The morning of July 4th was all about control. A normally quiet beach at 6:15 a.m. saw hundreds scrambling for beach chair prominence. With over 30,000 expected to set up camp for fireworks, early hour dominance was the game serious beach goers were playing. Nobody was playing better than this pastor. I brazenly secured three chairs with prime, sandy real estate. We would claim our place in the sand for the entirety of the day. We would even endure an afternoon thunderstorm to retain our superior position. I jockeyed for control and won. Yesss.
Having stared down my sun bathing opponents and settled into my throne… uh, chair, I pulled out Oswald Chambers. “Do not fret — it only causes great harm.” (Psalm 37:8) Worry. Fretting. It’s all about control. Because it removes trust from our relationship with God, worry, fretting, and control is an ugly thing of sin.
Recently I heard news of a another church staff and leadership blowing up because of control. Apparently after much trying and frustration, the staff was standing in protest against the senior pastor. If the senior pastor remained, the staff would leave. Heels were being dug in deeply. The elders were trying to manage and contain the whole debacle, but word of turmoil was leaking out. Deciding to ask for the pastor’s resignation, boisterous meetings began unfolding. My heart sank as I heard of the news. It was the same Colorado church I was a part of in 2006 when things blew up. I saw a staff of 30 drop to a stark 9. Without change, the same predictable control issues of senior leadership had reared their ugly head again. More people were hurt. More people were leaving. Less Kingdom advancement was taking place. Control.
I had a phone call from a young friend yesterday. He’s convinced Jesus will not wait longer than 2020 to return. I hope he’s right. However, he’s also struggling with career, college, and directional decisions. With less than seven years left, he’s convincing himself that things like education and careers are frivolous. I wondered if his newly found intensity for Jesus was really about Jesus. Weirdly, this felt like it was more about my friend than it was about anything or anyone else. Something told me it was a creative, religious way to control what he couldn’t control.
Today I will finish out my second book called, “Sticky Teams.” This is a read I will recommend to both staff and elders. With success of any organization or church, change is necessary. Without change, the only alternative left is control.
Cumberland has grown and changed. Opportunity is at our door step. I don’t want any of my leadership issues of control to keep the door shut. When a church or business grows, a leader can try to control or he/she can lead better… differently… more strategically. This requires decided change like what Larry Osborne outlines in “Sticky Teams.” I’m human like most, and so when things grow and become less manageable, my tendency is to control. I don’t want to control. I don’t want to fret and worry. I don’t want to sin. I can so easily struggle with the tension of my responsibility of “doing” as a leader, and the faith required to let go and let Jesus.
I know CCC is at a transitional place in leadership and structure. Much of this study break is focused on leadership. My leadership. “Sticky Teams” is an excellent read to help me (and other leaders) see ahead and begin working proactively to maintain strong unity, clarify roles, empower the young, and keep the Bride at Cumberland a glorious and beautiful thing to be a part of.
In almost eight years, we’ve stopped the bleeding of a hurting church. We’ve found our way through serving and giving away ourselves to our community. God has allowed CCC to be neck deep in inclusive but messy ministry. A focus on Jesus has kept our empire building at a necessary minimum. God has given us strength, growth, and health. Nobody wants to lose that! However, to continue forward without the devastation of control issues, my leadership must sharpen. My focus must get more specialized, and additional specialized help must be allowed to lead in prominent, significant ways. Larry Osborne and his in-the-trenches applications through “Sticky Teams” will create a good road map for the miles ahead.
Interestingly, the morning after July 4th was eye opening. The 30,000 revelers of fireworks had left a mess on God’s great creation. I picked up an array of red Solo cups, fireworks discards, and beer cans. The beer cans were all half crushed through an apparent hand squeeze. One could only surmise the former owner had officially finished and slammed the crushed can to the ground in celebration. Being done meant leaving the discarded aluminum behind for someone else to worry about. And so I did. Worry.
I cleared the area around my beach chair, and then took a walk The whole beach was a mess. What dumbfounded me was how nobody seemed to care. “I” was the ONLY one to care! (see the problem yet?) There was one insignificant lady who was frowning and filling up a small garbage bag. Everyone else seemed to be content with living in the mess. Amazing.
I wanted to control this. I wanted to form groups of five to each fill up 13 gallon trash bags. We’d have the beach cleared in less than a half hour if we could get everyone to jump in and do what I say.
Is it any wonder spiritual leaders want to control? People are living in their own mess and sin. If we could just get people to band together and have them do what we say, we’d clear the whole thing up in no time at all.
And there’s the problem. You see it, right? My ideas and my leadership being used to fix people in ways that I deem best, completely eliminates the grace and blood of Jesus for people HE died for exactly while they were living in their powerless mess. God help me to NOT control. It’s Your Bride, Jesus. Show me how to lead in ways You would.