Control Should Be A Four-Letter Word in the Church

controlling leader.jpg

Control is wonderful until it isn’t.

Controlling and micromanaging leadership scores high on predictability and reliability. Until it suffocates.

Years ago I worked with a leader who came to every meeting with a legal pad full of notes of problems he and his wife had noticed since the last time we met—only seven days ago! He would pull out his notepad and guide us through each item. We’d talk about that “problem” or those “people who didn’t seem to fit with our fellowship” in great detail supported by lots of Bible verses and thorough reviews of our history as a church, and then he would check off that problem and move us on to the next line.

Every move the staff made, every word of my sermon, every volunteer’s Sunday performance, the loudness of the music, how the chairs were set up, even the plants on the property were scrutinized and pushed through their grid of what should have happened.

In over forty years of pastoring those were the longest and most discouraging meetings i experienced. I dreaded them and began to harbor mean and unloving feelings toward this sincere servant of Jesus.

I realize now that these dear saints weren’t horrible people, but they were severely wounded in ways that caused them to deeply fear anything in the church they loved that was out of their control.

To my eternal regret I didn’t say anything until I just couldn’t stand it anymore. And when I finally spoke up the sparks flew.

In just a few weeks it was over. Unable to reconcile our differences, Judy and I moved on to Church of the Open Door and God redeemed it for us by gracing us with twenty-three wonderful years here in SoCal.

The tragedy of a church split and its accompanying wounds still hurt for all of us who were a part of that promising church plant we all knew was making a difference for the kingdom.

Control is the opposite of faith, and controlling leaders reveal what they really think about Jesus’ capacity to shepherd the church by their micromanagement. Their god is too small for me. He needs too much help.

Like a child clinging to his binky, controlling leaders fear losing their grip on the church. But Colossians 1:15-20 tell us plainly that Christ, not the pastor or elder is Lord of the church.

Because we care so deeply about our church or our ministry, there’s great temptation to opt for control rather than faith.

Don’t yield to the temptation. Control should be a four-letter word in the church.

In my forty years of leading churches and mentoring pastors and church leaders, a controlling or micromanaging team member is one of the primary reasons gifted and talented leaders and Christians simply throw up their hands and walk away.

The controller got her or his way, but Jesus didn’t.

Question: Where do you struggle with control in your leadership of your church, business, or family?