Ed Stetzer on Power and Pastors, Part 3

This series is an expanded version of my talk from the GC2 Summit, December 13, 2018. Here are Part 1 and Part 2.

Jesus schooled the world on how to understand and exert power.

Rather than wielding it through a sword, a harsh tongue or a prestigious position of authority, Jesus exerted power through two particular images: a lowly servant washing the feet of guests and a suffering sinner hanging on a cross. What’s amazing about these two images depicted by Jesus is that He had no business doing either. He was God incarnate. He created the cosmos. He was the sinless Son of God.

If anything, Jesus should have been walking around demanding people bow down and worship him. But that’s not how Jesus acted. Rather, Jesus exerted power through service and sacrifice. In short, he exerted power not to demand something from people but to do something for people. Therefore, Jesus sets the trajectory for how believers—especially pastors and church leaders—understand and exert power.

In Part 2 of this series, we saw that the power of the Fall calls for extraordinary discernment. But Jesus teaches us at least two more ways to guard against the misuse and abuse of power.

Recognize the Challenge of Power and Our Need for an Extraordinary Shepherd

Power is a challenge.

In every environment, regardless of the situation, power is a significant responsibility. Pastors often don’t recognize the extent of their power and the danger of that power going awry. Religious structures often have less accountability for the people in power, and people are often not even aware of the pastor’s power in their lives and in the lives of others.

Scripture addresses these concepts. We see descriptions of how pastors are to lead in places like 1 Peter 5:

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve;not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away (1 Peter 5:1–4).

Jesus is the Chief Shepherd, gatherer of the flock. And Jesus is good in all his doings. In fact, Jesus is the only one who can truly wield power in a way that brings universal peace and flourishing for all humanity. Every earthly power is subject to Jesus, and pastors are uniquely called to be under-shepherds who carry to the flock the name, authority, and care of the Chief Shepherd.

When pastors recognize their power is not inherent within them but rather stewarded to them by the Chief Shepherd and embodied by the character of the Chief Shepherd, they will be leaders who serve and not power-mongers who abuse.

And the deeper understanding of 1 Peter 5 is that it addresses godly character. Pastors are to lead with oversight, not compulsion; willingly and eagerly, not for shameful gain; not domineering, but by being an example. This goes to the foundational principles of heart character: what you do naturally flows out of who you are.

However, when most churches are looking for a pastor, they spend far more time on the candidate’s ability to speak than they do on the person’s personal life and character.

Titus 1:6-9 is another key passage on the qualifications of leaders in the church. Look at the common themes and emphases for pastors and leaders that Paul is telling Titus to seek.

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Source: Christianity Today