Sunday, April 15, 2007


Something I am working on in my doctoral program is the issue of "power". I have been reflecting on power as it relates to leadership in the faith comunity. Henry Nouwen is again helpful here:
“It is not enough for the priests and ministers of the future to be moral people, well trained, eager to help their fellow humans, and able to respond creatively to the burning issues of their time. All of that is very valuable and important, but it is not the heart of Christian leadership. The central question is, are the leaders of the future truly men and women of God, people with an ardent desire to dwell in God's presence, to listen to God's voice, to look at God's beauty, to touch God's incarnate Word, and to taste fully God's infinite goodness?”
I have been keeping my eyes open to "notice" people who hold power in the Christian community. I am making note on the way power is used whether very intentionally as well as blindly. You have heard it said (I don't remember by whom) "when you don't have power you talk about it a lot" (if you know who said this let me know).
But look at different groups who do not hold power in our society and then begin to listen to what they say without first jumping to all kinds of judgments and assumptions...maybe we won't like what we hear but maybe a second listen, trying to "hear" empathetically what is being said.
I am rambling a bit here.
As I have been noticing how people use their power I am struck, struck by the many people who hold power and are not aware of it. When you are not aware of your power then I believe it is difficult to "see" those that don't hold the power position in any given situation.
One thing I do know, that in Christian leadership, there is a point where stopping to reflect on one's own power and how it is used is very, very important in these days where voices from the margins are becoming louder and louder.
The leaders that I watch move aside to share power with those that need to have room made for them is the ideal of servant-leadership that I see Jesus modeling over and over again in the gospels.


Helen said...

Rose, I think this is a vital topic - great choice to write about in your doctoral program.

I've written about power a couple of times on my blog. Once as recently as last Friday where I wrote about The problematic power structure in independent churches (which I'm reposting on Conversation at the Edge tomorrow). The other time was when I wrote "Balancing the Equation" .

Power can be used well; it's neat to be in a situation where you see you've been granted power and can use it for good.

steven hamilton said...

really great thoughts rose...i'm looking forward to see and hear where this takes you on this doctoral journey. i heartily agree with helen too, when you find yourself with power (or pursue it with intention) you get it for a reason, and its not to spend it all on yourself and 'get yours while you can' (this is one of my personal pet-peeves with the charismatic/grace gifts in the church too often we spend all of it on ourselves when we should be dispensers of the grace giftings)...but back to power, i believe it is for empowering others, so as helen says: give it away...find the powerless or the voiceless and give it to them, empower others. to me that just goes in line with what Jesus commented on in terms give forgiveness-get blessed and we are to be a to empower and get power to do that.

Jim Henderson said...

Tom Friedman NYT journalist and Putlizer prize winner said on a TV interview I heard a couple of years ago

"people with power never think about it - people without it think about it all the time"

Helen said...

Jim, I've heard the same said about money too.

In both cases I think it's true.