which God has accomplished.

Now what do you do if someone is trying to pull you into confrontation in public? In other words what if someone has a conflict with somebody else and they want to talk to you about it. Their goal in  talking to you is not because you were some wise sage, but because they are mad at another individual and they want you to know they are mad at that individual.

A phrase that I heard in the same conference, “That doesn’t sound like Joe (or whomever).” Now maybe this is the 20th time you have been burned by this person. Or maybe this is this person‘s reputation. So we are not asking people to lie if this sounds incorrect. But if this is the persons first offense against someone in this way, we can give grace.

Many times when there is conflict, it comes in a small dose. Meaning that, a conflict can strike up between two individuals, and it is a one-time a vent. So if someone comes to you and says, “Can you believe that my friend Joe said this to me?“ You simply can say, “That doesn’t sound like Joe.”

What this does is calm tensions between people. It reminds them while Joe, who may have been offensive, typically is not someone who means ill intent towards others. By using this one phrase, “That doesn’t sound like Joe,” reminds them of who Joe really is and that he’s probably a great guy.

What would a church, marriage, work place, neighborhood, or any relationship look like if we  live by the phrase, “Praise in public, confront in private?“ You should anticipate conflict within your church or any relationship. We are not all wired the same way as individuals. We will have differing opinions and thoughts at times. We will make mistakes and sin against each other.

How will you handle conflict when it comes? Is your goal to be united with people, or divided against  them? If you are a part of a church, are you helping to build it up or tear down? How do you personally handle conflict with others? Is there anyone that you need reconciliation  with again?

Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes  or Googleplay.