Non-Authoritarian/High Control Leadership

The guy attacked me from the platform at a symposium.

“You’re not the laid-back leader you present to the public. You have to exercise authority to do what you’ve done.”

I responded with, “I’m not the domineering leader, you suppose, but I may be the most high-control leader you ever met! I teach people to think, and they make good decisions. That gives me control long afterward.”

So how do you control people without resorting to anger, domination or other authoritarian tactics? You teach people how to think.

Sadly, much of what we call disciplemaking is little more than education. Pump their heads full of enough Bible knowledge and call it a disciple. I disagree. We need to balance content with relationship.

How, you ask? I’ve always assigned reading, usually a book that we read in a group. We start by asking, “What did the Holy Spirit speak to you through this book? Doesn’t matter if we’re reading Romans or some secular biography, the Spirit does speak. We then mosey down whatever rabbit trails present themselves. As we do, we share what we know of life, especially life with the Lord. I have no problem with curricula, but think it is too often shallow.

You learn to think by learning how someone else does that. You can’t get that merely from a book. A disciple needs a disciplemaker to model after. Consider how children learn to walk, talk and view the world. Not much about learning changes as we mature to adulthood.

High Control Disciplemaking

Paul told the Corinthians, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” He wrote to Timothy, “You’ve been a good apprentice to me, a part of my teaching, my manner of life, direction, faith, steadiness, love, patience, troubles, sufferings — suffering along with me in all the grief I had to put up with in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. And you also well know that God rescued me!” (2 Timothy 3:10-11 THE MESSAGE). Paul shared life with Timothy, literally teaching him how to think. Because of that, he had input to decisions in Ephesus, though he wasn’t present.

Transormation vs Education

He instructed the church in Rome to “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2 NIV). This suggests a total mental makeover. It moves beyond education to transformation. Again, teach people how to think, and they will figure out God’s will in every situation.

Peter warned elders against authoritarian leadership when he instructed us to lead from pure hearts without “lording it over” those in our circles. Jesus said the greatest would be the servant. Yet, some believe you must dominate people to fulfill whatever vision you have for ministry.

Good Disciples Make Good Decisions

Paul could trust Timothy to lead well because he had discipled him well – Tim would discover God’s desire in any situation because he knew how to think. Titus could be trusted to pick up the pieces in Crete for the same reason.

My best days as a pastor were those when someone would start some new ministry without asking permission. Those were the times that best underscored our approach to making disciples.

One lady planted a church in a neighborhood she first visited to distribute groceries. The grocery thing led to a children’s ministry, which led to parents asking to join.

In the last church, I pastored a 15-year-old boy, in whom several adults had invested heavily, started a middle-school ministry without telling anyone. We applauded when we discovered what he’d done. Later, he discipled two people much older than himself to run it when he launched something for high schoolers. Good disciplemaking teaches people to discern God’s plans and act on them.

My confidence in disciples of disciples of disciples is that they will make right decisions because I shared life and knowledge with those I discipled. In other words, I believe in people I’ve never met because I think I did a good job as a non-authoritarian leader who is pretty good at teaching people how to think.

Right, wrong or off the wall? What do you think about what I wrote? We’d love to read your comments if you include them in the box below. I promise to read and respond to each one.