Power: How Will We Use It?
January 30, 2020
Updated January 13, 2021
7 comments 489 views
In Philippians 2, we read that Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage. Instead, he took on the very nature of a servant, using his power for the salvation and thriving of others.
All of us who are united to Christ are called to use our power in a similar way, to serve and to love our neighbors. We have this call from Christ, and we have the Holy Spirit to help us live out using our power in a Christ-like way. Unfortunately, we don’t always look like Jesus in the way we use power. Abuse of power occurs when people use their power to harm and/or influence another for personal gain at another’s expense. And it happens, even in our churches.
Power comes from various sources:
We all move up and down into different levels of power in different contexts and in different relationships. The key is to be aware of the power we have. At any given moment, we may find ourselves in either a Down-Power or an Up-Power position.
We all carry responsibility for how we use power in relationships. However, those in an Up-Power position carry a greater responsibility than those in the more vulnerable Down-Power position. The 150% principle states that though all of us may be considered 100% responsible for rightly using our power, those in the Up-Power position carry 150% responsibility.* Understanding this power differential and its impacts is the core of ethical awareness.
In addition, research has revealed a power paradox, showing that our natural neurological connections for empathy and altruism diminish as our power grows. Therefore, we need to make conscious efforts, combined with a love for the Lord and love for our neighbor, in order to ensure we use power in a Christ-like way.
Our denomination has done a lot of work over the last few years about use of power. New resources and training materials are being developed. Watch for more information on this topic. Power: How Will We Use It? is the theme for Abuse Awareness Sunday, September 27, 2020. (Note: Abuse Awareness Sunday is always the 4th Sunday in September - but any Sunday is a good time for greater abuse awareness) A half-page bulletin insert/flyer is available from Faith Alive Resources, free of charge to CRC congregations and available in Korean, Spanish and English. Others who are interested may contact Safe Church Ministry about ordering this flyer. This beautiful litany which was used at Synod 2019 is also available for churches who consider this important topic, and lament our misuse of power that has harmed so many.
The CRC is not the only organization considering this topic. There are many others. Below are some resources that can help us think about relational power and how we use it in ministry contexts in a Christ-like way.
May the Lord bless our efforts to seek and follow him in the way we use his gifts of power.
*Adapted from the Right Use of Power Institute
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Thanks for raising awareness and a better understanding of power and its use, abuse.
I would like to add to your resource list Andy Crouch's wonderful work on power,
"Playing God-Redeeming the Gift of Power". If you want to know more, search Good Reads or Patheos for reviews of this excellent work.
Thanks Kelly - Yes! An excellent book.
Safe Church has gathered additional resources specifically addressing abuse of power by clergy and ministry leaders. We're always glad to see people using resources that we've posted - and please don't hesitate to contact us if we can be of further service regarding ideas for using any of these resources in your own context.
Bless your hearts! so thankful for your work! Appreciate this information! will be sharing with Classis PNW!
Also, would like to encourage you to consider adding to your list of resources several more books that have come out in the last few years... Rachael Denhollander/What is a Girl Worth; Mary DeMuth/#WETOO; Ruth Everhart/#MeToo Reckoning... also, this is an older one... The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse (Johnson/Van Vonderen)...
and consider adding other presentations by Diane Langberg... she has some very insightful videos on her website & youtube... here's an example of a presentation on systemic narcissism https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BU3pwBa0qU
Thanks Bev! Good recommendations.
Thanks Bev, for pointing these out! Diane Langberg's Suffering and the Heart of God: How Trauama Destroys and Christ Restores is terrific. She has a few chapters that are particularly helpful on the topic of abuse of power. Chapter 12 is called: Leadership, Power, and Deception in the Church and the Home; and chapter 13 is called: Sexual Abuse in Christian Organizations. Chapter 12 deals with individual ways leaders are deceived as Diane processes through a variety of types of power; and chapter 13 does a really good job at processing how institutions often respond so poorly to situations of abuse.
And, I just saw she has a new book coming out called: Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church, you can pre-order it now, but it is not being released until October, 2020.
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