Home Voices Ed Stetzer: Pastors and Power, Part 4 – Gospel Power

Ed Stetzer: Pastors and Power, Part 4 – Gospel Power

What Does It Look Like to Embody Gospel-Shaped Power?

Third, Be a Leader Who Will Submit, Engage, Share, Develop, and Listen

We also set ourselves up to use power well when we submit to authority, engage others as our honest self, share decision-making power with others, develop peers, and listen to everyone. This is one of the reasons so many descriptions of pastoral requirements in the Scriptures are about character.

Fourth, Relinquish Control

Ultimately, the misuse and abuse of power comes when we seek ultimate control. Sometimes this comes because a pastor has issues of insecurity, a sense of inadequacy, or struggles to deal with conflict either in the church or at times in his family. Being in charge can become a means to hide areas of growth needed in the pastor’s life. Accountability includes helping leaders in their growth and development. 

When we want supreme control over a situation, regardless of the reason, we tend to isolate ourselves, consolidate the circle, and silence opposing voices. Or when we want ultimate control over a person or people, we can find ourselves being domineering, intimidating, and forceful. When we have control issues, and we work from the flesh — not the Spirit — we set ourselves up to abuse God-given power.

Fifth, Protect the Innocent

This is key. God gives us power to protect those who don’t have it, and that needs to be a first priority.

When there’s an accusation, such as a child abuse report, don’t try to control the situation. Controlling the situation is an inappropriate response and an abuse of power.

Don’t control. Call the police.

Don’t protect the institution, protect the innocent. In doing so, you don’t allow inappropriately exercised power to undermine the safety of our congregants.

Sixth, Speak Up for the Powerless

Power matters, and it matters that we use it well. Good leaders recognize those without power. The systems around us make it possible and even likely to abuse power at the expense of the powerless and the voiceless. This is why Jesus begins His earthly ministry by reading from Isaiah:

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21)

Jesus speaks a message of hope to people at the margins: the captives, the blind, the oppressed. When we use our power and influence to keep people away so we can continue to look our best rather than to say, “How can I minister to the hurting?”, we are not living in step with the gospel.

Don’t let speaking the truth to the church be the problem. Let it be the solution. When we rush to the hurting, we look more like Jesus and join him on his mission.

We can’t have a conversation about safe churches without having a conversation about accountable pastors. I hope we’ll take that seriously and walk on a journey that ultimately ends in the spiritual health of pastors and the overall health of churches. We want healthy pastors who are accountable within healthy structures and serve their churches for the glory of God.

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Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., is a professor and dean at Wheaton College where he also serves as Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, has earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates, and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He is Regional Director for Lausanne North America, is the editor-in-chief of Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited in, interviewed by, and writes for news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He is the Founding Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum used by more than 1.7 million individuals each week for bible story. His national radio show, Ed Stetzer Live, airs Saturdays on Moody Radio and affiliates. He serves as interim teaching pastor of Calvary Church in New York City and serves as teaching pastor at Highpoint Church.