Carefully Steward Your Power
The following post are excerpts from "Emotionally Healthy Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team, and the World" by Peter Scazzero (pp. 342-349 e-book, Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI; 2015). We Carefully Steward Our Power So It Comes under Others Ten years ago, I found myself being courted by a few Christian publishers. My literary agent at the time, a wise woman with over thirty years of experience in publishing, set up meetings in three different cities for me to meet with the various publishers and consider their contract offers. In each place, I was treated very kindly, almost like a potential star (it was nice while it lasted!). As the son of an Italian baker, it was also a strange experience for me, uncomfortable and intoxicating at the same time. On the last day of our trip, I asked my agent a question: “You have been in this publishing business for a long time. You have represented some of the most popular Christian authors. What would you say is the greatest temptation I should be aware of?” “That’s easy,” she said. “I can sum it up in one word: entitlement. Some authors have a lot of influence after they become well known. They change. They walk into a room, acting as if everyone owes them and the world revolves around them. It makes them miserable to work with.” I never forgot that conversation. I resolved from that point forward to treat every publishing door God opened for me as a sheer miracle of grace. Entitled leaders act as if the world revolves around them. Their thinking goes something like this: I’ve been blessed. I have gifts and influence. I have worked hard and deserve to be treated well. This is what I refer to as “power over” others leadership. The opposite of an entitled leader is a grateful leader. Grateful leaders continually marvel at all they have received from God. But as a leader’s sense of gratitude shrinks, their sense of entitlement grows in equal measure. While the world practices a “power over” strategy characterized by dominance and win-lose competitiveness, Jesus taught a “power under” strategy characterized by humility and sacrificial service. In the world, says Jesus, leaders throw their weight around, “[but it is] not so with you... Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Mark 10:42 – 43). While Jesus is the invisible God who holds all things together — Almighty, eternal, immortal, and infinite — he became human, temporal, mortal, and finite. Jesus demonstrated his power not by force or control, but by choosing to come under us, humbly washing feet and dying for our sins. He carefully stewarded his power: “[Christ Jesus,] who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:6 – 7). The church is not a corporation. We are not corporate executives who make tough decisions to “get the job done.” We are not CEOs implementing best practices in order to expand our impact or market penetration. The church is not our family business. Instead, we are the body of Christ, the temple of God, the new family of Jesus, the bride of Christ. As leaders, we are stewards of delegated power gifted to us for a short time by God. The choice of the word steward is important. The church belongs to God, not to us. We must never forget that the power we exercise belongs to him. Our power is given to us to come under people for their good, for them to flourish, not so we will look good.
One of the ways we know we are intentionally using our power to come under people is when we do something difficult and hard for us because it will benefit someone…Another indicator I monitor in my own life to ensure I am using my power to come under others is to examine my heart. I watch to see if I am still grateful for the privilege to represent Jesus and have a level of influence in the lives of other people. Perhaps the best test I know for alerting me that I have strayed from a healthy use of power is when I resent people treating me like the servant I claim to be.
Ten Principles for Exercising Power and Wise Boundaries
1. Do an honest inventory of the power God has granted you.To be faithful, we need to be profoundly aware of the sources of power God has granted us. We are at risk of using power poorly if we ignore or minimize the extent of our power. 2. Meet with a mature spiritual companion when you find yourself triggered. You can expect unresolved family-of-origin dynamics to reassert themselves anytime you have responsibility and power. The workplace and church are key places where our triggers and hot but- tons will emerge. 3. Enlist wise counsel to monitor dual relationships. Mentors, therapists, elders and church boards, and mature friends give us perspective and counsel. It is critical that we know our limits and defer to the discernment of others when dual relationships (e.g., employer and friend) are part of our leadership. 4. Watch for early warning signs of danger. People change. We change. The church changes. What works now may not work a few years from now. Have honest conversations with people when your relationship with them experiences tensions and awkwardness. Talk about the risks, drawbacks, and challenges before you. 5. Be sensitive to cultural, ethnic, gender, and generational nuances. The cultural and historical differences around power, authority, age, and gender are vast. Be a learner. Ask questions. Your history and experience with power is likely very different than that of other cultures, age groups, or even gender. Invite people from the different groups to share their unique perspectives with you. 6. Release people (paid and volunteer) in a loving way. This is one of the most difficult tasks for leaders, especially since we represent God and carry a number of different roles with people — employer, pastor, spiritual guide, mentor, etc. Be sure to get wise counsel to ensure you use your power fairly, honestly, and in a caring fashion. 7. Remember that the burden to set boundaries and keep them clear falls on the person with greater power. Even though a person in our ministry may manipulate a situation, the greater burden falls on us. Why? God has entrusted us with greater power. 8. Be friends with friends, a pastor to parishioners, a mentor to mentorees, and a supervisor to volunteers/employees. Monitor and avoid dual relationships (such as, friend and employer) as much as possible. Ask yourself, “What role is primary for me in this relationship? Who am I to this person? Who is this person to me?” 9. Meditate on Jesus’ life as you encounter the suffering and loneliness of leadership. Exercising the self-discipline needed to steward your power well can be difficult and lonely work. Align yourself with Christ by allowing extra time to read and meditate on the life and passion of Jesus. 10. Ask God for grace to forgive your “enemies” — and yourself. You will make mistakes and hurt people. Ask for forgiveness and reconcile whenever possible. At some point, deservedly or not, people will feel betrayed by you; you will feel betrayed by them. I have yet to meet a Christian leader who has not experienced betrayal. These wounds cut deep and often lead us to a dark night of the soul. But as we pray daily for the miracle to forgive our “enemies” (and ourselves), we may experience some of our greatest seasons of maturing and deepening in the Lord with all your heart. Proverbs 3:5. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Proverbs 3:5 ....
Pete Scazzero, after leading New Life Fellowship Church for 26 years, co-founded Emotionally Healthy Discipleship, a groundbreaking ministry that moves the church forward by slowing the church down in order to multiply deeply changed leaders and disciples. Pete hosts the top-ranked Emotionally Healthy Leader Podcast and is the author of a number of bestselling books, including The Emotionally Healthy Leader and Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. Pete and his wife Geri also developed The Emotionally Healthy Discipleship Course (Part 1 and 2), a powerful resource that moves people from a shallow to a deep relationship with Jesus. For more information, visit emotionallyhealthy.org or connect with Pete on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
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