Church Multiplication and Giving Up Control

Dear Pastor, Jesus is King, and you are not.  

The hardest thing for people to admit is that Jesus is King and they are not. We all want to be in control.  We want to be the masters of our own destiny, but fundamental to Trusting Jesus is surrendering to Him.  It's no different for pastors. Pastors, like kings can fall into the self-deception that everyone is better off when they are in charge. "If everyone would just listen to me, everything would be ok." This is one reason why churches don't multiply. 

Multiplication means pastors aren't as important as they might think. It means their vision language will get diluted as the church becomes decentralized.  It means people won't hear their sermons every week.  It means they can't manage leaders within a church structure.  It means they lose control.  

I'm not saying pastors have sinister plans to control people. Their control doesn't usually come out of selfish motives...usually. It comes out of fear. They want the best for people, and they are afraid of what will happen if they aren't in control. They forget that Jesus has been leading the church since before they were born, and He will be leading it after they are gone.   

The Great Commission is better than your Mission Statement. 

Pastors, hold on loosely to your memorized mission statement.  Let go of your alliterated plans for church growth. Don't make your church planters learn and practice your methodology, so you can have your mark on their church.  Let them follow Jesus to the people He has called them to reach and communicate to them as He leads.   

Just make disciples who make disciples. It's ok to have a memorable mission statement that restates the great commission, but don't make your planters use it. That's your armor, Saul. Get your own ass in it and go to your battlefield. Let your church planter take his sling and stones and go to his. 

God values you because you are His, not because of what you do.

The desire to control comes from fear.  It is insecurity in is brashest form.  We fear what people will do if we don't manage them.  We fear what people will believe if we don't argue with them.  Fear leads us to control people, manipulate situations, and commit all kinds of evil in the name of "protecting church unity" or "supporting leadership."  We seek to control what is not ours to control, because we are afraid of what will happen if we don't.  

But, perfect love casts out fear.  

If I'm loved, I am valued.  What I accomplish matters little when I know I am valued.  What keeps you awake at night, pastor?  Do you think about the email you didn't send?  Do you think about what your staff members will say about your leadership?  Do you think about what will happen if the next series isn't a hit?  

Or, do you think about the fact that Jesus is King and that He loves you?  Do you remember that He won't let you screw this up if you trust Him (Psalm 37:23)? Do you think about the fact that Jesus is the one who promised to build His church, and that Hell's gates will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18)?  Do you think about the fact that nothing can separate you from God's love (Romans 8:37-39)?

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 8:37-39

Pastor, you aren't that important, but you are valued more than you can imagine.  Dwell on the reality of God's love, and let Him build his Church.  You can't make it successful, and you can't screw it up.  All you can do is follow Jesus, and that is more exciting than anything you are doing on your own.

What if?  

I am imagining the conversation you would have with your staff about this post.  I've been there for conversations like it before.  You will explain to your staff why this is just radical teaching that doesn't work in practicality. "We all know that you have to have rules, a system, a method.  It's how organizations stay healthy and grow."  If you are feeling a slightly convicted about the fact that your church is not growing or is building up rather than building out, you will rationalize.  You will talk about how this doesn't really apply to your church or how you really aren't that controlling.  But you feel that gnawing in your stomach.  You are afraid to let yourself think, "What if...?"  

But, when it comes down to it, you see the potential of letting go of control.  What if we started acting like the Church in Asia?  What if we sent people out all the time?  What if we quit building bigger buildings and got everyone meeting in houses?  What if our people didn't spend time attending and running programs at church and spent their time eating and drinking with people who need Jesus?  What if we quit spending on sound systems and gave to the poor?  What if we hired staff to plant churches rather than run programs in our church?  What if everyone made disciples?  

Decentralized gospel multiplication is exponential.  When we make disciples who make disciples and cut away everything else, the Kingdom of God advances.  

We are on a ship in a storm.  Jesus is the Captain, and all those programs, methods, and security you are holding onto are nothing but dead weight.  Throw it all overboard and see where God takes us with nothing but His Spirit powering our sails.  


I know it is scary to think about releasing your leaders rather than managing them.  To be clear, I'm not advocating anarchy here.  I am advocating a change from a management model to a discipleship model.  

Businesses manage their employees; pastors make disciples.

Business men hire people, pay them, and essentially push them to work harder or lose their pay.  Management is about leverage.  Employers leverage pay, and employees leverage work. When you merely manage someone, they give you the least they can give you.  They may want to work harder, but they never know when you are going to try to force more out of them or throw out everything they have done and make them change everything.  Everything is motivated by leverage.  

There is no place for this kind of "leadership" in God's Kingdom.  I've known pastors who lead like this.  I once heard a pastor confronted with the fact that his staff lacked time for rest and family.  His response was that in the business world people work ridiculous hours for money, and that since church is more important we should all work even harder than them.  Since his staff avoid him and work as little as possible, he keeps making more rules and trying to control more and more.  He burns through staff and pushes people out of his church. People keep leaving him.  Of course, he doesn't care, because he has control, which is all he wants.  He has his kingdom.  

Of course if you are building your own kingdom, you are an enemy to the Kingdom of God.  

There is a better way.  The more you have relationship, the less you need rules.  Your staff didn't sign up to work for a church, because they were looking to get rich.  They aren't motivated by money (though you have to watch out for those that are motivated by power).  Your staff signed up to spread the Gospel as much as possible.  You can't pay them what they could make somewhere else, and even if you could it wouldn't motivate them that much.  

These are people who are motivated by relationship.  They signed up because they love Jesus and want other people to love Him too.  If you hired them to do anything other than that, you are running a business, not a church.  The best thing you can do is invest in them as disciples of Jesus.  Teach them the Word, show them what it means to be led by the Holy Spirit.  Model Christ-like love and servanthood.  You don't have to manage disciple-makers; you just have to invest in them and turn them lose.  

Who is in Charge?

The more you have relationship, the less you need rules.  

When you are forced to do something, you internal motivation is quenched as you adapt to external motivations (rules).  Not only that, you lose ownership of your role.  Now, there is someone telling you what to do and how to do it.  The mental energy you once put into creative solutions is turned becomes focused on conformity.  The more rules there are; the harder they are to remember and follow.  The rules themselves become an inhibition on even the most loyal staff member.  

This is not how Jesus works.  Jesus spend three years investing in disciples that He would not be there to manage.  He focused his time on helping them understand this very simple gospel message and then left them with the Holy Spirit to lead.  That's it.  

When you give up control, you grow trust. Someone has to be in charge, and it can't always be you.  You can't watch them lead their house church.  You can't be in their home every minute of every day.  You don't know the thoughts and fears occurring in their hearts.  But, Jesus does.  

If you disciple people to follow Jesus rather than obey you, they will have leadership even when they don't have you.  Build relationships and make disciples, so that when people leave to plant churches they will keep building relationships and making disciples.  That's all they need to be doing anyway. 

Who Get's The Credit?

If you make disciples and release them to plant churches, you will be forgotten in about three spiritual generations (which might only take about three years).  The person you invest in will remember you and be thankful for you all the way into eternity, but the person they disciple may not ever know your name.  The next disciple is even less likely to hear about you.  

The only person who get's credit in this scenario is Jesus, but He is the one who is King.  

All of this comes back to surrender.  Let Jesus be King over your Church, over your staff, over your planting pastors, over your disciple-makers, over you.  That takes surrender.  Will you?