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Monday, October 15, 2012

Got Power?

Oh the utter extravagance of God’s work in those who trust him--
endless energy, boundless strength! 
                                                          Ephesians 1:19 (The Message)

In my work as pastor, I am often struck by how powerless members see themselves.

For example, those who were new to a congregation may feel they aren't given the same respect as those with deep roots in the congregation's past. On the other hand, those who have been with a church all their lives may feel their views carry less weight than the newcomers they feel everyone pays more attention to. Likewise, younger people often see older members as having greater influence, whereas older persons may feel no one listens to them anymore, that everyone is more interested in what younger members have to say.

The fact is that all of us have much more power and influence than we realize, power being defined simply as the energy and the ability to accomplish necessary and important things--to achieve commendable and worthwhile goals. And, as Jesus demonstrates, the only legitimate use of power is to empower, not to disempower, others.

Too often we associate power with dominance (power over others), rather than thinking of power that is used collaboratively with others.

There are at least three forms of power readily available to each of us:

Unhealthy, negative power (always inappropriate): Intimidation, domination, threats, pulling rank, manipulation, coercion, seduction, violence, deception, etc.

Healthy, positive power (always appropriate): Love, kindness, appeal, negotiation, persuasion, prayer, positive influence, joyfulness, perseverance, gentle persuasion, good boundaries, etc.

Normal human power (may be used appropriately or inappropriately): Position, rank, age, IQ, education, race, gender, nationality, wealth, seniority, experience, charisma, etc.

In any case, power is often largely a matter of perception. Except in the case of physical force, there can be no effective power wielder without there being a power yielder. We often give others far too much power to control or intimidate us.

And speaking of good, Christ-like power, the more we have of it the more gently and effectively we can behave. It is when we feel under-empowered and anxious that we are most likely to act desperately and inappropriately.

My prayer? More power to you, lots and lots of it.
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