Four Ways Leaders Should Rebuke and Challenge

A leader recently asked me for counsel on “how to confront someone.” My response was, “How do you like to be confronted?”

I answered the question with a question because all of us, at some point, need confrontation. If we believe that sanctification is a lifelong process and that the Lord uses community to mature us, then we must also believe that every one of us benefits from correction. Just as there are times when you sense you should confront another believer, there will be times when the Lord uses another to correct and challenge you. Such is the beauty of Christian community. Because we all need confrontation, it is wise and loving to confront others the way you want to be confronted. Rebuke others the way you would like to be rebuked.

In a leadership role, leaders are required to confront and challenge team members and peers. While the issues are often performance and communication issues, and not sin issues, we can still glean insight from biblical exhortations on confrontation. Leaders should rebuke and challenge others in the following four ways:

1. Restoratively

The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive (Proverbs 27:6).

Confrontation within the confines of a trusting relationship is much more likely to be received. When we know someone loves us and wants the best for us, we are much more likely to hear and respond to the confrontation. The goal of confrontation must be restoration, not merely unleashing frustration. Sadly, some confront not to win “their brother over,” but to win an argument. If your goal is to prove you are right and not to help the person, your heart is not ready for the confrontation.

2. Privately

If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private (Matthew 18:15).

No one wants to be embarrassed, and confronting privately gives the best opportunity for a restorative conversation. It is tragic that people talk about people, rather than to people. Of course we sometimes do it under the guise of “sharing a prayer concern” or “seeking some wisdom.” Just as you want people to come to you, treat others with the same love and respect you desire.

3. Quickly

Don’t let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:27).

Quickly confronting builds trust because people learn that you keep a short account and move on. Quickly confronting prevents seeds of bitterness to grow and destroy relationships. You would likely abhor someone showing up to your office with a long list of mistakes you have made over many months. Trust would be quickly destroyed, as you would always wonder if that person is following you around with a pen and pad to build another list.

4. Gently

Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit (Galatians 6:1).

The best confrontations result in people knowing they are loved, knowing that the best is desired for them, and knowing that the relationship can be stronger moving forward. That kind of confrontation does not happen without a gentle spirit

Biblical confrontation results in healthier relationships, our increased sanctification, and even greater trust in our relationships. Great leaders run to conflict, not from it, not because they enjoy conflict but because they long for resolution and restoration. They believe in the power and beauty of confrontation that is rooted in grace and gentleness.