Overcoming Control and the Cult of Harmony
The Body of Christ in Residence- concern for budget, sacred space,
membership privileges, continuity. Success is measured by harmony.
The Body of Christ in Motion – concern for mission, adaptability, trust and success is measured by hope.
Most congregations are made up of three kinds of people.
20% will be “Restless”
20% will ”Controllers” – want church to be one unchanging place in
If you want to move from the “Residence” to Motion: then:
1) Mentor the restless ones in the new vision for the church.
2) Help them go deep in the core discipleship process.
3) Listen to and read the community for all the microcultures in the
community and through adult spiritual development enable people
to have a heartburst for one of those microcultures.
4) As mission multiplies and small groups develop, the church
reorganizes itself to meet the mission needs.
5) Everything mulit0tracks, the church becomes more and more a
blessing for the community around it, and there is deep joy.
Now it would be nice to think that we can effect all this change and that everyone will love it and all will be easy and simple. But along the road from ”Resident to Motion” comes many roadblocks that have to be overcome. The controllers will attempt many things to stop the chaotic effects of transformation.
1) The first roadblock that Controllers will put up is the avoidance of adult
spiritual growth, for such growth will lead to risky mission. Controllers
will obsess on Sunday school, family worship services and youth
groups. Better to sacrifice the children than go deeper in faith. There
is nothing wrong with youth ministries, but not at the expense of adult
faith formation. To avoid this roadblock change the content of
methodology of spiritual growth for adults. Make such growth:
; Lifestyle oriented
; Small groups
; Technology and Talisman
The goal is to get 20% of the congregation doing serious adult faith formation. The current national average is less than 7%.
2) The second roadblock the Controllers will put up is around cultic harmony. Now this is not a concern about a common vision, behavior, or doctrine, but is around aesthetics-taste, appearance, and sensibility. It’s all about “me” about membership having privileges. I can’t emphasize enough that harmony is the chief addiction most of our congregations face. We will often do all sorts of crazy things to maintain harmony. In order to block change and maintain harmony, Controllers will engage in the following tactics.
a. Fiefdom – “You can’t do that, that’s my turf!”
b. Denial – “No one wants to do this!”
c. Inflexibility – “The by-laws don’t allow this.” “We never did
that way before.”
d. Dithering - “Let’s study the idea; let’s form a task force to
look at the details.”
e. Denigration – personal attack on clergy and/or lay leadership.
f. Hostage Taking – threatening to leave the church and take a
segment of the congregation with them.
g. King Making – “I will back you 100% , as long as I can be
your best friend.”
Often good leaders will cave into the “harmony addiction’ rather than
rock the boat. The “restless” ones soon leave when this occurs. To
combat the “harmony cult” the following strategies may be used.
a. become clearer about DNA
b. serious listening to the microcultures
c. multiply options
d. tell mission stories that remind us of why we are a church
e. integrity in a deep spiritual life
f. team solidarity
g. urgent and outrageous vision
3) The third area Controllers will attempt to block transformational ministry is through administrative tactics. These include:
; Delaying mission while a “strategic plan” is done by
; Try to set up credentialing processes so new
leadership can’t emerge
; Appeal to denominational polity, correct stances on
“social issues” or dogma
This can be counteracted by:
; Focusing on DNA and boundary thinking
; Strengthening teams
; Creating a visionary Board
; Focus on emerging signature missions
In this entire struggle over the Body of Christ in Residence vs. Body of Christ
in Motion, churches can go in either direction. Below is the flow of each.
As decline occurs (as it has in many churches already) there is:
Gotta get a youth group!
Visit, Visit, Visit!!
Adult faith formation
Which do we want? We will lose people either way, but do we want harmony
The 4 Spheres of Congregational Life
IV. Breather I. Control
III. Growth II. Confusion
Sphere One – Control: “Deciders” control almost everything by a “top-down” style of
management. Policies and traditions are the norm. Those not in control, often feel drained of
energy. New ideas and innovation are frowned upon. To move out of sphere one will come at
the wrath of the “Deciders.” The key question to ask is: “What am I passionately called by Jesus
to do and am I willing to endure the conflict that will result from pursuing my calling?”
Sphere Two – Confusion and Uncertainty: A few begin to ask the question: “There must be more to church than this!” When such “Dreamers” emerge, they must be encouraged to move to
a new sense of mission and life for the church. The “Deciders” at this point will become “Controllers” and will try to shut this down: If shutdown occurs, the church moves back to Sphere One. This will be the time of greatest stress and conflict in the congregation.
Sphere Three – Growth and Mission: Churches entering into Sphere Three will emphasize a “bottom-up” style, with helping people identify their gifts and multiplying mission. It will be uncomfortable for a while as people get used to a new way of being a church. The “Dreamers”
need to be encouraged and “Controllers” will often leave the church. Synergy and growth are the watch-words here.
Sphere Four – A Breather: In this sphere, the congregation takes a momentary step back to regroup, to re-envision what is next, to reflect. A brief stop at Sphere Four on the way back to the innovation of Sphere Three is healthy. A long stay at Four really means going back to Sphere One. The most faithful congregations move between Three and Four.