Leadership or Control?

Leadership or control?

The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

I’ve spent much of my life in positions of leadership, thinking that meant to control whatever I was leading. As God has been working on me in the area of authentic kingdom community, I have found nothing could be further from the truth.

Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice and they follow Me.” True leaders do not lead by command or ability to control as much as by the Spirit, example, and through ability to inspire. There is nothing wrong with leadership, even strong leadership, but that will come through those hearing the Spirit and then inspiring others through a balanced testimony of words and deeds, like Jesus did it. John says we are “not to love merely with word and with tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3). As we observe the leadership style of Jesus, Paul, and others their feet did the walking before their mouths did the talking. There was no one they demanded more of than themselves and into the fray they always charged before asking anyone else to go.

Some of the aspects of control leaders need to be wary of are, one, our urge to build fortresses. In modern religion, we find something God initially blesses, build our fortresses around it [be they doctrinal, physical, or mental], and then try to reproduce it or hang on to it as long as we can. We write up rules of governance and gather boards of directors and administrators to ensure the continuity of doctrine and process. This is a direct invitation to the Spirit to leave the building.

Another aspect of control is the urge to grant titles of honor without an understanding the goal is for everyone to someday wear those titles. We set those whom God used to initiate the movement or build the fortress on pedestals and revere them, allowing them to control any who want to participate from then on. The blame for this practice in most church buildings today falls upon both the controllers and the controlled. We witness pastors continually demand the place of ultimate respect, and the congregation is more than happy to oblige. In doing so, both lock themselves into positions God never intended in community. Positional labels always imprison us in cages that prohibit movement of the Spirit, and thus growth within the community.

The Writer of Hebrews rebuked those who had caged themselves in prisons of immaturity when He said, “Though by now you ought all to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God” (Heb. 5). Jesus rebuked the Pharisees who were coming at it from the other side, saying, “You shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in” (Matt. 23). God’s desire for us, from the least to the greatest, is to be in the process of becoming more—teachers, humbly striving for a constantly higher calling both for ourselves individually and our place in the body. His desire is not for anyone remaining babes, taking up church pews, who think they are incapable of ever being anything else. Nor is it for those who lead to lord it over their flocks.

When we say, “He is the leader,” we are automatically admitting we are not, thereby inhibiting any notion we can ever be like him. Likewise, when a leader says, “He is,” he is locking the follower out and inhibiting what the Spirit can do in him. This is not to be so in Christian community where we are all to discover, develop, and deploy our gifting in the Spirit to become vital parts in the body of Christ, without which the other parts will suffer.

Yes, there must be leadership and yes there must be structure, but it cannot rest in the hands of one individual and those who do lead, above all others, should realize leadership means to steer rather than control. Solomon tells us, “The mind of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Prov. 16). This is leadership: to have the vision to make a plan that includes a future for everyone, yet after that to yield control to God who will always cause growth for everyone. All we can do is plant and water, but it is God who gives the growth (1 Cor. 3).

How can we control that which is born of the Spirit when the verse from John above says we know not from where it comes nor where it goes? For anyone to try to do that is control, not leadership. It is the hardest thing to discern between the two, especially when something is working so well we want to can it so it can go on forever. Ah, but we serve the God of new, better things and the minute we focus on what He has done rather than looking forward to that new thing the Spirit blowing by us wants to do, as the prophet Isaiah warns, “We will miss it” (Isa. 43). God may put something in motion He wants to last for a long period of time, and He may put something in motion He wants to be in a constant state of flux, but true leadership leaves that up to Him and does not try to construct the path it follows..

The goal of Christian community is not to see leadership exalted, it is to see to it that “all become teachers…that all may learn and all may be exhorted {I Cor. 14)…that the foolish things of the world would arise to shame the wise, the weak things of the world would arise to shame the things which are strong, and the things that are not would arise to shame the things that are” (1 Cor. 1). Paul said, “For now we truly live when you stand firm in the Lord” (1 Thess. 3). True leaders desire nothing more than those they lead for a season becoming greater than they are in the kingdom, abiding more fully in Jesus, and walking more fully in the Spirit than they ever did.

True leaders want to choke on the dust of their charges as they are passed by, because when you are comfortable in your own skin why not hope for the very best in others with no thought of yourself? It is this mindset that true community must see in its leadership if all members of the body are to be inspired to be all they can be.

If we truly lead without controlling, then it can come true that “When one member is honored all shall rejoice with it.” On the contrary, if any member is inhibited through controlling leadership, “As that one member suffers, all members [the fellowship, the community] will suffer with it” (1 Cor. 12). “For now, we [leadership] truly live when you [everyone else] stand firm in the faith!” must be the order of the day if true Ekklesia is to have a chance to flourish among us. The caste system of pastor and congregants in our temple system has inhibited community, not forwarded it, but that is what religion does to the kingdom.

The NT model of Ekklesia is not pastors [a word mentioned once in the entire Bible], but house churches where Elders [a word mentioned over 40 times] lead. They were not elected or appointed because of seminary degrees or any other validation from institutions of man. They simply and organically rose to the top because of a natural anointing everyone else in the fellowship acknowledged and was willing to follow. God’s new form of leader will diligently watch over their own souls because of the dangers inherent in their very gift—humbling themselves and dying daily to resist the fleshly desires to control in any way what the Spirit is doing. They must walk by the Spirit and let those under their care do likewise, for any advancement through control comes from one Pharisee that will only serve to either lock out the flock or create other Pharisees..

As we move into a time when religion’s temples will be revealed for the counterfeits they are, and “many will fall away” who bought into their gospel of salvation and their hierarchical form of leadership that locked both out of the kingdom, God will raise up His new Ekklesia communities from the ashes where the focus is on maturing the least of these through leadership with open hands, open minds, and open doors to that “wind that bloweth and they know not from whence it comes or to where it goes.” They will just run tirelessly with it while their flocks “hear their words and follow their example.”