“Mother May I?”

December 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Leadership

When I was a child we played a game called “Mother May I”. The trick was to execute certain commands always prefaced by the statement “Mother May I”. If you failed to make that request in conjunction with the action, you were disqualified.

What does that have to do with Leadership in the local church? Much indeed.

Leadership is about change, not managing ‘status quo’. Exhibit A could well be the current melt down among the Big Three US Auto Makers. They have clung to an antiquated business model that is now sinking their collective ship. They were not unaware of the issues. They were unwilling to find the courage and apply the wisdom to change that model before we arrived at this “Mother May I” groveling routine being played out on the Hill.

Status Quo is always the preferred ‘modus operandi’ by the majority. This requires little change and a minimum of sacrifice, at least for a time. This same mentality permeates the church. Boards, made up of people who generally recognize the cost of change, hold the assembly to ‘status quo’. They offer reasons ad naseum for doing so. If those reasons are examined under the light of Scripture and an accurate and hermeneutically sound exegesis of the text, there is usually not a shred of legitimacy in their appeal.

This is where the game of ‘Mother May I’ begins. Rather than gathering the biblical rationale through careful exegesis and setting that before the body, Pastors engage the MMI mantra. They come with a timid and often ill-crafted proposal as to why change must take place. Their initial appeal is rejected. They retreat to their study and cry out to God about “how lonely it is at the top”! How sad.

I am not suggesting a high handed ruthlessness that would be correctly labeled ‘lording it over’ their people. I am stating without hesitation that Shepherds must develop and implement ministry structures that consitently result in the Transformation of the people of God into the fulness of the Image of Christ. That is Leadership. Anything less is managing status quo. This process begins with a careful and objective assessment of current reality. It requires courage and tenacity in the implementation of the changes necessary and revealed through that assessment. That is the easy portion. The real challenge is keeping the focus on our purpose – – MAKE DISCIPLES. This is a process that requires wisdom, courage and time – lots and lots of time. It is as Churck Swindoll said, Three Steps Forward & Two Steps Back.

Once this process is operative, we must measure our effectiveness. This is best accomplished in a ‘360’ mode. Get feed back from all angles. Listen. Evaluate. Modify. Press on.

So Pastor, are you operating in the “Mother May I” mode or are you a Leader? It really does matter. I invite your response. Also, celebrate the Incarnation with the enthusiasm and passion it rightly deserves.

In Grace,


3 Responses to ““Mother May I?””
  1. The Fillinger Files says:

    1 Thessalonians 2 comes to mind. A pastor’s/elder’s “evaluator” is not the congregation – it is Almighty God. It matters not whether the congregation approves – but does Almighty God! But Paul doesn’t stop there – he tells the Thessalonians that a leader passionately loves and cares for the souls of those he shepherds. He treats them with gentleness and patience. When leadership does that, the followers embrace God’s Word. That is what a leader does – he leads people to embrace not his own ideas, his own clever schemes, his own programs, but God’s Word. His Word is what sanctifies and transforms!

    Leaders, may we never ask permission of our congregations to do what God has commanded and will hold us accountable for!

    Running the Race – Eric

  2. Tom says:

    Thanks Eric. I have a friend who says – “God is not looking for your vote, He requires your surrender to His Word.”

    How different the church would be if we all embraced that clear principle in all we do as Disciples and Leaders. TCF

  3. mceieio says:

    Add to this a couple of “Simon Says” and we all know the answers to the questions raised by Paul. “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”