So much of the mess we are seeing today in the Southern Baptist Church is because those in power have chosen to protect their own rather than those who have been harmed at their hands. Whether it is the victims of abuse within the church or of the systemic racism in the church, the focus has been on circling the wagons and decimating those who have tried to speak truth.
And it isn't only the SBC that is having issues. I have certainly seen some nasty manifestations of this in the PCA as well as other denominations. Really, we see this in all varieties of faith. And anywhere there is a power structure, there is the risk for misuse and abuse.
We see power lording itself over others. Power denying or minimizing the impact of trauma, suffering, oppression, and abuse. Power demanding allegiance. Power pushing its own flavor of belief and condemning those who differ. Power snatching for itself the role of the Holy Spirit in someone else's life. And most of all, we see power protecting its power at all costs.
In Lacy Crawford's memoir Notes on a Silencing she says, "It is only when power is threatened that power responds." I have witnessed a fascinating phenomenon: Men with power will sit aside and do absolutely nothing while those around them are wounded and abused. They do nothing until their own authority is challenged.
I've watched the improper use of power wreck lives. I've felt that impact in my own life.
We must realize that any abuse or misuse of power does tremendous spiritual damage to those in it wake because it so horribly misrepresents the character of God. We must remember that any power we have has been given to us and is not ours to use however we fancy.
And yet power exists. It is a fact of life. And power is an attribute of God and we humans are created in the image of God.
So what does the proper use of power look like, especially within the church?
Power must always be wielded with humility and acknowledged that is has been given. There should be no place for power grabbing within the Kingdom.
Power must always be used for the protection of others.
Power is to be used to bring about truth, shed light in the darkness, bring healing, hope and justice.
Power must listen to the less powerful and seek to understand their lives, their circumstances.
Power gives the voiceless a microphone and teaches them to speak.
Power makes a way in the wilderness for those who see no path forward.
A right use of power, one that reflects the very definition of power Himself, is that power is to be poured out for those who have none.
After all, that is what Jesus did.