In this short series, I’ve briefly addressed recovering a biblical understanding of power as well as how the better way of Jesus helps us guard against the abuse and misuse of power. Here you can view Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
In this final post, I want to address practical ways pastors and church leaders can properly and biblically use power to help foster healthy churches and communities.
I suggest five key elements you can implement.
First, Structure a Church with Pastoral Accountability
If the church structure does not have pastoral accountability, we need to question that structure, regardless of denomination or ecclesiological association. Good pastors recognize the need for accountability and their own tendency towards brokenness and sin.
Godly pastors with developed heart character long to shepherd well and want to mitigate their own sin so it does not run amuck and damage the church. They are thoughtful, careful, and they structure churches with pastoral accountability. If you want to be a good pastor, structure your church so your decisions are held accountable.
Second, Seek Accountability
It’s one thing to structure a system with accountability, but it is a whole other thing to actually seek and be open to receiving accountability.
I can offer some personal experience on this point specifically. I have a boss; she is the Wheaton College Provost, the college’s Chief Academic Officer. She can and has called me out and shut me down, because she’s my boss. We all need someone like that.
However, the reality is that most pastors don’t have an identified group of people who actually hold them accountable. And the accountability must be fostered and received. For instance, pastors should want to surround themselves with leaders who are willing to tell them “No” to protect them from blind spots and for the overall health and direction of the organization. Pastors also need people to help them in their walk with Christ and spiritual growth.
If you have a group of leaders surrounding you who never tell you “No,” then you don’t have leaders or accountability; you have people who think you’re awesome and who ultimately are just a part of the power structure.
Put another way, if your elders never tell you, “No,” you don’t have elders; you have cheerleaders.
Mature leaders purposefully set up structures for accountability and then seek and receive genuine accountability within those structures. They understand that it is easy to be drawn into inappropriate use of that power and will engage in honest and transparent accountability. Every person with power and influence needs to submit to an accountability structure and seek accountability somewhere in some way.