Monday, September 18, 2006
This is a story about control...
Control eludes me. I have not posted a blog entry for a week, and it is mostly because my life has been beyond my control just lately. The stuff that has to be done has taken over, and the stuff that I want to do has faded from view. The good news is, some of the stuff that had to be done is now done, or at least ending, which will leave me more time for the stuff I want to be doing, instead.
However, at least this last week has afforded me the opportunity to reflect on control, and to talk with some good friends about it. With their help, (especially yours, Diana) I have discovered the following axiom: when you cannot control the big things, controlling the little things takes on enormous importance. I am adding this one to my list of axioms for ministry.
This axiom explains some of why people complain about what seem like trivial issues, especially in church. We can use this past weekend as a case study. During the week I had moved the American flag out of the front of the sanctuary in order to make room for our “Welcome Home” banner, and a church member raised a pretty angry complaint. What I realize now is that the issue is not the placement of the flag in the sanctuary per se (that issue has a-whole-nother set of concerns to consider), but in this case it is only a manifestation of the true issue. The issue is control. Having the American flag in the sanctuary, while not at all a priority for me, is very important to this particular congregant. The decision to remove it was not under his control, and he was reacting to it with some passion.
Having control means having power. So much of life is out of our control, and we feel powerless in the face of that. Rush hour traffic, deadlines imposed by our bosses, the weather, images of violence we see daily on the evening news, diabetes and cancer and cerebral palsy and Alzheimer’s … most of what happens around us is out of our control, and so sometimes controlling a small something becomes a last, desperate attempt to cling to some shred of individuality and power, to finally avoid the full descent into chaos that threatens us at every moment.
And so people at church will complain about … just about anything – from the color of paint on the walls to the music choices for worship to the seating arrangement of the choir, and so on and so on. I’m sure that those of you in church leadership have heard complaints that pretty much run the gamut. In hearing their complaints, it is important to hear the issue behind the complaint, too.
Most of the time, it is about control. It’s like Janet says, “I don't wanna rule the world, Just wanna run my life.” Maybe this week, I will live a bit more under control.