Vol 3: 16 Missional Living: The Chaos of Following the Spirit

Following the Spirit can only be described as chaotic when we sense we have lost or are losing control in knowing where we are being led.

We determine a situation is chaotic, when we cannot exert enough influence to ensure the outcomes we desire. Exercising effective leadership has much to do with bringing order out of chaos – but I suspect it has little to do with being open to the leading of the Spirit.

Margaret Wheatley, a number of years ago in writing, Leadership and the New Science, remarked that leadership is all about control.

“All this time, we have created trouble for ourselves in organizations by confusing control with order. This is no surprise, given that for most of its written history, leadership has been defined in terms of its control functions. Lenin spoke for many leaders when he said: ‘Freedom is good, but control is better.’ And our quest for control has been oftentimes as destructive as was his. If people are machines, seeking to control us makes sense. But if we live with the same forces intrinsic to all other life, then seeking to impose control through rigid structures is suicide. If we believe that there is no order to human activity except that imposed by the leader, that there is no self-regulation except that dictated by policies, if we believe that responsible leaders must have their hands into everything, controlling every decision, person, and moment, then we cannot hope for anything except what we already have a treadmill of frantic efforts that end up destroying our individual and collective vitality.” (pp. 24-25)

Control and order are two different characteristics. As leaders we often seek order shaped through our exercise of our control – but it is an order that is only orderly for us – for others all they experience is being controlled, a loss of freedom, a loss of their humanity, a being less than human.

Yet, when we are not in control, we determine that a situation is chaotic, but control has little to do with order – the Spirit brings order, often times an order with which we are unfamiliar – and due to that unfamiliarity and our discomfort with that unfamiliarity, we may tend to conclude that the way of the Spirit is chaotic.

But Paul expresses in his first letter to the church in Corinth – “For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace” (1 Cor. 14:33).

Missional living, I contend, is a way of living that learns to become comfortable with us not having control or being in control, but learning to be open to the guiding of the Spirit in our lives. When I am willing to surrender my having control in order to be open to the moving of the Holy Spirit, then I am open to see ministry that is not shaped by my agenda, but instead, as being ordered and shaped by the Spirit. I am learning, as someone described, to live with a non-anxious presence being open to the serendipities of the Spirit encountering and engaging others in order to witness and participate in the reconciling and re-creating of lives.

To relinquish control is to relinquish the fantasy that I know how to order the world, and to submit myself to the moving of the Spirit is to be set free to explore ways of being human with others that I never thought possible through me – it is amazing what the Spirit is set free to do through me when I do not erect barriers of “control” or “how things have to be.” To live missionally, to be open to the Spirit’s leading, may seem to be chaotic to my sense of order and direction, but I am discovering that to seek to insert my control into relationships and situations is to bring chaos to the way of peace in which the Spirit is at work in the world in making all things new.

O, Lord, help me each and every day be open to be shaped by the non-anxious presence of your Spirit to participate with you in reconciling and recreating human lives and in making all creation new.

  1. Diane Ratliff says:

    Oh boy, what a message i see how my often need to control is very contrary to the working of the Spirit HE must be the control thanks diane

  2. Diane Ratliff says:

    I also read the World Press clip-on from one of your messages. This content as I understand it, reflects the on-going issue with our churches today (in my opinion)–God’s Mission as reflected by lives and LIVING THE MISSION—or numbers (as reflected by counts of people/programs in progress/numbers-numbers-numbers!!) This often makes me wonder about the scripture that states —DO GOOD –don’t talk and brag about it–etc–I wish I could think of the correct passage and words right now!! thanks RO

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