Over time, it's easy for a church (and, by that, I really mean the people within the church) to become both exclusive and controlling. Now, you may not think this applies to you or your church, but here are a couple of ways we take the Church of Jesus Christ and make it our Burger King Church ... because we want to "have it our way."
Exclusivity is when there are experiences you do not want to share with others. We have the right words... "Everyone is welcome in our church, our group, our gatherings." However, do we have action that align perfectly with our words. Are there gatherings that you really treasure? A small group study that has just the right people mix where all your friends gather? Do you like things just the way they are. You see, you may not be outwardly denying entrance into any experience that you love, but your love may become the guard at the gate to keep people out. If you mourn change within that experience instead of celebrating it, you are likely drifting into the land of the exclusive Burger King Church where you want it your way.
The safe guard for becoming exclusive is to keep your edges fresh when it comes to other people. Take on the mindset that the experience is so wonderful you want the whole world to know about it, and share in it's joy. Make sure you are inviting and reaching out to share your treasured experiences in the church. Isn't that what Jesus did?
Control is when there are service tasks you do not want to share with others. So, you have the task of "X" in the church. You love your task. You have held the position of "X" in the church for years. It's your job. Jesus never kept tasks to Himself, but somehow we think we're supposed to. If someone else comes along with the talent to serve, and the desire to serve, we're fine as long as its not related to "X". If someone else wants job "X" do you become defensive? Why? Is it really about you? Would someone have to pry job "X" from your cold, dead hands? Jesus came and healed the sick, cleansed lepers, raised the dead, cast out demons, and preached the Kingdom of Heaven. Within three years, He had the disciples doing the very same thing! Jesus sent them out to do His job! Jesus even gave away a portion of His power and Authority to do it!
If you think you're not a control freak in your church just ask yourself this question: How would I feel if the tasks I do in my church were given to someone else tomorrow? To safeguard against control, consider actively discipling someone toward taking on your job. Don't do tasks within the church alone. Get someone to do it with you. Do that with the intent of launching the person instead of protecting your job. Trust me, Jesus will have more for you to do.
Brett Heintzman is passionate about the spiritual formation of God's people. These writings are designed to draw us close to God and to help us live out of the riches of His presence. It's all about being in the world but not of the world.