Ministry and Power

Written in April 2001

 

Dear friends,

 

Here are some rambling thoughts that I jotted down in response to a query from a friend about power.

 

Ajith

 

About Power–I simply do not know what to say. I have such negative thoughts about its impact on the church that I may not be a good person to write on this.

 

Evangelical social workers bring funds and with that comes power, which they often wield in an unservantlike manner resulting in social workers being disliked by the poor.

 

We are so eager for quick expressions of power that specific power praying has become very popular in place of what I would call prevailing prayer. Prevailing prayer agonises over a people for years–patiently waiting for God to break-through and paying the huge price involved in identifying with these people in long-term ministry. How much easier to go to this place and proclaim Christ’s victory over it! Charles Lowe has written a book Territorial Spirits and World Evangelization which makes this point.

 

I fear that this approach to spiritual warfare is causing some unfortunate attitudes–where we view people the way we should be viewing demons, as enemies. Also I feel that when outsiders hear our warfare language they feel that we are waging a war against them and this could cause some unnecessary opposition.

 

The focus on power could be causing people to be insensitive to others. The triumphalistic attitude could cause people to think that by virtue of their position in Christ and God’s Lordship over the universe, they can worship God freely wherever they are. This could cause insensitivity to neighbours. The result could be that they disturb the neighbours by loud worship. This is also causing unnecessary antagonism and giving persecutors an excuse for doing what they are doing. This seems to be a problem world-wide. A recent report I read on the persecution of Christians in Indonesia mentions loud worship as one of the accusations brought against Christians.

 

I was really excited when the church rediscovered the forgotten doctrines of the power of Christ and spiritual warfare some years ago. But recently I have felt that we need a few correctives to the excesses of this emphasis especially when it is divorced from the Christian emphasis on the primacy of love for neighbours.

 

Also I fear that in the church we are seeing so much jockeying for power and influence that the leadership of the evangelical movement may be using fleshly methods for achieving good aims which could on the long run be counter-productive. Again I feel that we are using the power of position and funds etc. to achieve goals without the attitude of servanthood which should characterise our lives.

 

For example, when someone does something wrong we present the rule book and the disciplinary inquiry method to check him/her without using the pastoral method of ministering to the person in depth. This, of course, takes time as we open ourselves to the anger and bitterness that the wrongdoer has. Instead of an hour’s disciplinary inquiry we may need to have ten personal conversations of an hour each. These conversations could produce a lot of pain as the wrongdoer may blame us for the situation etc. My point is that the rule book is replacing pastoral care in the church today.

 

In pastoral care there will be a lot of disciplining. But is not done in a legal way–it is done relationally. On the long run however the pastoral care method could be so much more redemptive in terms of restoring the wrongdoer. But people used to exercising authority have no time for such long drawn out methodologies.