The Billy Graham Center recently hosted a conversation at the GC2 Summit about sexual assault and abuse, harassment, legal issues, consent, responses to abuse, the important role of governmental authorities, the rule of law, and additional topics vital and urgent to discuss in today’s culture. Church leaders—women in particular—are gaining a prophetic platform to call out injustices and abuses, both inside and outside the church, that have long been ignored, covered up, and even accepted.
During the conversation, I had the opportunity to address the summit about the proper use and the abuse of power in the church. Now, I want to take a deeper dive into the concept of power. In this first article, I want to help church leaders recover a biblical understanding of power by discussing the subtlety, scope, and stewardship of power.
The subtlety of power
Power is all around us, and in fact, it is within us. Yet, when it comes to the general public, both inside and outside the church, people don’t typically think of power as something they possess. People tend to think of power as holding a particular position (politically or organizationally), standing on a certain platform, having prosperity, or being popular.
In To Change the World, James Hunter notes that the concept of power is closely associated with the roles of elites in society. Power, therefore, is more associated with who a person is or what he or she has acquired—especially in relation to others.
However, according to Andy Crouch, power—in its simplest definition—is, “The ability to make something of the world.”
Couple this definition with the theology of the imago Dei and the creation mandate, and you arrive at the conclusion that every human being possesses power. God delegated power to humanity by commanding us to be fruitful, multiply, fill, subdue, and have dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:28).
In short, power lies in every person.
This may come as a shock for many—especially those in the church—given our misconception of power.
We don’t think of power theologically, but culturally.
The scope of power
Words are part of our everyday life. Whether spoken, written, emailed, or texted, words are pervasive; yet words are neutral until used. To phrase it another way: words, in and of themselves, sit in a neutral state until they are used for communicative purposes.
Once gathered together and exercised, words either become a powerful force for good or bad. Money is very similar. Money gathered into a stack or pile lies in a neutral state. However, once that money is used to purchase or invest in something, it then transitions from its neutral state to an effective one.
The exercise or use of words and money exemplify the use of power. Power is both pervasive and neutral. However, power is only neutral until it is used. Once used, power becomes effective. In other words, power effects for the good or the bad.
To put it in the context of Crouch’s definition, the scope of power is either being used to make something of the world better or make something of the world worse.
Pastors and church leaders need to realize that leadership is the exercise of power in real life; it is the skill of using power effectively. Therefore, we must be sensitive to the scope of power, however subtle our power may be.
As you expend power, whether through teaching, preaching, counseling, advising, serving, or equipping, ask yourself, “Am I using this power God has given me for the good of others and the cause of Christ?”
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Source: Christianity Today