Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Power Games

Isaiah 48:17-18 This is what the LORD says-- your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow. 18 Oh, that you had listened to my commands! Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river and righteousness rolling over you like waves in the sea.

COMMENT: In the last 10 days, I have been amazed at the number of conversations that I have had with young ministers who are absolute in their devotion to God and their commitment to authentic, holistic ministry in the name of Jesus Christ - but who have also become very suspicious of their church and its power games. Of course, the leaders who have abused power with these young ministers are blind to their abuses. You can never really understand what it's like on the other side of power (note the emotions of so many African-Americans on this inauguration day - when you have been denied access to power and been the recipients of Power's abuse for so long, today is both historic and deeply personal). These power games get played out in so many venues - credentialing boards that deny licensing, scheduling required meetings with no thought to the bivocational pastor's work schedule, awarding advisory positions based on church size... and worst of all, neglecting pastors whose ministries have not turned out well. I know of a young pastor who was driven from his church, had to seek secular employment, was in financial and emotional crisis for months, and was never contacted out of pastoral concern by any of his superiors up the leadership ladder. The maxim is just as true in the church as it is in the business world: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely!

What is amazing to me about this is that the text quoted above is God's invitation to learn the way of peace and righteousness - to learn God's way of leadership. I am reminded of Jesus' words, "Come to me... learn from me... for I am meek and humble - and you will find rest." While I love and believe in the church, I am deeply concerned for a church that testifies to the grace of God that transforms us into the character of our Lord, but who fails to exemplify that humility that lies at the heart of holiness. Moses, the great servant of the Lord - is called the most humble man who ever lived (Numbers 12:3). Jesus, God's servant, is gentle and humble at the core of his being, laying aside all claims and paths to power to come among us, not to be served, but to serve.

I see this new generation of preachers wanting authenticity, integrity, genuineness in the church they serve. One of the greatest services we who are given the responsibility of mentoring these young ministers can offer is to take Jesus' yoke upon us and learn from Jesus again - the way into the future is not the way of power games... it is the way of humble service which leads to "peace flowing like a gentle river and righteousness rolling over you like waves in the sea." Perhaps the best service we can render this new generation is to lay down our titles, stop playing our power games, and sit with these brothers and sisters as just that - brothers and sisters, and laugh with them, dream with them, and love them - just like Jesus.

Soli Deo gloria

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