I began thinking about power several years ago, when I realized I had it. I was a respected minority, with resources, position and education that gave me access to people and places that the majority didn’t have. When I understood the capability of that power, I had a decision to make. Do I use it for personal gain, or for others?
What power did I have?
- Money – most people were poor, so I could make lots of lives better if I wanted to
- A vehicle – most people walked, so anytime they got a ride in our car helped them. It also gave us time to talk and build a friendship
- The Bible – people knew I carried it and taught it. They were curious about God and wanted to learn more from me
- A nice home – we lived simply in all our homes and always had people who worked for us to handle the daily tasks. This allowed us to focus on our purpose for being there
- White skin – people made assumptions about me because of my skin color, and believed things in their own minds that assigned me power I didn’t really deserve
- A wife and children – I was not a threat as a family man, and my wife and children were warmly embraced about anywhere we went. Children bring down barriers, and women like to talk to other women
- Respect – We spoke their language, visited in their homes, ate their food, helped them develop their community in ways we knew how. They knew we loved them, because we had come from thousands of miles away just to be with them, improve their lives and talk about God.
All of these things and more gave us access to communities where we could visit as often as we wanted and bring the message of Jesus. And as the work grew, we needed more local people to help. Some we paid, some we did not. But these emerging local leaders rose to the occasion for leadership.
And I started to experience the beauty of giving away my power.
I couldn’t keep up anymore. I was a bottleneck. I realized it was counterproductive to hang on to power and position longer than necessary. As I gave my responsible and capable friends power to lead, the pressure went down on me and I experienced shared leadership with several of the local people.
This is a candy-coated version, as I also made mistakes and had a few antagonists. But overall, it worked. I gave power to the right people and the churches continue to grow today, beyond what I could have ever done by keeping it all to myself.
Hebrews 2 says that Jesus was made “a little lower than the angels” (v 7), and goes on to say, “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil.” (v 14) And then we see in John 14:12, these words from Jesus, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.”
What I’ve learned about power as a follower of Christ is that the goal is to give it away. Just as Jesus gave up his power (see Philippians 2), and sent the Holy Spirit to give us His power (Acts 1:8) to do even greater things, we also should look at our power not as something to hold on to, but something to give away.
What power do you have? Who’s ready to be given some of your power, and will use it well for others?
Global Notes will take a few weeks break. See you in August.
Til next time,