Cause # 2 Perfectionism: Legalistic Leaders

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20: 25-8

Since my earliest days as a Christian, my zeal was to be in the dead-center of Christ’s perfect will. That translated into perfectionism. Perfection turned to legalism.

It didn’t help that the church I had belonged to strove for holiness. It taught we could miss God’s perfect plan if we weren’t flawless. And if we missed His perfect will? How could we live with ourselves?

And for some reason or other–I never reached perfection. As a matter of fact, once when nominated for a position as deacon–in this church, that meant janitor/custodian–the  pastor took my name off the list. He told me, “You’ve made great strides, Carol.” (Sounds good, right? And you know a BUT will follow). “But there’s still something that needs to be perfected. Something’s not quite right.”


No matter what I did, I did it wrong.

Typical example. I tried singing with the praise band–really a place I had no business, but my heart had been right in prayerfully making this decision. We believed in prophesy. I had been told numerous times that I would sing, compose songs and so on. 

At this time, I had been learning bassoon, but improv was hard for me. I figured if I sang, I could figure it out and eventually play my bassoon with the band.

While in the background chorus, never did I dominate. Never did I hog a microphone–mostly, I stood back. 

Then one day, I discovered, the sound manager turned off the mic. I was angry. Wouldn’t you be insulted and angered and horrified and sad?

However, I knew how to keep my mouth shut. I don’t gossip. I don’t fly off the handle–at least it takes a lot, but I did tell someone close to me how much this act by the sound man, a friend of mine, hurt me.

A week or so later, the pastor called me for a meeting. I didn’t know about what, so I blithely  entered his office and discovered my friend the sound guy sitting there. The entire microphone incident turned into a fiasco that was pinned to me. I had no right being upset. I was ungodly, unchristian and wrong.

And the fault in this church was always  seemed to be mine. (And yes, I am well aware of my faults–one of which is blaming myself for not being perfect.) 

But here’s the deal. Perfection will never be humanly achieved. Holiness is God’s alone.

God looks on the heart–and the heart guides our motives. He corrects wrong motives. When we die, Jude 24 says God will present us faultless. 

We have to wait until we die in order to be perfect. (click to tweet)

On earth, our perfection is only found in His sacrifice.

For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. Heb 10:14 (click to tweet)

If you are in a relationship: church, family, friendship, where someone is legalistic and controlling, you must either leave it or correct it or get counseling.

Not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 1 Peter 5:3 (click to tweet)

Have you been in a relationship where people try to control you?

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  1. And that was the issue in this church–no one really had oversight. The people are good, and I believe the pastor well meaning–but it hasn't been until I found my church in TN that I really began to feel the liberty. My second church in northern NY was excellent, but I finally found the road to complete healing.

  2. Carol,
    I know there are churches/leaders like this and it breaks my heart. We have been a lot of different places in our walk and not all of them were good. I find that churches must be accountable to an organization and need to be answering to someone over them so these things don't get out of hand. Though that doesn't always solve the problem! So sorry for what you had to wade through but isn't it wonderful that God loves us so much and will help us thru and bring us out, back into the light of His love! I've started posting some leadership material on FB because we all need to be aware of these things. Wisdom…

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