The prayer of the pastors and leaders of this Ministry Symposium that helped put this devotion together is that people would open their hearts and minds to see if there is a remote possibility that they have injured someone - in word or deed - or if they can reach out for healing if they are living in devastation.
A word by a prophet ministering India: One of the truest signs of a controlling person is offense when they read about it or are confronted by it. Check your heart!
"I have had people that I thought would be life long ministry partners cut out by God because of destructive words. Contructive words bring life and hope and healing. Destructive words bring only chaos, depression and isolation." ~Thomas Bartles 1888-1945
I knew this was the right time to publish this after having tea with a woman last week. A main topic of discussion: controlling personalities. Later I received an email from a woman struggling within her marriage. She was trying to defeat a controlling spirit in her own heart and is had taken 30 years of losing friends and other relationships that finally broke her. She wanted it out of her "personality".
I've asked a number of pastors and leaders about this and this is the culmination of all said. I want to address today one of the most misunderstood "spirits" or personalities in the church. People call it the spirit of control; the spirit of Jezebel and many other names. A true controlling spirit is essentially a demonic spirit that seeks to dominate by whatever means necessary. When allowed to prevail, it aborts the birthing of those things that the Lord wants to bring forth, both in the lives of His people and in nations. It is a seductive spirit. It's true name in the Bible is the spirit of haughtiness. It is seductive on the surface, promising much but delivering little.
What these leaders; apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and pastors said was almost the same all the way across the board. They are all expressing one word about this horrible, but all too common occurrence in the church: horror. Anti-Christ behavior. First, they all prefaced it with this one statement: Many people in the church today have been wounded, and some have left the church altogether because they have been labeled falsely as a jezebel; a controller; even destructive. These ministers of God could not even begin to name the hours they have spent trying to rebuild the soul of a person who has been annihilated by this. Others have had their lives shipwrecked because of someone with a controlling spirit.
First, we all began by talking about what a controlling spirit is; whether demonic or is personality driven, and then what it isn't. Our collective prayers are that it stops the vicious cycle of dividing relationships and destroying the people of God.
First, the ultimate goal of this spirit is total control. Every thought, every strategy, every effort is directed at usurping another and taking over. Usually it is subtle and low key – at least in the beginning. Because the goal is control, this spirit or personality, depending on the person, takes aim at persons in authority: a spouse, pastor or another person in five fold ministry, elders, bosses, or anyone else in leadership. Their goal in control is to remove any barrier to having things done their way.
A true controlling spirit stirs up fear, flight, and discouragement. Sometimes leaders have fled under the verbal attack of a controlling person. I know some personally. In this symposium, all these ministers could say the people that have been lost because of this is in the thousands, if not higher. Some don't even bother to go to the person. They undermine their authority or their character behind their backs. Five pastors and leaders said to me that every year, hundreds of spiritual and government leaders resign their post because of the attack of control that is attempting to usurp their position or authority.
People who have been falsely accused of something by a person who is calling their actions "controlling" suffer many of the following: discouragement, confusion, depression, loss of vision, despair, disorientation, withdrawal, a sense of worthlessness, defeat, burnout, physical or emotional illness, and an almost infinite variety of other factors. In many cases, this maligning control spirit is responsible.
Can you have been mistaken by calling someone controlling? Every pastor and minister I spoke with listed the most common personalities that they see come under this attack:
1. People of passion
2. People of vision
3. People who are involved in marketing
4. People in positions of power or leadership that intimidates others. (Fourteen pastors said that people called that "intimidation" control, when in truth, what they as pastors saw was something altogether different. They saw a strong leader that people had a hard time saying "no" to. Someone who could lead like Moses - take millions into the same place. Most leaders deal with this on a much smaller scale but the principle is the same. What a controller people must have called Moses! Oh, how that must hurt the hert of God!
Back to what control really is, the consensus of all ministers was this: It is a manipulative spirit, many times cleverly disguised as flattery to get what it wants; even using encouragement, affirmation, and sometimes false counsel. Once this is planted however, it quickly takes root and brings forth weeds of destruction.
For example, a household that has a controlling spouse in it, will have children that are unable to talk to one or both of their parents. They have fear of what the outcome will be. They don't feel they can share what is really in their heart or that they can get the answers they want. One main reason is that they have lost respect for that parent's actions and it has hindered their ability to go to them and trust their answers. Quite often, the family that has a personality or spirit of control operating is out of order. Chaos, confusion, and division rule the day.
Without exception, these pastors had this to say: what is looked at as control in the church is looked at completely differently in the secular society. A person who is passionate about seeing someone succeed in weight loss and will take fried food off their plates is not seen as a controller, but a cheerleader, helping them reach their weight goal.
Together we came up with a consensus on how to deal with real, not imagined control. First, you need to be stable. Stability is a fundamental weapon of spiritual warfare. The issue is not maturity as much as it is being securely planted, firmly rooted in Christ.
Secondly, don't "check-out" If you are under attack from "friends" who are using this term against you, it's easy to give up and just sit it out. Don't! A check out mentality opens the door for the enemy to send in false words of comfort. Stay engaged with faith and those who know who you really are.
Don't align yourself continually with those who fling those accusations or words at you. Leave them behind and cling to the people of faith that know who you really are. One pastor said he doesn't have a circle of friends. He has a line. I laughed and said I have a dot!
In the final analysis, if you are truly dealing with a controlling spirit, learn how to yield to God. Trust in Him. Anything released to God will return from Him greatly multiplied. If, on the other hand, you are destroyed or hurt because people in the church; people you called friends have used that word erroneously, talk to your spiritual leadership. Let him or her fight the battle for you. You may never be vindicated in the eyes of those who fling that word around like a frisbee, but your spiritual covering can guard anything that would attempt to tarnish your reputation. It probably will cost you friends; even ones you thought God had there for a reason. All pastors and leaders have experience in this. They have fought it themselves more than once and have seen members of their flock lost forever to it or lamed by it. Again, trust God. Let Him show you where you need to take a step back and who you can lean on. Like my pastor friend, you may end up with a line of friends rather than a circle, or like me, just a dot. But it is faithfulness and understanding that matters, not numbers.
In conclusion, if you have a controlling spirit or personality, you MUST decide now to get free. It is destructive to those around you. It is different than trying to help someone be all they can be. It is trying to become who they are called to be and tearing them down in the process. It is not the cultivation of love in your heart, but manipulation to get what you want at all times. A true controller, in any degree, hates to not have their way done. Can you sit through a movie someone else wants to watch? Can you go to a restaurant someone else wants to go to? Can you bend on things that aren't heaven and hell issues? If not, you need to seek freedom that only comes from Jesus. If not, you will live a lonely life – not by choice, but because no one will desire to be in your company for very long periods of time.
This week, God wants to begin to take your weakness, have you repent, and begin to turn it into strength. Servanthood is the opposite of control. Serve. Love. Look for opportunities to help others meet their goals and be happy for those who are thriving in places of ministry or work that you want. This is the beginning of freedom, and freedom is its own reward.
Living for the Call,