"Control Freaks" in the Church and Elsewhere
"Alexander the metalworker did me [the Apostle Paul] a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message."1
We've all heard or read about toxic pastors and/or priests, but what about toxic church members? They just don't get the news coverage as toxic pastors and priests do—news that the liberal media love to broadcast far and wide.
I have read that several studies have indicated that it is usually less than five or six people who manage to "run off" the pastor of a church.
While this has not happened to me, I was "shot down" a few years ago and know how painful this can be. This was not from being the pastor of a church (which would be devastating), but from the Sunday School class where I was the teacher. My chief opponent was one person who stirred up others against me. I discovered to my dismay, without as much as being contacted, that I had been voted out as teacher of this class. I did learn, however, that I was only one of the last six teachers who had also been "shot down." That class has since been disbanded. I was also the member of a church where just a few disgruntled members basically killed a thriving church which now no longer exists!
While some pastors and teachers need to be dismissed for justifiable reasons, more often than not there are power struggles in churches that cause pastors and leaders to be dismissed and hurt deeply. I was taught in college that every church has a church "boss" which usually isn't the pastor. It is a person who wants to be in control. This gives him or her a sense of power and importance. However, this is a false sense because anyone who has to be in control of every situation is a very insecure person. Furthermore, without knowing it, they play the role of the Holy Spirit in the church and in people's lives. As Paul warned, we need to be on our guard against these troublemakers—inside and outside of the church!
Strangely enough, in our western culture we call controlling or domineering people strong when in fact they are very insecure and weak. Mature and genuinely strong people are never domineering or controlling. The supreme example is Jesus. He always spoke with authority but was never authoritarian (controlling).
Control, such as mentioned above—whether by a high and mighty hand or in an underhanded saccharine-sweet manipulative manner—is a major problem in our society. It is a destroyer not only of churches, classes, or groups, but also of marriages, families, and personal relationships.
The tragedy is that most controlling people never see or admit who they are or what they are doing.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to grow in maturity so that I will become more and more a loving, non-controlling leader and/or individual. Help me to become more and more like Jesus in every way. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus's name, amen."
1. 2 Timothy 4:14-15 (NIV).