9 Ways to Guard against a Controlling Spirit in the Church

A man holding a protection shield with a checkmark

This article was written by state missionary Rob Jackson.

A topic of recent discussion is pastors (including staff members) who are “control freaks.” These pastors blow into a church and are such bullies that they cause much division within the church. I must caution all leaders, including myself, against wanting everything “my way.” As a pastor, I need to build up and not tear down. Below are nine suggestions that I practice to guard against being a controlling and destructive pastor:

1. Pray Fervently.

As you pray, ask God to protect you (and the church) from a controlling spirit. 

2. Listen to Others.

Value the opinion of other staff and church members. Collective IQ is ALWAYS higher than any individual IQ. Give them permission to share openly and freely.

3. Be vulnerable.

Remind yourself that you are not perfect. Pray that God opens your eyes to when you are wrong so that you can make it right.

4. Humble yourself.

Put the needs and desires of others in the church above your own.

5. Have accountability.

Surround yourself with people who are honest with you. Each of us can be tempted to want everything our way.

6. Love them.

There is always a danger in loving the “power or position” of leadership instead of genuinely loving the people. Acknowledge that God has called you to serve these dear people as you follow Christ’s example.

7. Trust them.

Place godly people in positions of leadership who will stretch you at times. It is not helpful to fill all the leadership with people who affirm everything you suggest (“yes” men and women). However, make sure they are prayerful and supportive with no hidden agenda.

8. Release them.

As you invest in the lives of other leaders, God often calls them into different areas of service (pastorate, missions, new church starts, and so forth). Remaining kingdom-focused instead of inward-focused deters controlling spirits.

9. Share the pulpit.

After all, it’s not your pulpit! It is not your church! Occasionally, hearing other preachers is good for the church and you.