Many in the church know power. In fact, they seek it.
You can tell when they feel threatened at the loss of it. People outside the church are right to criticize those in the church who are power hungry. So much of the abuse and scandal we’ve seen in churches over the years can boil down to how leaders abuse power. What they do with it.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely. I don’t know whose observant mind first said that, but it’s true. Do we talk about power enough in our ministries? We like to think this conversation is only needed in politics. But have you ever tried to change something your church? If you haven’t, chances are, you’ll find out who has the power.
And I don’t say that as a joke. For many people, God’s church is where they try to exercise their sense of power. As a result, the ministry and witness of the church suffers. People suffer.
Before Jesus ascended to heaven, he told his disciples to wait. After helping them “understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:45), he reminded them of the promise of God. They were to wait in Jerusalem “until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).
Why would the disciples need power from on high? To preach about Jesus? To organize a fellowship? To choose the color of the carpet in the sanctuary?
Their apostolic ministry would center on sharing the story of Jesus. Theirs was a religious calling. Church stuff, we might say. I have a hard time believing, though, Jesus meant to constrict God’s power to our idea of church. That is, faith in the living God and the resurrected Lord is not merely about religious practice. Yes, Jesus taught about forgiveness and mercy. Are those only church-related issues? When will we believe God that our faith has an impact on the world around us?
This power is not to get people to show up at church. But to empower us to be God’s presence in the world. Why do we need God’s power? Because the world is hurting. Power and money rule the hearts of so many that could be doing something to bring about real change. Power and money are controlling idols.
Don’t think they don’t creep into our churches. They do. And don’t think they have to hide either. We need God’s power because we could very well settle for the world’s.