To Reprove or Not to Reprove

When Reproof is Needed in our Enterprises

In recent M3 Weekly articles, we’ve been addressing conflict in our enterprises and today we look at those moments when a rebuke or reproof is warranted.

During a recent team meeting, the conversation veered toward the elephant in the room.1 Someone on the team (let’s call him Mark) had a pet project and because of his position, personality, and tenure with the organization, Mark had a lot of influence in prioritizing that project over other projects the team was working on. Mark happened to be away that day. As the issue came up, one of the other team members (let’s call him Al) muttered under his breath – though loud enough for everyone to hear, “He needs to get his grubby paws off it.”

Truthfully, I shared Al’s sentiments. But I didn’t want to stoke the fire, so I stayed quiet, as did the rest of the team. But as I reflected on it, passages like Col. 4:6,2 Matt. 18:15,3 and Gal. 6:1-24 came to mind. And as I sought the Lord about what to do, it seemed like the next right thing would be to first talk with Al, and then try to encourage an open and frank discussion with Mark.

After praying some more and running a few ideas past a trusted advisor, I invited Al out for coffee. Fortunately, we’d done that before, and already had a good and growing relationship. But I’d never really challenged Al on anything, so there was some fear and trepidation about how he might react.

After getting caught up on life, I thanked Al for his contributions in the meeting the previous week. I also acknowledged that I shared some of his concerns about Mark. But I then said that even though we shared the same perspective, I was uncomfortable with what he had said – and followed up by asking if he’d already tried to talk directly with Mark about his concerns.

Since we’re both believers, Al caught my drift, acknowledged that he had NOT talked with Mark, and asked if I thought he should apologize to the team. I told him that this resonated with me, but also that because of Mt. 18:15, it might be worth talking directly with Mark. I also admitted that even before Al’s comment, I had actually been praying about whether to approach Mark myself. We agreed that, first, it would be good for Al to apologize to the team for disparaging Mark. But we also agreed that it would be good for him to talk separately with Mark and to try to find some common ground. If that didn’t go well, I could either approach Mark separately – or we could also consider approaching Mark together (see Matt. 18:15-17; Gal. 6:1).

In brief, we tried to focus on Mark’s good, the good of the team, and the good of the organization.  Al’s apology to the team was graciously accepted, and we were also able to address the issue of the elephant in the room without creating discord within the team or the organization. The issue was resolved – and it was a God thing.

Some lessons I’ve gleaned from this and similar experiences include:

  • Praying without ceasing – asking the Lord for guidance before, during, and after a difficult discussion – is one way to keep things from getting out of hand.
  • It’s easier to teach or reprove if a trust relationship has already been built.
  • It’s more palatable to receive reproof when the reprover acknowledges one’s own struggles in the same area (which we often do).
  • Seeking the good of others – to build up and not tear down – should always be the goal in seeking to teach or reprove.


Address the elephant in the room with prayer and tact.

Verse of the Week:

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” Matthew 18:15 (ESV)


Let’s ask God to show us this week whether and how we should approach someone who has sinned against us, and pray that it will result in “gaining a brother.”


1 This is an article in a series on dealing with conflict. Thanks again to Bill Weber for contributing the posts in this series. Bill is a veteran practitioner of missional enterprise and has several decades of experience leading companies in the areas of Business Development and Market Intelligence.
2 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Ephesians 4:6 (ESV)
3 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” Matthew 18:15 (ESV)
4 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1-2 (ESV)

Share your thoughts