As a friend recently pointed out, if you want to stay out of politics, don't go to church.
Well, that's true, but perhaps not in the way you think. Congregations, like other organizations and groups, are made up of individuals. And that means that congregations are just as likely to have personality disputes, minor disagreements that can grow large and divisive, harmful rumors and gossip, and all the other things that happen in a group dynamic.
It's not anything new, of course John, writing in Revelation evaluates seven churches in Asia minor (Rev 2-4). And, sure enough, they had the same problems.
While "church politics" might be identical to "office politics," I think we have a unique challenge. And that is to behave differently.
What to do when someone says something hurtful about you? In the office, it might be cause for a hurtful comment back -- or perhaps some other kind of payback. As a Christian, though, I'm called to forgive.
And what about disagreements between two groups? As with academia, the infighting can get vicious because the stakes are so low. But just like at work (or at home) it's easy to get caught up in keeping score. Which means there are winners and losers.
The challenge (if I'm to emulate Christ) is to let go of all that. For a lot of issues, not worrying about winners and losers opens up other solutions -- even compromises.
And the real challenge is to remember to forgive. I may have heated discussions with other members of the congregation about things, but afterwards I think charged to come back together as a church family. A loving one, not a disfunctional one, either.
The problems may be the same as those of secular organizations, but my reactions should be different. And with any luck, I'll take what I've learned and apply it to interactions in those other organizations. It's a challenge, but one I need to accept.