How to Change the World by Scaring It

Coercion Isn't Leadership

These days, there is a formula for trying to affect change in the world. Scare people.

Scare people. I mean, really scare them. Do whatever you can to make people uncomfortable with who they are, where they are, and what they are.

If that doesn’t work, label them. Anxiety is powerful emotion, and one that can get people to do nearly anything if it is felt strongly enough. So, we create it… certainly in society, but we do it in Christianity, as well.

That’s not leadership and it doesn’t lead to sustainable, real change. Let me suggest something.

It’s going to be OK.

Really.

  • Even if the climate warms by half a degree over the next 500 years.
  • Even if it doesn’t rain cats and dogs for the next 20 years.
  • Or if it does.
  • Even if we don’t change our doctrinal positions.

It’s going to be OK. We all need to stop freaking people out and being freaked out all the time.

I’m not suggesting there aren’t times to point out the seriousness of situations and admit we are scared. But, that’s different than what we seem to be doing these days—scaring people into doing what we want them to do.

Why do we do this? Because control through fear is always easier than progress through persuasion and love. Why would I bear with you when I can simply scare you into compliance? Persuading people is difficult, so…

If I can’t convince you, I’ll just tell you—

  • Megachurches will be dead by 2020. So, we HAVE TO _______
  • Manhattan will be under water by next year if we don’t change everything we do right now.
  • No one under the age of 30 will love Jesus if you don’t change your position on that theological issue right now—and even then-it’s probably hopeless.
  • The church (which Jesus said he’ll wouldn’t prevail against) is going to die off if we don’t _______ (fill in your own blank).

Do it or else. It’s just easier that way.

If you still refuse to comply, I’ll label you. After all, even if you don’t fear whatever scenario I’m presenting, surely you’ll fear people hating you or thinking you are one of these awful labels, won’t you—You legalist, stupid, obstructionist, hatemonger, left-wing, radical, feminazi, sexist, racist, fundamentalist, right-wing, fear-monger, tree-hugging hippie you…

Fear. Fear. Fear. Thought terrorism. Chronic reactivity as a substitute for discernment and intentionality in community.

Now that’s something to be afraid of.

Pastors, don’t let society’s bad habit become yours in how you lead. You may win control for a time, but you’ll have lost—because you can’t lead like Jesus through fear—other than the fear of the Lord.

Instead, choose vision.

Don’t scare. Inspire.

Tell the truth, in love.

Don’t coerce the church. Lead the church. Those are two very different things. Coercion isn’t leadership. Leadership is leadership.

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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