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Posts Tagged ‘power tactics in the church’

Every day in our culture, we hear about people who try and resolve their conflicts by using power:

*They stand in front of microphones and condemn their opponents.

*They threaten to boycott a product or a company.

*They pass resolutions criticizing a leader they don’t like.

*They even pick up guns and join an army.

These tactics have been used and abused for hundreds of years … but they’re increasingly creeping into Christian churches.

Examples:

*A faction threatens to leave their church unless the pastor does its bidding.

*A woman demands that a staff member apologize to her for a remark he made.

*A pastor emphatically states that he’ll resign unless the church board agrees with him on an issue.

*A member promises to withhold her giving as long as the youth pastor is still employed by the church.

In my view, many churchgoers … especially leaders … go to power way too soon in a conflict.

What should they do instead?

Try love.

Whenever there’s a conflict, go to love first … and only use power last.

When Jesus came to earth the first time, He came in love … as a baby.

He became human.  He gave up “the independent exercise of His divine attributes.”  He listened to people and hurt with them and restored them.

Yes, He became ticked at the Pharisees, but He didn’t destroy them.  Instead, He tried to shake them out of their complacency by telling them the truth.

He didn’t force people to receive Him as Messiah.  He gave them evidence and let them choose.

Even though Jesus had access to power on earth, He never used any power on Himself, but only to help others.

Even while being mocked on the cross, Jesus chose not to use power to retaliate against His enemies.

When Jesus came the first time, He came in love.

But when He comes the second time, He will come in power.

He will ride a white horse … brandish a sword … wear many crowns … make war against God’s enemies … and reveal Himself as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

He will impose His will upon the people of this planet and force them to say and do things they don’t want to do: “every knee will bow, every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

Personally, I can’t wait for that day … but it ‘s not here yet.

I believe the pattern of Jesus’ two comings provides today’s Christians with an outstanding example.

When you’re engaged in a conflict with a leader or a group or your pastor … use love first … and power last.

Most church conflicts are resolvable when both sides use love … demonstrated by listening, understanding, kindness, compassion, and choice.

But some people become anxious … just wanting the conflict to end … and so they take a shortcut and resort to power … demonstrated by monologues, manipulation, rudeness, heartlessness, and imposition.

And when they do, they make that conflict far more resistant to resolution.

Example 1: a pastor wants the worship director to stop using a certain female vocalist because she’s living immorally.

If the pastor uses love, he’ll ask the worship director kindly but firmly to remove her until her life turns around.  This will keep the conflict at a low level.

But if the pastor uses power, he might threaten to fire the worship director unless he removes her immediately.  This will cause the worship director to respond in kind and matters may quickly escalate.

Example 2: the church board wants the pastor to give them a written report of his activities at their monthly meeting.

If the board uses love, they’ll ask the pastor for the report and explain why they’d like to have it.

If the board uses power, they’ll demand that he issue that report or they’ll all resign.

Suddenly, a low-level conflict may spiral out of control.

There are times when those in leadership positions – especially pastors and church boards – need to use their God-given authority to make decisions.

But some Christian leaders tend to bypass the love route altogether and go straight to power … and when they do, they escalate matters exponentially.

I once did a word study on the words “threat” and “threaten” in the Bible.  I couldn’t find a single instance where those words were used in a positive context.

God doesn’t want His people characterized by the power tactics of our world.  He wants us to be characterized by love in all its forms.

Did Jesus say, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you impose your will on people and threaten them?”

No, He said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

Let us be known by our love … even in the midst of conflict … and only use power if God has given us that right through Scripture and if His Spirit is leading us to use it.

Are you currently involved in a conflict situation at your church?

Use love first … and only go to power when it’s clear that love can’t work.

If all Christians did that, we’d resolve most conflicts … and the world would pay more attention to the gospel.

 

 

 

 

 

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