Inappropriate forms of control, 1-3
(27 minutes)

Control, part 1—27 minutes
Control, part 2—27 minutes
Control, part 3–15 minutes

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Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)

  • Big decisions require approval of church minister?
  • Must trim vacation not to miss Sunday.
  • Overweight people cannot be up front on Sunday.
  • Send in stats Sunday night: visitors, missing members, etc.
  • Threaten with disfellowship just because disagreed with the leader's decision.
  • Removing people from the membership list for missing midweek.
  • Can’t come to leaders’ meeting unless you had a visitor that week.
  • Must provide (free) house-cleaning or babysitting services to leaders.
  • Must attend all events—even if scheduled at the last minute.
  • Control in other areas: relationships, finances, employment, domicile, marriage, family…

Are the people serving the leader, or is the leader serving the people?

1) Heavy loads
They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them (Matt 23:4).

  • “No physical food before spiritual food”—personal devotional rule.
  • “One-a-day challenge”—and other evangelistic rules.
  • Financial control—encouraging people to go into debt in order to make contribution. Or group leaders seeing what everyone has given (standing around in circle).

*** Negative evangelistic impact
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to (Matt 23:13)—heavyhandedness can also prevent people from coming to Christ.

2) Prohibitions with an appearance of wisdom
Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence (Col 2:20-23).

  • Discipline for drinking alcohol—of course some people should never drink.
  • Disfellowship for dating someone outside one’s own fellowship—assuming you are the only Christians in town? Is this really an area in which elders / church leaders should be involved
  • Disfellowship for owning & watching TV.
  • Forbidding films of a certain rating.
  • Cards—because of the association with gambling.
  • Dancing—a lot of it is worldly, but how do we monitor this?

3) Mark 7—Manmade rules & traditions
He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain;  their teachings are merely human rules.' You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions” (Mark 7:6-8).

  • Every church inevitably needs some "rules" (not necessarily bad), like "Church starts at 9:00," or "Members need to participate in a small group."
  • Still, these do not have divine authority.
  • Yes, younger disciples often benefit from guidelines, yet even then these should be a matter of consent, not law. Legalism will shape their concept of God.
  • Best practices ≠ commands of God.
    • Distinguish church traditions.
    • When we fail to make the distinction, then people stop obeying the start using external metrics: visitors, QTs, days without overeating, etc.
  • Let’s not go beyond what is written (Deut 4:2; Prov 30:5-6; 1 Cor 4:6; Rev 22:18-19).

In Control, Part 2: Three more areas of inappropriate control.