"Things I've Discovered"

Pastor Ian Miller

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Control is about Fear


Having young adult children means that I’ve had to be hands on with teaching them how to drive. I can’t believe how frightening an experience that can be! For me, driving is not only an important skill to have, it’s an adventure and passport into a world of personal freedom. If I’m going somewhere in the car, I always want to drive… because I like being in control… and I like the freedom of being in charge…

So it’s been interesting to teach my kids because I have to relinquish the car keys! When you sit in the passenger seat with a learner, especially on busy Sydney streets – and you’re teaching in a manual car so they’re learning multiple things at once – you soon realise how dangerous driving really is! I give a constant, running commentary when I’m instructing. I micromanage! I tell them what I’m looking at, how I’m aware of the road, the footpaths, the next intersection, the road a mile in front, the rear vision mirror, road signs, lights, other cars, parked cars, the sound of the car, what the gauges are doing, the speed, where my eyes are, where my hands are, what I would do in extreme circumstances…

It’s a complicated art that the experienced driver takes for granted. And to be honest, when my kids were just starting out, I had to muster up a fair amount of courage to take them for a lesson. When they first start learning, the instructor does have to be on strict alert and needs to be in constant dialogue, setting very clear boundaries as to what’s acceptable and what’s not. I wouldn’t let my kids venture a kilometre an hour over the limit, not even for a second. “What’s your speed?” “60 mate.” They laugh at it now. “No, you can’t put the radio on.” (One of my more serious accidents of many years ago was because I’d zoned out listening to Pink Floyd at maximum volume!)

There comes a time, though, when you have to let go. Trust that God will look after them. Here’s the lesson… the more afraid of mistakes you are, the more controls you put on the people around you. That’s fine when you’re overseeing novices. But at some point in time, you have to let go and let them freewheel. Room for mistakes!

What it means is this: Don’t be a control freak. If you are, it’s because you’re operating out of fear, not leadership. Don’t kid yourself. When it comes to church leadership (leadership in general), don’t micromanage your team. Give them the opportunity to make mistakes! A little mayhem is good and not to be feared. I’ve learned this in my own church leadership… Jesus is the Leader, not me! I’ve made plenty of mistakes and I’m wiser for them. But Jesus is confident in his own leadership and gives me plenty of room for learning, experimenting and even making mistakes.

Many church leaders create rule after rule for their churches, particularly for their ministry teams. I reckon, though they may not agree with me, it comes out of fear. They can’t release their novices because they’re afraid of the mistakes they might make. Control is about fear! And certainly, control does prevent mistakes. The trouble is, it also prevents greatness and shuts down creative diversity. In the end, it holds people back, and it stems from a lack of belief that Jesus is competent in leading the church. You only have to look at his own style, and you’ll see that he empowered his disciples freely. And they made mistakes. And when they did, he used it as an opportunity to bring guidance. Fear stops ministry. Leadership is courageous and releases ministry.

Luke 9:49-50 “ ‘Master,’ said John, ‘we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him because he is not one of us.’ ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said, ‘for whoever is not against you is for you.’ ”

Ian Miller