The Abuse of Power

I've just had a really stimulating conversation with a church leader friend of mine. It was about the abuse of power in churches. He was recalling instances of churches that find it easy to instantly spot abuses of money or abuses of sex, either among leaders or members, but who were blind to abuses of power.

He reflected that in many churches with congregational government, major decisions can almost always be thwarted by the 3-4% of people for whom "no change" is the over-riding principle, plus the 15% of conservatively-inclined people whom they can influence. Godly pastors can find themselves in situations where they are unable to bring about gospel change no matter how well they preach and lead from the Bible. There will always be those - almost always those opposed to change - who are unable to tell the difference between "right / wrong" and "my likes / dislikes". If I dislike something it must be wrong. And if it's wrong then I must oppose it and lobby for others to oppose it.

That's an abuse of power, a subtle and strong one because those who reason this way genuinely believe that they are doing so for the good. Some abuses of power are easy to spot, such people trying to get their own way by forcing consent. This kind is potentially much harder to identify. 

My friend's church has developed an innovative approach to the problem. Everyone is given their say on major decisions in church life, with opportunity to bring correction or opposition, but on this proviso: that they have to bring a biblical reason, direct from the scriptures. My friend said "this means that an even smaller number can control the direction of the church. In fact just one person with a Bible can do it."

But what can't do it is an individual or small group without a Bible. And that has to be key in any church that wants a wise balance between collective congregational responsibility and releasing godly leaders to actually lead. A godly church structure will always let one person wise in the scriptures and close to God bring correction. A godly church structure should never allow an individual or group without biblical reason and wisdom to prevent the gospel going out.