SIDEBAR: The High Cost of Conflict Among Christians

You may know from firsthand experience that conflict among Christians is costly. But just how costly? It is difficult to quantify the spiritual cost of conflict. How do you measure the pain, suffering, and diminished witness caused by Christians who fight one another? Yet as I have looked at several studies in the United States, I think it is possible (and reasonable) to estimate the more tangible costs of conflict.

Lawsuits Among Christians

  • People file 20 million civil lawsuits in state courts each year.1
  • No attorney I have talked to thought that Christians were noticeably less likely to file a lawsuit than non-Christians.
  • 41 percent of American adults are “born again” (have made a personal commitment to Jesus and believe they will get into heaven because they trust in Him).2
  • Estimated number of civil lawsuits filed by born-again Christians: 4 to 8 million

[20 million x .41 = 8 million] (even if Christians sue at only half the rate of non-Christians, the number of suits would be 4 million).
  • Lawsuits typically cost $50,000 or more for each party to litigate. Using just one-tenth of this amount ($5,000), the estimated cost of lawsuits involving Christians would be $20 billion to $40 billion. (The figures would be even higher if you assumed that many of these cases involved believers on both sides).

Church Conflicts

  • 25 percent of the churches in one survey reported conflict in the previous 5 years that was serious enough to have a lasting impact on congregational life.3
  • There are approximately 386,000 churches in America.4
  • There are approximately 19,300 major, scarring church conflicts in the U.S. each year. (386,000 x .25 x .20)

Forced Pastoral Exits

  • 23 percent of all current pastors in the United States have been fired or forced to resign in the past.5
  • 45 percent of the pastors who are fired in one denomination leave the ministry altogether.6
  • 34 percent of all pastors presently serve congregations that forced their previous pastor to resign.7
  • The seven primary reasons for forced exits involve some form of conflict.8
  • The average pastoral career lasts 14 years — less than half of what it was not long ago.9
  • 1,500 pastors leave their assignments every month in the United States because of conflict, burnout, or moral failure.10
  • The direct cost of replacing a pastor is approximately 12 months of his salary.11
  • KEN SANDE, president, Peacemaker Ministries


1. Conference of State Court Administrators: LINK. (Accessed 8/21/2009)

2. LINK. (No longer available 8/21/2009)

3. Carl S. Dudley, “Conflict: Synonym for Congregation.” LINK. (Accessed 8/21/2009)

4. (Accessed 8/21/2009)

5. John C. LaRue, “Forced Exits: A Too-Common Ministry Hazard,” Your Church, 4/14/2009, LINK

6. Charles Willis, “Forced Terminations of Pastors, Staff Leveling Off,” (No longer available 8/21/2009)

7. LaRue.

8. LaRue.

9. George Barna, Index of Leading Spiritual Indicators, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996).

10. Focus on the Family, 1998.

11. The direct cost of replacing a business professional (recruiting, travel, moving, development, etc.) is typically equivalent to 18 months’ salary. (See “The Retention Dilemma, Why Productive Workers Leave — Seven Suggestions for Keeping Them,” Hay Group Working Paper, by Dawn Sherman, William Alper, and Alan Wolfson, Hay Group, 2001. LINK.) While churches usually do not incur all of the replacement costs a business does, they can experience even greater additional costs due to lost giving after a forced pastoral exit. For the purposes of this analysis, I have conservatively estimated the direct cost of replacing a pastor at 12 months salary. (No longer available 8/21/2009)