I decided to add another “two” to the ongoing discussion, before seeking to discuss our return to God and thus our cure.
And this add-on has to do with control.
There are two Lords in contention in most American Evangelical churches: Jesus Christ, or some human or group of humans.
In earlier blogs, I have done my best to expose and treat what I’ve termed, “personal control religion” that masquerades as biblical Christianity but isn’t.
The Question of Control
One of the key questions to ask our own soul, to ask about any religious group we might join, and to discern the true from the false way is this: who is actually in control?
A control idolatry is the master idolatry behind all other idolatries, for the false god promises us magical benefits while leaving us in control.
A control addiction is the master addiction behind all other bondages and enslavements, for all addictions function to bolster our sense of control when life is out-of-control and we are stuck in soul pain.
It is human nature, therefore, to pursue control, to hold onto control, and to fight for control when our illusions of control are threatened.
The Hell of Control
How hellish are marriages marked by control battles between husbands and wives!
How hellish are families marked by control battles between parents and children!
How hellish are societies marked by control battles between factions, interest groups, ideologies, and parties!
And how hellish and miserable are our own souls when we fight a life-long battle to preserve the illusion of controlling everything and everyone else in life!
We can’t even control ourselves, and so easily lose control to the very things we rely upon to give us control.
Control is therefore an illusion, a kind of denial and pretending that avoids and evades the terrifying truth: we are powerless and out-of-control and can’t stop it!
To keep this simple, each of us has a wannabe “god” or “goddess” inside of us.
We have a control monster always lurking within.
We have this budding little tyrant that is hell-bend on deposing God, crowding Him off of His throne, and running the universe as His replacement so the universe conforms to our will and our way.
It’d would be a sick joke if it wasn’t so horrific in its consequences.
A Reaction Against Painful Chaos
Particularly in chaotic, dysfunctional families (and the best family is only 70% functional), people who suffer under family chaos as unprotected, abused, or abandoned children are marked by a quest for control as adults.
They are trying to compensate, to never be hurt like that ever again, and personal control at all costs is their solution.
And we can therefore pity them, understand them, and mourn for them–their fate is the chief tragedy of our times.
But their childish solution, to gain and keep control at all costs, only sets them up to repeat the very horrors in their own lives and families–because that was the problem with their own parents.
Most of the time, controllers never darken the door of a church and disdain any need for God.
But when they do come to church, expect them to import all-of-the-above control thinking into cherished truths like “family of God”, “church family”, and “community”.
Unchecked, unexposed, and untreated, church becomes their base camp and their private reserve.
If a small cliche of long-timers are in control of the church, if a pastor or other larger-than-life persona is in control of the church, if the monied interests are in control of the church, then we all know who isn’t in charge–Christ!
Diagnosing and Practicing Surrendered Control
That’s why it is always revealing to ask: if there was a choice between disappointing the interests of Jesus, and disappointing the interests of someone or group of someones in the church, who wins?
Whose will prevails? And who gets their way in the end?
Whose mission is carried out and whose say-so has the last word?
Who, in other words, is Lord of the Church, Head of the Church, and King of the Church?
Not just in theory, but in actuality
Is Christ’s lordship affirmed not just in lip-service, but in functional decision-making, money spending choices, and priorities and efforts?
Are our prayers just token, just-checking-in prayers we perfunctorily say before we go ahead and discuss, decide, and do whatever we already think is best?
Or is there an active waiting on Christ until He reveals His will out of a sense of deep communion, intimacy, and mutual love?
Is our corporate praying unhurried, marked by listening, and more lengthy than our verbal deliberating?
Are our Bibles open and are Scriptures where He has spoken cited in a search for His will on the matter?
I believe God is winnowing the American Evangelical churches right now.
He is sifting out those who follow a spirit of tradition-bound legalism instead of the Holy Spirit of the gospel of the grace of God.
He is sifting out those who are trying to be all-important saviors from those who merely point others to the Savior.
And He is sifting out false lords, deposing them and emptying their pews to ready us for the day when He takes back actual possession of His Church as its one True Lord.
So He starts where He always does: with us, to fight and win this ongoing, never-finished battle within each of us each and every day.
There is a solution!