three things about one word: power

kathyescobar church stuff, leadership 23 Comments

three things about one word power

power is a hard thing to talk about.  as Christ-followers, it is even trickier because Jesus was so anti-typical-power that talking about it can be misconstrued. i feel this sometimes when i am advocating for women’s empowerment (and others, too, who are underrepresented) because it can be perceived as being contrary to humility.  some also falsely think i believe in shifting power only toward women. nothing can be further from the truth.

i am most passionate about diffused power--not minimized, not limited, not watered downbut rather shared and multiplied so more people have it.

especially for people who usually don’t. 

i think that’s what the kingdom of God here on earth is supposed to look like.

as much as it’s a difficult topic, we need to keep addressing power because it is the undergirding of every system or group, including the church. as children of God, we have great freedom and great responsibility, too.

to me, power is a combination of leadership, value, voice, and resource.

when it comes to “the church” i think we have a really jacked up system related to power.  we have adopted the ways of the world and the methods of businesses as our central practices instead of the beatitudes. and even though a lot of people with power are taking more and more about “kingdom living”, often, they are perpetuating the same old power structures, where sexism & racism & inequality & oppression prevail.

as part of this new series, three things about one word, here are three thoughts rolling around in my head related to power:

1. power attracts power.  what i mean by that is that on the whole people with power hang around other people with power.  so they keep becoming more powerful. it is an interesting phenomenon in the church world, seeing how much happens on the golf course, a place where most women and people without margin & money never tend to hang out.  this is one of many power places where deals are brokered, relationships are formed, and alliances are forged.  but guess who’s not usually in these kinds of conversations? people without power!  this affects who gets funded, who gets support, who gets backed, who gets launched.  think about how hard it is for somebody without power to ever break into the power structure.  it’s so rare, mainly because people with power rarely connect in deep & meaningful ways with people without it.  it’s an unspoken law with real & lasting consequences.

2. for the most part, the powerful like to be on the winning team.  it is a human phenomenon.  we like to be associated with the side that feels the strongest, the most energized, the most impactful, the most _____  (you fill in the blanks).in order to measure up to the expectations of the powerful, it becomes about numbers & seats & sizes because these are the the things that people equate with “success.” when the tide starts to turn downward in any kind of organization and system, very often, people with margin & money jump ship and find another team that’s measurably on the upswing. it’s why so many church plants fail.  there’s a lot of excitement at the start but when some don’t see results fast enough, they find a “better” team.  that better team is usually a group that is powerful!

3. to many, power = charisma & confidence & outward strength.  oh, what would a blog post about power be without mentioning charisma & fairy dust?  the leaders most people follow tend to have a strong sense of certainty, clarity, and confidence that is compelling. i don’t want to dismiss the importance of focused leaders who can inspire & encourage but want to highlight that when it comes to leadership, on the whole we are attracted to the confident-appearing & strong not the weak, broken &  humble. from what i read in the Bible, we’ve got it all mixed up. when people are looking for leaders, they often look for the strongest, the best, the brightest, the most influential and completely miss the beauty and deep strength of the marginalized, the quiet, the uncool, the humble, the unpowerful-on-the-outside. those are the people Jesus chose, but when it comes to leadership, churches & ministries rarely do.

my hope for our future is that those in power would take a good hard look around them and start asking questions like:

“why is so and so not here? who might be missing in this body of Christ?”

“what can i do about changing that, even though it will cost me/us, maybe dearly”

“why do we all look and sound the same? what do we really seem to care about underneath all our christian language?” 

“what can i do to empower someone else in small or big ways?” 

“how can we make this table bigger & more diverse & more reflective of the actual real world instead of our comfortable one?”

so what’s “the payoff”?  that’s the wrong question.  Jesus didn’t give us a business model.  what we’ll all have is life, and life more abundantly.

i know how unlikely this is to happen on a large scale right away.  i may be hopeful but i’m still a realist.

but i will hold out that a lot of change could indeed happen if a bunch of people with power would ask God how to think about it differently–and be willing to take the worldly hit for those kingdom decisions.    

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a few other posts on power here: