Control or Order?

Control or Order?

Thoughts on Leadership

Leaders often have a vision of how things should be. In pursuit of this vision, they often employ tactics and strategies of control that are meant to maximize desired outcomes. They do this because they believe the outcomes they desire are right and good but don’t often ask whether or not the tactics and strategies themselves may have a negative effect. I’d like to take this opportunity to share what I hope, to borrow a phrase, is a more excellent way – a way that maximizes the possibility that Christ will actually have His way. Is it possible that the good things church leaders hope for can be achieved and even surpassed by reducing the amount of human controls we inject into the process? I believe it is.

“Nothing will ever get done!” This is a common objection to moving from a highly controlled and managed environment to one that encourages freedom and spontaneity.  Leaders worry that without their constant input and vigilance, those they lead will be lost when it comes to useful effort. So how do things get done in the body of Christ? Believe it or not, people can and will do far more than you might imagine. The secret is in moving from control to order.

For many church leaders, control and order are synonymous. It’s hard to even conceive of order in the church without control. As we (Church Multiplication Associates) train people all over the world, it is common for people to express the fear that if they stop controlling things chaos will ensue and all sorts of unhealthy things will take over the church. Heresy will break out. Immorality will consume lives. All spiritual growth will be stunted or stopped. But are these fears legitimate? Without control will disorder rule the day? Is it not also true that, even with the strictest controls in place, people still make bad decisions? Order and control are two very different things and control does not necessarily lead to order, and order is not dependent upon human control.

In previous blogs on leadership, I’ve already demonstrated that Christ has rejected the command and control model of leadership common in the world and the church. (Check out Kingdom or Cosmos?) Instead He opts for one in which leaders take responsibility for serving others by helping them to reach their full potential and releasing them to accomplish it.

At first this seems impractical but on closer examination its genius is revealed. Control has a way of hindering innovation and stifling full and complete effort. People will often do what’s asked of them and nothing more. In a church environment where believers are asked only to fulfill roles that further the particular goals and aspirations of that church or that church’s leadership, they often miss seeing other opportunities God might put in their paths as legitimate and, therefore, fail to act on them.

Dee Hock, founder and CEO emeritus of VISA USA and VISA International, addresses similar organizational issues in an article entitled The Chaordic Organization: Out of Control and into Order.  Concerning management techniques common to business and the church, he opines, “the most abundant, least expensive, most underutilized and frequently abused resource in the world is human ingenuity; the source of that abuse is archaic, Industrial Age institutions and the management practices they spawned.” We would take it a step past human ingenuity to the genius of the presence of Christ. Hock blames the mindset of the Industrial Revolution for spawning management practices that seek to control others to produce predetermined uniform outcomes but I believe it is the sinful human nature within us that desires to control outcomes. Because these approaches make sense to our fallen minds, we must double our efforts to fight against them.

For Hock, the truest and most virulent form of organization is the one that removes artificial controls and relies instead on characteristics common to human nature to bring about order. Capitalism is a similar theory. It relies on human self-interest and the forces of a common marketplace to create an atmosphere where people are free to pursue their personal interests in a way that benefits them and others.

In practice, capitalism caters to a fallen human nature and it works because it sees the world how it is. But for the believer there is something more. We are individually and corporately indwelt by the Spirit of God and the person of Jesus. The believer who freely follows Jesus is not just acting out of self-interest but is able to act out of love. A true follower of Christ is not “out of control” but is being controlled by the living God (2 Cor. 5:13-15).

If you think about the way a human body is organized, you will recognize that each part does what is necessary to fulfill its particular role without knowledge or care for what the other parts are doing. As each part fulfills its role all the other parts benefit and the whole body becomes healthy and productive. Imagine if you will, trying to manage every function or process that takes place within the human body. Not even the most powerful computer in the world could accomplish that task.

If we are going to see the body of Christ healthy and flourishing, we will need to learn to trust Christ’s ability to actually control His own body. Larry Richards calls this “radical supernaturalism.” I’m not sure it’s really radical at all. It may seem radical but think about it. We serve a God who has promised to be with us always and to use us to accomplish good works which He Himself has prepared for us to do. It seems to me that “radical” is not to believe this. Answer this simple question. Is the God who created and sustains the universe capable of actually leading and empowering His people? If you can answer in the affirmative then you have taken a step toward organic living.

There are two things that should quell our fears that things will get out of control. The first is the presence of Jesus in the life of each believer and the second is the presence of the DNA in each believer. At CMA, we see the DNA of the believer and the body of Christ as Divine Truth, Nurturing Relationships and Apostolic Mission. If a believer is listening and willing to obey, Jesus will lead them into fruitfulness just as He has promised.Control Cartoon Jesus established the DNA of the believer and His body, the church, when He said, “I Am with you always,” “Love one another,” and “Make disciples.” His presence produces a life that reflects and embodies these three things. This DNA will not only produce order but effectiveness beyond our wildest imaginations. Just as your body relies on your internal DNA to orchestrate the growth, outcomes, and usefulness of each part of your body, so the DNA of Christ’s kingdom will do the same for His Body.

If we desire to lead people to lives of fruitfulness for the Kingdom of God, we will have to learn to trust the ever present Jesus to do as He’s promised to prepare His people for the good works he designed for them to do more than we trust our own ability to control others to produce the outcomes we desire.

From me to you…

Engaging Jesus!

Engaging Jesus!

thoughts on church leadership

Its All About Disciples!!!

In my last blog post on church leadership, I highlighted the difference between management and engagement. In discussions with various church leaders, I’ve found that the concept of engagement is often hard to grasp, not because it’s difficult but because we often think we already get it. So, if you already get it, great! But if not, maybe this excerpt from Church Transfusion, a book I wrote with Neil Cole, will help. I’m pretty sure it can’t hurt. So read on…

We believe that the essence of discipleship is a vital personal relationship with Christ. This personal ongoing encounter with the Creator is the cornerstone of what it means to be a Christ follower.

Imagine that you lived next door to Kobe Bryant. (We’re both Laker fans, so this illustration works for us. Any notable person of interest will do.) As you watch out your window, you see him coming and going. You know what kind of car he drives, what sort of clothes he wears, what his schedule is like, and other little details about his life. You might even overhear conversations between him and his wife, his children, and others he might know. You would probably make sure all of your friends knew about your special connection to Kobe, wouldn’t you? You’d tell them all the little secrets you know (especially if you heard him and his wife fighting) and remind them that, after all, you do live next door.

In this scenario you know a lot of things about Kobe Bryant, but you don’t really know Kobe. To get to know him, you would have to engage him. You’d have to go out your door and talk directly to him. And once wouldn’t be good enough. You’d have to spend some time with him. Maybe talking over the fence or in the driveway or inviting him over for dinner. The more time you spent with him, the more you would get to know him. You’d discover his likes and dislikes, his personality quirks, and maybe even his dreams and aspirations. One thing is for sure: none of this is possible if you never get out of your house and engage him in a personal way.

We believe that many Christians find themselves in a similar position. They listen to stories about Jesus on the radio or in sermons. They might read the Bible and therefore see Him from a somewhat closer vantage point, but unfortunately, this is as close as they ever get. Seeing Christ in the Scriptures is not good enough. Believers must be challenged to engage the living Jesus in an intimate personal way every day. We are only truly followers of Jesus when we look to Him for direction and do what He tells us.

Some will say that Jesus has spoken to us in His Word and that’s all we need. In contrast to just hearing the Scriptures, God states that, “in these last days, He has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb. 1: 2). And “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him” (Mark 9: 7). And “My sheep, hear My voice and follow Me” (John 10: 27). We could go on. Christ’s promises to dwell with us, always be with us, and never leave or forsake us are further testament to the intimacy necessary if we are to experience His power and presence in the accomplishment of the mission He has given us. Think about it. Has He commissioned us to make disciples of all the nations and then left us to our own devices to accomplish the task? Absolutely not! As Paul says again, “It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2: 20). If we are to make disciples, true followers of Jesus, then we must help them, first and always, connect with Him. He must become their teacher, and they must become His student. They must learn to hear His voice and follow Him and Him alone.

Getting those who have become used to depending on human leadership for direction to transfer that allegiance to Christ is a tall order. Once people are set in their patterns, it’s difficult for them to change. Don’t, however, fall into the trap of believing that it’s impossible. What is impossible for humans is in no way impossible for God. Our whole thesis comes down to the belief that the Almighty God is present and at work in His children. Miguel Labrador of Missional Outreach Network has said, “We don’t establish the DNA of a disciple in the making of disciples. If indeed they are a disciple of Christ, He already did that. We help them to unveil, understand, and unleash their genetic potential.”

God has a vested interest in seeing His children fully matured and doing His bidding in this world. We believe that if we help each and every believer see this truth, it will have a profound impact on the church and the world. After all, it’s His command through the pen of Paul: I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. [Rom. 12: 1– 2]

The choice to surrender to the will of God is a choice every believer must make. It is the task of leadership to clear the way so that decision can and will be made. May the Lord, Himself, bring every believer to yield his or her heart completely to Him and to His good, acceptable, and perfect will. Amen.

From me to you…

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