Helping the Controlling Leader

This month’s newsletters will be about How We Love as Leaders.  In my office, I see many Christian leaders, lay and professional who cover the range of attachment styles.  This series is dedicated to helping understand what each attachment style looks like and how they can improve as leaders within theKingdom of Christ.

But what happens when controllers enter the religious realm, become devoted followers of God and servants within the Kingdom of God?

As church planters, missionaries, pastors, elders, deacons, heads of Christian organizations, evangelistic crusaders, church secretaries, board members, and teachers, they can have a big heart, while at the same time demanding utmost loyalty and devotion from their followers.

Controllers find containment and refuge in the environment of the church.  To the person used to chaos and disorganization, they find rest and find relief in the love, care and structure that a church provides. Boundaries and absolutes, distinguishing right from wrong, and the offer of love and salvation from God through Jesus Christ bring great comfort to the frightened soul of the chaotically attached child, adolescent or adult.   The church provides containment to the chaos of childhood where a reasonably good day could turn into a really bad day within a nanosecond.   The church is filled with people who were raised in chaotic homes.

God wants to heal them and redeem their pain.

When they become leaders and representatives of Christianity, often with powerful and dramatic conversion stories, they can become very strong and dominant leaders.  However, with their propensity toward good versus bad thought patterns, they have little middle ground within which they allow themselves or others to move around.  So they tend to be leaders who are “yes or no”, “with me or against me”, “black or white”, “all or nothing”.  “Follow me, do as I do or leave the church.”

While their life seems to be brought into Biblical conformity on the outside, internally they lack relational and emotional maturity.  While black and white thinking certainly does apply to the Gospel, it does not apply to the journey of sanctification which happens after salvation.  It rather is a journey of growth which is very individual and will be different for every person who differs in terms of temperament, spiritual gifts and attachment style imprinted by their families of origin.  With growth resembling three steps forward and two steps backward, grace needs to be the emphasis, not the letter of the law. Here are a couple of recent examples I’ve encountered within my counseling office and on New Life Radio (

I recently heard of a solid Bible teaching pastor (good thing) who publically rebuked and called into question a group leader who deviated from the prescribed teaching outline and had a slightly different opinion from the pastor’s interpretation on a passage that (in my opinion) was not vital to orthodoxy.

On one radio call, a very sad woman expressed that her twenty year old daughter was marrying someone that the church didn’t approve.  The pastor of this small church then warned the mother that if she decided to go to wedding, she would be kicked out of the church. What was the controlling pastor’s message?  “Agree with me, and you are good.  Make a life choice different than mine and you are all bad.”  I wonder what it would be like to have one of these Christian leaders be your dad?   Sadly, many of the people who come into my office as clients are still carrying the residue of controlling parents both secular and sacred.

In two weeks, we will begin to discuss how to help each of these leaders, but next week we will describe the victim leader.

Thanks for listening,



Next week:  The Victim Leader