Recently I was struck by two pictures. Both were of churches in prayer, a model for all of us, to be prayerfully embraced with one another petitioning the Lord together. Beautiful. But the position of the pastors was different in the two pictures. In one, the pastor was one the floor with the church, close to them and occupying the same space – in it together. The second pastor wasn’t close to the congregation. He was pictured high above the church as they huddled, he hovered as if looking over his domain.
Now just because these tow pictures have different pastoral postures means nothing about the reality in each church, and we can’t conclude anything about the pastors by the pictures. But the difference forced me to contemplate my own posture toward those I shepherd along with our team of elders. Then Jack Miller gave word to the reality in too many churches.
“It’s almost as though I try to act as the head of the church. I know that may sound silly. Who after all is so stupid as to think he can replace Christ as Lord over the church and its mission? Still, the history of the church has very few pages that are not blotted by the megalomania of church leaders. It is simply that we are prone to fall in love with our own authority as official leaders and unconsciously distance ourselves from Christ as the real Head of the church. We begin to try to control the church or the members of the team and end up in personality conflicts with brothers and sisters who either dislike our control or want to impose their own control on us. When this happens, we are inwardly swept by anxieties. For the irony of it all is that the more we try to control the work in our own name, the more the work and its problems control us. We begin by trying to own the work of God and end up with the ministry owning us. Perfecting the work becomes our bondage, and the bondage manifests itself by our losing the capacity to patiently listen to others and to be corrected by them.”
“Indeed when we get into this perfectionist frame, we can fall into some very nasty bondages in our leadership. We hate criticism; we get preoccupied with trivia and are willing to fight major battles over minor issues. We feel threatened when anyone disagrees with us or introduces an idea that is unfamiliar. I once knew of a church situation where a pastor and his associate gradually developed such a rotten relationship that more than once they beat on each other with their fists!”
“So I want you to join me in confessing our human depravity as leaders. Do not be surprised to find your corruption expressing itself in perfectionist self-will in your own leadership style. Expect to encounter in yourself defensiveness, dominance, and poor listening practices. But I also urge you to have much greater confidence in Christ’s capacity to release you from such bondages. He is the crucified Head of the church, the only One who knows how to perfect it! Just to know that fact, to rest upon it, and to build upon it, is to be released from the bondages which duty imposes upon out spirits. You find His liberating grace through honest confession of sin and fresh release by surrendering the government of the church to its Head.” – Jack Miller, The Heart of a Servant Leader.
May we surrender…