I just finished listening to Christianity Today’s 12-episode podcast of The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. It’s a toe-curling story detailing the slow car crash that occurs when leaders in God’s church are intoxicated by power.
The storytelling behind The Rise and Fall is masterful, but it left me shaking my head and feeling the burden to unburden again through confession. Forgive me, reader, for I have sinned. We, the church, have sinned against you by craving power and dirtying our hands by grabbing for and clenching power too tightly.
It would be easy to revel in all the sordid details of a power-poisoned famous pastor who got what he had coming. “I would never do something like that,” most listeners think. That was my first thought until I looked again at my own needy heart. I, too, have sipped power’s cup and it tasted good. The only thing preventing me from glugging it all the way down is the merciful hand of God.
The longer I live, the more I see my own affirmation-needy heart. The more that heart pulses, the more I think there are only two good things to do with power. First, when you get power, use it to empower others around you. If you can’t use power to empower, then lay it down before it lays you down.
To do anything else is to forget the Creator who at Christmas was birthed, bloodied and bawling, and lain in a feeding trough for animals. That story should melt our hearts every year as we slow down to listen to it. The author of power gave it up to rescue the powerless. But that message has become stale for the church. That dullness threatens to make wolves of us all when it comes to power grabbing and gripping by building empires, silencing dissenters, or aligning ourselves with strings-attached power brokers.
We’ve messed up. For that, I apologize. Please judge Christianity by Jesus and not by his messy followers.
Andrew Lupton serves as the Senior Pastor of the United Church of Bogotá, an English-speaking International Church.