What Makes Ministry Relationships Work

One of the advantages that I have as a Parent Church Pastor is that I get a ‘birds-eye’ view of a number of different churches and the culture of their church. One thing I have discovered is this: the overall church culture is primarily established by the behaviors and attitudes of those who serve together on the Leadership Team of that particular church.

Ephesians 5:21 declares, ‘Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ!’

It’s one of the most hidden verses in the Bible because of the verse that comes after it. “Wives, submit to your husbands…’ is what comes next in v. 22. The concept of submission tends to get lost in the shuffle because of the reaction, controversy, and at times mis-application of these marital verses.

But ‘submission’ is a major key to healthy relationships. It is defined as ‘the willingness to prefer and honor someone above yourself and in so doing, working with all your might to lift them up.’ Submission does not mean the same thing as the word ‘obedience.’ Submission is not in anyway demeaning or destructive. Being submissive is not the giving up of all rights, nor is it the decision to become a ‘doormat’ for someone else. It is definitely NOT an excuse for abuse.

It is simply a willful choice to prefer and honor someone else above yourself. Husbands should submit to wives (see Eph 5:21). Wives should submit to husbands (see Eph 5:22). Pastors should submit to their boards. Boards should submit to their pastors. Staff members should submit to one another. Everyone should submit to Christ.

When I submit to my board, I am not saying that somehow they are above me or can dictate to me. I believe God calls an individual to lead the way and never calls a committee. I believe I can lead them and yet on certain necessary issues, submit myself to them at the same time.

There are certain issues where I choose to submit myself to one of the pastors on my staff. Yes, I am the ‘boss’ and serve as their employer, so to speak. But when it comes to their area of expertise or an area of responsibility that I have delegate to them – I choose to prefer and honor their decisions above my own.

Submission should be mutual in the Kingdom. Mutual-submission is a key to organizational and relational health over the long-haul. Submission is best modeled by the leader first. When I leader requires others to submit without demonstrating the quality themselves, the environment because an oppressive one in which to work. But when I leader submits and leads others to do the same:

1. PEOPLE FEEL SAFE – security comes from knowing that my leader and those who lead with him/her are humble enough to listen and courageous enough to yield their agenda when it is needed.

2. PROBLEMS GET ADDRESSED – when submission is missing, people are unwilling to speak up when they see a problem for fear of offense, awkwardness, or even reprisal. Eventually, there are ‘elephants’ in the room that everyone sees, but no one will address.

3. PURPOSE BECOMES CLEAR – without mutual submission everyone ends up pursuing their own agenda and tolerating the agenda of those around them. But when we submit to one another in love, there is a unity of purpose and laser beam like focus.

4. PRESENCE IS INCREASED – meaning that the presence of God continues to rest. God’s grace is drawn like a magnet to humility expressed and is repelled equally by pride that is entrenched.

Creating a culture of submission is painful. It requires a death to self. It is counter-intuitive to the world’s system. It is often missing from local church. But it is so important to longevity and effectiveness in spiritual work.

We begin by realizing that as we submit to one another, we are not just doing it for them. We are doing it ‘out of reverence for Christ.’ It is a very practical clear way to honor God. And as we submit to Him, He will in due season – lift us up.