By Grady King –
When a child throws a temper tantrum it’s obvious. When a parent chooses to appease the child to control the tantrum, the child is in charge. If the parent reacts, expresses anger, the child will push the button again. And the cycle continues. Without guidance, teaching and modeling of what is acceptable behavior, the child grows up but doesn’t grow up. Immaturity is no respecter of age.
Sadly, us good ole’ church folks are not immune from tantrums. The carnal man shows up in many ways—even among the those who are in leadership. Leaders are, in the words of Peter Steinke, “the immune system” in the body of Christ. When leaders embody disease, temper tantrums flourish. The church will not rise above her leaders. Leaders who do not deal with tantrums and resort to appeasement, forfeit leadership and stifle the maturity and growth of the church. A friend of mine says it clearly, “You get what you put up with.”
Tantrums come in all shapes and sizes ranging from opinions about ministries, conflict with ministers, worship and doctrine. When the Apostle Paul mentions “sound doctrine,” it is, in essence, about healthy teaching. You always know how sound (healthy) a doctrine (teaching) is by what kind of people it is forming. In the context of Timothy and Titus, it is a life consistent with the gospel that is the focus (2 Tim 4.3; Titus 1.9; 2.1). Character, ethics, and specific behaviors, good, bad and ugly are identified. Paul’s admonition to Timothy was how to lead—
“….remain in Ephesus so that you may instruct certain people not to teach any different doctrine, and not to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies that promote speculations rather than the divine training that is known by faith. But the aim of such instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith. Some people have deviated from these and turned to meaningless talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make assertions.” 1 Timothy 1.3-7
In other words, Timothy, Be the immune system. “God has not given you a spirit of fear, rather power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Tim 1.7).
What do healthy, mature leaders and churches look like?
- People who have a common understanding of the Gospel as a way of life.
The gospel is the compass defining identity, mission and character. The hope of the gospel is death, burial and resurrection as an ongoing rhythm of life. (i.e., “Put to death therefore,…”(Col 3.5-10; Mph 4.22f). “I have been crucified with Christ…” (Gal 2.20).
- People who encourage and admonish one another when behavior is inconsistent with Christ.
This is the task of the body, not merely the elders and/or ministers (1 Thess 5.12-21). Talking directly TO, not ABOUT people is the call of Matt 18.15f)
- People who will speak for themselves owning their emotions and admitting their biases. (i.e., “I am afraid of… “My preference is…” “I do not trust…”, etc.)
- People who can disagree, stay connected and act in responsible ways.
- People who take responsibility for their actions without blaming, labeling threatening or rallying others to their position or posture.
It’s all about relationships and growing up in Christ (Eph 4.15f) and learning to love as imitators of God (Eph 5.1).
A few things for leaders to consider—
- What is the mission and/or vision that informs decision making?
- Do you have a behavioral covenant as a leader group? Accountability? Confession?
- Are there clear expectations for what it means to part of the congregation?
- Is there an infrastructure for intentional spiritual formation rooted in Christ like behavior?
- Is there a shepherding emphasis to listen to the church on a regular basis?
- What is the agreed upon process for dealing with conflict?
- When someone leaves the congregation (not the Lord), what is the process for closure?
Next: Part 3—Followship in a Consumer Culture