Don’t Sacrifice Your Influence In Order to Have Control
There is a trend I have noticed taking place in the independent Baptist world that concerns me. I am seeing it in many pastors of independent Baptist churches. Let me preface this by saying that these are good men and sincere in their motives. They love their people and only want what they think is best for them. However, in their desire to help their people in some cases they try to control their people. They are not tyrants nor are they dictators. However, they have taken their desire for what is best for their people a bit too far.
I have four children. When my children were very young they needed Mrs. Gray and I to exercise control over them. However, as time went by we began to release our control a little bit at a time. Today I have no control over my children. What I hope that I have is influence.
Dr. Hyles taught a very important principle. He said, “Do not allow your desire to control your people to cause you to lose your influence over them.” Dr. Hyles believed the power of influence was the greatest power a pastor could have. Unfortunately many pastors with a sincere desire to influence their people feel that it is their duty to control them. When someone in the church does not follow their advice, a sermon follows. Maybe no one else knows to whom that sermon is being addressed, but they know. They feel that passion/anger that is being directed towards them. Often their confidence is shaken in their pastor. When we demand people to do what we think they should do we often damage our ability to influence them in the future.
When the prodigal son demanded that his father give him the portion that was his, the father could have easily refused. When the son left to go to the far country there is no indication that the father preached a sermon to him. He let him go. Perhaps the greatest reason the son returned to his father is because the father did not sacrifice his influence by trying to take control.
Allow me to share some principles I learned from listening to and watching Dr. Hyles.
1. You can’t control people. Pastor, parent, teacher, hear me, you cannot control people. As much as I told our newborn babies not to cry and make messes in their diapers I learned very quickly I had no control. What you can do is control the environment. You see a good leader understands that a controlled environment is more important than trying to control people. Dr. Hyles understood that fact. He knew that no matter how many rules they had in the schools it would never be enough to control the students.
Let me share something that burdened Dr. Hyles. Although he trusted the leaders of his schools, I heard him say on more than one occasion that it concerned him how many who worked in the schools tried to control the students by making up new rules. He had no part in some of the things for which he has been blamed. They were instituted by people who were really not leaders, but merely held a position. The only way they could handle many situations was by trying to use control. That was not Dr. Hyles method. Study the way he handled his church staff and his Sunday school teachers and you will see the difference. He knew he could not control those people so he attempted to create an environment to inspire people
2. Creating the right environment is harder than trying to control people. Controlling people is forcing them to do what you could have done had you created the right environment to lead them. There are three elements necessary to create the right kind of environment that prevents you from needing to control people.
Instructing people as to how to make the right decision will prevent the need of having to control them. Instruction is an important element for a good leader. When Dr. Hyles recruited a Sunday school teacher he instructed them as to what their responsibilities and expectations were. One reason he did not have to control those who worked on his church staff is because he gave good instructions to them and then gave them freedom to carry out those instructions.
Dr. Hyles once said, “We often force what we cannot inspire.” Do not miss that truth. Leaders who must force people to do what they should do are often too lazy to inspire them to do what they should do. How did Dr. Hyles lead hundreds of Sunday school teachers to follow the instructions given to them? He inspired them. The root word is for inspiration is spirit. I am not talking about rah-rah spirit. I am not even speaking about an emotional rousing of people to follow your instructions. I am talking about something that every pastor, parent and Christian leader should understand. The Holy Spirit lives within you. When you ask God to give you wisdom for your teaching, preaching and counselling, your Spirit speaks to their Spirit and inspires them from within. Emotion is a response to the working of the Spirit, not the cause for inspiration. Being Spirit filled as a leader removes the need to be in control of people. Why do we ignore the power of the Holy Spirit in our leadership? Why do we think we have to control our people rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to control them. Perhaps it is because it is easier to force people to do what they should do than to pray for God to give us wisdom to inspire them to do what they should do.
A healthy environment will build in people a trust to allow their leader to influence them. Why did hundreds of people line up each week at Dr. Hyles’ office door to ask him a question? It is because he had earned the right to influence them. How do you earn that right? It is certainly not by using your title or position. And it is not by calling yourself “the man of God” and whipping your people with that title. It comes from seeking wisdom from God that leads people to make good decisions causing them to want to return for advice with future decisions. Trust causes influence. Trust cannot be forced. It must be earned.
3. Trust your people to make decisions and accept the fact that sometimes they will make a decision contrary to what you wish they would have made. This is so important. Do you know how you learn in life? You learn by making mistakes. Part of leadership is allowing people to make mistakes, then as a leader guiding them through the mistake. However if you try to control a person, it is more than likely they will not come back and allow you help them. You have crushed their pride. Many pastors have lost their influence with people because they were not willing to let people make decisions that are not best. Give your people room to make wrong decisions.
4. Warn your people principally but not personally. Preacher, please hear me because I am sure we have all made this mistake. Dr. Hyles said many times, “I never have anyone in mind when I am scolding my people.” He may have had someone in mind when he was trying to comfort but not when he was scolding. The moment you have one person in mind when you scold you are risking your influence with that person. People need preaching that is principled. The Holy Spirit makes it personal. However when we direct a sermon at an individual, it has gone from being principled to being personal, and that often quenches the work of the Spirit.
5. You are not the Holy Spirit. Now I understand that we like to call ourselves the man of God, and well we should be. However, there is a vast difference between a man of God and the Spirit of God. Be careful that you do not become the conscience of your people. Do not try to be the Holy Spirit to them. Allow the Holy Spirit to work in their lives, and it is more likely they will make even better decisions than you would have made for them.
6. Look ahead to the future. This is a lesson that Dr. Hyles emphasized strongly. If we send someone away feeling our disfavor over a decision they made, it is likely they will not return to us. Dr. Hyles taught to not sacrifice the possibility of helping someone in the future by beating them up over the mistakes they make today. I am certain that is why the prodigal returned to his father. When he left he felt the acceptance and the love of his father in spite of the fact that he was making the wrong choice.
7. Find something with which to agree when someone makes a decision you do not like. This could be revolutionary if you will apply to it. Dr. Hyles was counseling a young man about what college he should attend. He chose to attend a college that was not even on the radar of Dr. Hyles. In fact, it was a liberal college. Immediately Dr. Hyles changed directions by helping the young man find a good church in the city where he had chosen to go to college. Rather than berating the young man for choosing the wrong college, he found something with which he could agree that would help the young man. That young man did go to that college. He attended the church that they found together. To this day, that man is still in church, serving God, and fondly remembers and loves his pastor, Brother Hyles.
Sometimes people would come to Dr. Hyles and tell them they were going to buy a house. In his heart he did not think it was the right time. However, instead of telling them they should not buy a house he set out to help them find the right house. That leads me to the next point.
8. Do not give advice unless you are asked. Teach good principles in the pulpit but do not meddle in your people’s lives. Dr. Hyles pastored thousands of people. Tens of thousands of decisions were made by those he pastored. There was no way he could have monitored all those decisions, nor did he want to. He was there to teach his people and hope that they would make the right decisions. They did not have to have his permission. They did not have to seek his counsel. When asked he gave counsel, but it was not given as law. Of course he hoped people would make the right decisions but he did not meddle in their business.
9. Learn to accept good even when it is not the best. I think I should repeat that statement. Learn to accept good even when it is not best. If someone does not make the decision you think they should make, don’t get upset if the decision they make is still good. Maybe they should wait until they graduate to get married, but if they are marrying a good Christian learn to rejoice in the good rather than being disturbed by the fact they didn’t do what you thought was best. Aren’t you glad God isn’t like you? Aren’t you happy that he does not turn on you because you do not always do what is best? Many times by rejoicing over a good decision I have salvaged my relationship with someone in spite of the fact that they did not make what I thought was the best decision.
10. Learn to give general warnings when you see a trend. This is what good pastors do. If they see a trend of bad decisions in certain areas they Scripturally deal with it from the pulpit. If one person made a bad decision Dr. Hyles did not preach at everyone. He watched for trends. Just because a person makes a bad decision does not mean that everyone is about to make that same decision. However when several people make poor decisions it may be time to deal with it from a Scriptural and principled point of view. Be careful pastor that you are not picking on individuals rather than instructing your flock.
11. Trust God. Pastor, you are going to lose people because of wrong choices. Let me give you two warnings. First, do not chase them away because you disagree with something that they have decided to do. Secondly do not forfeit your right to help them in the future by making them feel they disappointed you. If you learn those two things it you can help more people in the long run.
People often called Dr. Hyles a control freak. If what they mean is that he carefully controlled his environment than they are right. However most people are not discerning enough to understand that. He was not a man who tried to control people. Make no mistake about it, there were those who did try to control people. That is true in any institution, whether it be Christian or secular. They are always going to be weak leaders who feel that controlling people is the only way to get them to do what they think they should do. However, do not mistake what others did as being what he believed. Study how he led at the church and you will understand that he did not ever seek to be in control of people because he was more concerned with preserving his influence.