Control. Now there’s a topic for leaders in the Church to hash out, and maybe even especially female leaders? 🙂 Now don’t get me wrong, men have issues with control too. But there’s just something about needing a situation to turn out just so, or a person to do something in just the right way, that we women seem to especially good at seeing.
Here’s why control is such a dangerous thing, especially in the Church: it stifles growth and creativity, and dare I say quenches the Spirit of God. The more we seek to control people and outcomes, the less we trust God. That’s the bottom line. Hear me when I say that I do not believe we should throw common sense out the window (society has already done enough of that for us). However, a lot of things we do in the name of common sense actually stems from wanting to control things.
As a teenager, I led our weekly family devotional time. I would begrudgingly read several chapters in the book of the Bible we were studying, and then would answer these 4 questions: 1) What does it say, 2) What does it mean, 3) What does it mean to me, 4) If I really believed it, how would my life reflect it? I remember the day we talked about how a true disciple of Jesus would be willing to die for Him and my dad asking me if I would be willing to die for Jesus. I said, “No.” Now, far too many leaders in our local churches today would have not allowed me to continue to lead devotions because I didn’t give the right answer. But before we’re too quick to jump to the same conclusion, may I remind us of Peter who literally denied Jesus 3 times right before he was going to leave earth. He didn’t deny Jesus midway through Jesus’ ministry on earth, but right before Jesus left. Imagine if Jesus would’ve told Peter, “Peter, you didn’t give the right answers, you clearly are not suitable to be a leader in My Church, back to being a spectator you go…”
Ultimately, here’s our role as leaders in the Church: “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13). As leaders, we are called to empower people to become all that they are meant to be in Christ and to help them foster their personal relationship with God so that their growth can continue without us.
If we have been obedient to Christ by teaching people the things that He has taught us and shown them how to live that out, thereby making disciples of Jesus, then we need to trust that the same Spirit that is leading us is leading them. How much do you believe that? Do the people you lead have true freedom: freedom to be creative, freedom to try something new, freedom to mess up? Letting go of control means that things look messier (at least to us). But in reality, it allows for more growth and life than we could actually foster.
I will be the first to admit that when I see someone do something, or say something, that I would never do or say, I want to jump in and clean up their mess. I want to take back the power that I gave them. I want to protect the ministry. But that is not God’s way. Throughout history, God’s chosen people have made some crazy HUGE mistakes, but God hasn’t stopped using people to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Rather, God is bigger than all our mistakes put together (and God knows this). If we aren’t trusting people with freedom in our churches and ministries, we aren’t trusting God. Period.
This is what I am not saying: I am not saying we allow people to cause disruption in our churches in the name of freedom, nor am I saying we don’t have those hard conversations with people we see they’ve made a mistake. What I am saying though is that we help them walk through their mistakes and get to the other side.
It pangs me when I see churches filled with so much creativity, wisdom and passion, only to have it stifled under the guise of protecting God’s people or protecting God’s Church. Some of the most flourishing local churches and ministries around the world are those that truly believe in people (and God) and empower them to do that which God has called them to do and become whom God has created them to be by giving them the freedom to do so.
This week, my prayer for each of us is that God would show us opportunities where we can create room for more freedom within our ministries and churches.