This past week, I traveled down to a place called Giessen just north of Frankfurt. I was there to meet with the NorthWest German Pastors at their annual retreat and to speak on the subject of "Abuse of Power in the Church." I spoke about how abuse of power in churches and Christian organizations is rampant. If anything, I said, abuse of power occurs MORE in the church and in Christian organizations than in the secular world. This is because religious organizations are high-trust societies where people are pretty much unguarded--expecting the best. Consequently, there are few safeguards to prevent abuse.
Furthermore, religious organizations often deal with the subjective. "I feel called to do this...", "God is leading me to do that...". There are not always good ways to gauge decision-making or outcomes. They are very feeling-based organisms.
Two things I talked about were subtle abuses of power: The problem of leaders in positions for which they are not gifted and the failure to empower the next generation of leaders.
The problem of leaders being in positions that they are not good at has to do with people holding power who are not qualified to hold power. By holding that position, they end up hurting the entire church or organization or system. Those of us in leadership must know our strengths and weaknesses and not put ourselves into positions that empower us when we don't have the skills to wield that power. The damage is severe. If it means stepping aside, then we must.
The failure to empower the next generation of leaders is rampant in the church and in Christian organizations. I thinks it's an abuse of power when those in power are not seeking ways to empower the next generation and to make sure the church or organization survives beyond their particular tenure. A good use of power empowers others.
I also mentioned was the importance of accountability. Not simply accountability-in-name which most organizations and churches have, but genuine accountability where your errors will be caught and power can't really be wielded in a careless or hurtful fashion. I've seen a lot of abuse of pastoral/leader power in the last 20 years and it always leaves deep wounds and weakens churches and organizations significantly.
Finally, I talked about how the Church of God because of it's history and theology actually lends itself to these kinds of abuses of power. I discussed this at length in my third book "Mosaic" so I won't go there, suffice to say, understanding the human side of organizations and power is important in the church.
It was great meeting with the pastors and I enjoyed this little trip to central Germany.
This was my first trip in over a month. As you two diary readers know, I've been trying to slow down my schedule and it has been a very refreshing time. This little journey was only by train and was within country and was also very short, so that was nice. My next major trip won't be until next month--I think.....Yay! It's been great to catch my breath and have focused time with the family without interruptions.