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Course: Leading Healthy Church Culture
Lecture 6: Discussion of the Movie Clip
Power and Control creates a situation where the ground rules always change.
A. Power and Control
The power and control can be hidden in a very calm, almost spiritual tone that actually breaks the spirit of people which destroys people in the process. What do you think about what you’ve heard regarding Dr. Abella and Nurse Ratchet? Was it depressing and discouraging? Is it reflective of what you have experienced and what you have seen in Christian leaders? A person from the audience says that she thinks that the ground rules have changed. The goal posts are constantly moving depending on the whims and control of the leader. Another person says that they can easily destroy a person’s ministry. Another person: you asked if it was depressing; it is depressing but this isn’t the final chapter. We, as leaders need to be cognate because it is very typical that there can be a disconnect between somebody who was part of the team but now elevated above the team. Anytime you have a power imbalance, you have a power broker and this is unhealthy. We need to create accountability factors that minimize a power imbalance.
B. Misuse of Power
Three simple statements to finish this segment: misuse of power among leaders is epidemic today and I want to emphasize that this is true in the Christian church and particularly true in the evangelical church. We have created a power culture that is very toxic and carries with it a lot of harm in the evangelical church today. For a lot of reasons that I will not go into theologically, but yet it is particularly true within our own ranks and it seems to be growing, especially in the majority world where we have exported our brand of Christianity within those contexts. Secondly, church leaders are unaware when they misuse power. I think that Dr. Abella would not have described himself as an abuser of power; he would have simply seen himself as being faithful to his calling and pursuing the mission to which he was committed. As I work with leaders around the world, we have created an atmosphere where we have connected spiritual leadership with positional leadership. And often times these people find themselves being expected to speak for God. At other times, assuming that is their role and privilege; they move into a place where they are using God language and are not even aware when they misuse and abuse their power. This is a big problem. Thirdly, the only solution that I can suggest is that leaders must give access to others that can tell them and will tell them the truth. This is all about community, but it must begin with the leaders. This is part of the difficulty in connecting spiritual leadership with positional leadership, those with positions that also have spiritual power or the misuse of spiritual power and the misuse of positional power often move themselves into a place where they simply will resist others that try to provide help, whether it is a Marian and Sergio in our case study or otherwise. It is the rare person who will take the risk of speaking into a person like that because of the risk of being rejected.
As I work with leaders and you move into leadership roles in your life, be aware that if you are a leader with responsibility to initiate the relationships that are going to keep you in community so that you can have that court jester if you will to continue to speak into your life from the outside. A person that has the access and authority to speak in such a way as Jonathan spoke to David. I am curious about those three statements. Are there any comments from the audience? A person from the audience: I would say misuse of power among leaders is indeed epidemic today; I would say that it is part of the human nature. It has been going on since creation. The fall created polarization and from that comes those who have power and those who don’t; it has been abused all along. I remember the phrase: power corrupts absolutely. I don’t think it is anything new except that we are more aware of it today because of the technology that we now have of connectivity. We see the abuse of power all over the world and the devastating effect it has. You are absolutely correct; misuse of power is part of the human condition. The speaker: I suppose, what I should emphasize here is that, we have created within the evangelical context an unusual situation where power is being misused in the name of God. This is because the evangelical church has been very good at putting leaders on a pedestal. We have our heroes and some of those have been faithful but many have not been faithful in being able to handle that power. I think the evangelical experience over the last sixty or seventy years now has proven to be a context where unlike other church traditions of the past, we have tended to create egos. We have tended to create certain personalities and not just a pope but many of them. We are creating these kingdoms called local churches; our whole megachurch movement has created this sort of momentum that is being literally exported all over the world. So, in that sense, that is what I’m speaking about being epidemic.
C. Abuse is Rampant in Today’s Leadership
From the Audience: I concur with you and the challenge in today’s church; it would be easier to build a house than to renovate one. We in the Christian church today are dealing with a lot of people who no longer want to hear the Christian message because they have been damaged by Christianity. Why would a person choose something that is going to hurt them; they don’t want to be burned again by Christianity. I think we now have a whole world where it is easy to elevate our Christian leaders into god like creatures they aren’t. Another person in the audience: are you saying that the sin of Adam and the power and abuse that has been rampant and we, in an evangelical culture have combat Christians? The lecturer: yes, that is what I am saying. We have branded it spiritual. Another person from the audience: We are missing the whole aspect of humility in our lives. The speaker: again, we have branded it Christian in so many ways which has become the ultimate danger. After World War II, there was a sense of triumphant thinking where some of the most well-known Christian ministries began. These included the Billy Graham Association, Bill Bright with his Campus Ministry. Billy Graham started the Billy Graham crusades and Bill Bright began Campus Crusade for Christ. Those were militant words because we wanted to conquer the world. These ministries did great things but it created a culture within evangelicalism and with the advent of the church growth movement in 1980’s with Fuller Seminary, an emphasis that bigger was better. The more people we can reach for Christ, the larger our organization is, the better it must be and the more effective it will be at reaching the masses for Christ. What this created in the process was the need for these leaders to be on top of the heap of these massive organizations. Along the way we have tended to Christianize some things that are not necessarily Christian, but yet have done it in the name of God in order to continue this triumphant mentality.
This is not to say that all of this is bad; there are wonderful things that have come out of this generation. But the reality is in the last twenty or so years, we are now paying a heavy toll as a result of the culture, not the fruit but the culture of Christian organizations that era produced. So this is a little of the background and history we have arrived to where we are within the evangelical movement. So, are there any other questions or comments? A colleague of mine made a statement that in every culture around the world; the Christian church has adopted the power motif of that culture for their pastors. So for example within the Indian context, pastors tend to function like a little guru. In Latin American, they tend to function like little communist bosses. In American, they tend to function like little CEO’s. In China they function like strong men and in Africa they function like tribal chiefs. It is that dominate power motif that we have adopted from the culture right into the evangelical church because it is a perception of how we become successful and how we reach more people. These are some of trips and pitfalls along the way as we look at the need for relooking at what really is Christ centered leadership in today’s world. In order to address this question, I’d like you to take some time together to reflect on this question, assuming that power and control can be destructive; what tendencies might cause you to misuse power or seek unhealthy control? I think that we all have tendencies in this arena. We all know that power and control can be harmful. So, what is it within you and what is it within me that can cause us to misuse that power or seek unhealthy control in our lives?
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