You Can Lead by Fear or Lead by Love

One of my favorite spots to hang out on the weekends is the green room, backstage at Saddleback. It’s not just that some kind volunteers stock it with hot Thai food, it’s the conversations that happen there. I learn about leadership by listening to other leaders.

This past Sunday, I was sitting around with David Chrzan, Dave Greene, and Todd Olthoff, fellow Pastors at the church, and Dave Greene shared a principle I’d never really thought about before. You can lead by fear, or you can lead by love. In other words, you can make decisions for people that are motivated either by your fear of losing control, or by your passion to see others grow.

I began thinking about how I’ve seen decisions made within the churches I’ve led. I’ve seen decisions made out of fear…

  • Don’t let anybody spend money without the approval of _____.
  • Don’t let anybody start a ministry without the permission of _____.
  • Don’t let anybody use the _____ because they might not take care of it.

We lead by fear when we make decisions designed to protect ourselves, our turf, or the status quo. We don’t want to upset anyone. We don’t want to lose the perceived “control” we think we have. Or we don’t want anyone else getting the glory.

Unfortunately, we don’t see fear-based leading for what it is. Instead, we see ourselves as protectors of a cause. If I let them give the kids candy, they’ll put fingerprints on the walls… and doesn’t God despise messy walls?

I’ve also seen decisions made out of love. I watched Terri and a few other ladies start a food pantry that cost money, took time, and brought people on our campus that were sometimes tough to know how to help, but it was started out of love, and God blessed it.

I’ve watched Joni challenge people to give away shoes even though it was a lot of work on a Saturday, and even though some people took advantage of our generosity, because she loved people.

I’ve watched Angie put her body through all kinds of difficulties to bring Sam into the world, in spite of the cost, in spite of all the doctor visits, because she loves the kids God had in mind for us.

When we lead out of love, we forget about ourselves, our turf, and our glory, and we start thinking in terms of:

  • How can I help _____ grow spiritually?
  • How can I help _____ escape a destructive lifestyle?
  • How can we see more people come to Jesus in spite of the cost, the mess, and the work?

You can lead out of fear, or you can lead out of love. I hope we’ll choose love.