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This Sunday, thousands of pastors will prepare for worship. Some of them will wear distinctive clothing—the albs and stoles of liturgical churches echo ancient priestly garments. But many more pastors will wear nothing that marks them out as ...

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Displaying 1–21 of 21 comments

Robert Burke

October 11, 2013  10:34am

Excellent thoughts, Clark Coleman. Re: Power, we may be ruled by the one, the few, the many... as our Founding Fathers so excellently intuited. Each has problems. Would pastors teach this to sheep, in a self-effacing manner? Jim Jones was one whom 909 followers of his subtext underlaid on top of the bible's text... died in mass suicide. In Africa today it is not unheard of that a crowd (the many) agitated by perceived injustice, might murder a caught criminal. (The tyranny of the majority.) A few dozen years ago, a few Federal folk decided all in the US had to drive 55 mph, tops. (The passion of the few.) Pastors would do well to introduce skepticism of leadership, especially their own leadership, so that their sheep learn to think for themselves... and grow up. This broad meme is self-correcting and ameliorative in the long run. In the short run, power-mad pastors will get "haircuts," long overdue! The Tragic View says we sinners need to pit power against power! God's way!

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Clark Coleman

October 10, 2013  10:28am

If we are determined to perpetuate denominational aberrations such as "one pastor is at the top of the hierarchy," despite the fact that elders, pastors, and overseers (a.k.a. bishops) were synonymous terms in the New Testament church, and no church had just one elder/pastor/overseer, then we have a bigger problem than is discussed in this article. We have the problem that we care about perpetuating man-made traditions and really don't care about what God ways to us in His word. In one passage alone (Acts 20:17-28), we find that the "elders" (presbyteroi in Greek; see verse 17) were also the same as the "overseers" (episkopos in Greek; see verse 28; translated "bishop" in the KJV when used in Titus 1, for example) were to "shepherd" the church (shepherd is the verb form of "pastor"; see verse 28). Churches led by one "pastor" today do not have the division and balance of power that was designed by God for the church, so naturally they will encounter problems with their power structure.

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Robert Burke

October 09, 2013  11:27am

Excellent Subject, Power is. Would Evangelical Christianity like to really delve into how power corrupts, and absolute (un-quesitonable) power absolutely corrupts? Hint: Do pastors in power take questions? Let us examine the many ways to make rubes through the power of the speaker. The classic ways should be well known by readers herein: a) Showmanship, b) Stage Hypnotism, c) Misdirection and d) Suggestion. Now, how many pastors ever tell their audience... how easy it is to perform the above... on them! Very few. YET, if the speakers in power, the shepherds... did examine and expose how audiences are duped... Then they could dupe-proof, or rube-proof their audience! How excellent! Then, such sheep could not be duped by civic authority either! Such is the path to higher enlightenment: See www.inthatdayteachings.com . (And think how speakers who pace left and right mesmerize their sheep! It is no different than the hypnotist's watch fob! Seminaries warn of such?)

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HUW THOMAS

October 09, 2013  6:19am

Joel Busher, Any attempt by a man to keep the commandments, including keeping the Sabbath holy, must be done to perfection in thought, word and deed. If you fail in just one part then you have failed in all. If you insist on attempting salvation through works you will alway have the doubt that you have not performed with sincerity or have not performed sufficiently. There is another Way, in fact the only Way and that is simply, ''The just shall live by trust''. In works there is no trust and in trust there are no works.

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Jim Ricker

October 08, 2013  7:51pm

Power is never and can never be distributed evenly across a body of people. Some people have power that is given due to their abilities or by their caring about others (or for a host of other reasons). This is the biblical model (elders have more power than a non-elder due to influence and calling) and the issue is not whether one has more than other (which can never be 'remedied') but whether the character of that person with the power allows that power to be used in godly ways or not.

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Jennifer Ellen

October 08, 2013  3:14pm

The problem with "giving away" power is that you can't. Power is given to you by others, and giving away and/or sharing it doesn't divest you of it (it usually only divest you of accountability and responsibility for it). But power is also not a zero-sum game, and it can and should be shared and given away in the sense of lifting up other voices and increasing others' influence. You can't do that when you're walking around arguing that you've divested yourself of your power (and that certainly doesn't help the powerless).

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Evelyn Sims

October 06, 2013  9:36pm

Somehow, I feel a little disappointed that the other theme of power right through Scripture has not been addressed. That is, the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit that many churches seem to be afraid to acknowledge because of the excesses encountered by some. (The excesses I might add, are hardly evidence of the Holy Spirit but an intentional distortion by the enemy of souls). The power referred to in the article is that of giftedness in leadership, personality, position, communication and opportunity, no more nor less than found in the secular world. Paul talks of the Gospel's message being in a demonstration of the Spirit's power rather than in all the gifts to humanity mentioned above.

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James Smith

October 06, 2013  5:06pm

The problem with this discussion is that it is a square peg round hole discussion. The article is based on a hierarchical view of power whereas scripture, whether by the prophet Samuel or Jesus himself, discusses a flat view of power. Power is to be distributed throughout the body, by the head, which is Jesus. Power, when viewed from a body context, is situational. However, the way that we typically view power in the church creates an unhealthy dependence on the pastor and minimizes the Holy Spirit's role in the life of the believer.

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Joel Busher

October 06, 2013  4:55pm

The power of the church is the same power that belongs to the community as a whole. It is the power of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments, a public duty. It is not specifically a day of worship, but a day of holy assemblies - holy assemblies are public assemblies of the people for the people in order that they may perform their sovereign duty in the oversight of the laws of the land and the magistrates who execute them; moreover, the Sabbath is citizenship training day; it is election day. Restoring the Sabbath is the first step toward repentance toward God resulting in restoring sensibility in government and ending the reckless rise of tyranny by wayward public agents.

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Michael Mullins

October 06, 2013  1:14pm

I will also add that in most of the cases I've seen where power was wielded well and correctly, it was held loosely and often considered a burden, not a gift.

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Michael Mullins

October 06, 2013  1:11pm

Tom Nash has the right of it. The ethic is not one of wielding power competently or wearing it graciously, it is the near constant willingness to give up power. Here's the funny thing. Money and sex are also both expressions of power and power is deeply wrapped up in pride. So you can very nearly capture much of human existence and its pain in the expressions of power. It is also very difficult to separate out and so bears watching like a hawk to prevent abuse of it. I would say that the proper response to power is 1. a sense of duty (that would be willingness, not honor or pride) to engage the beast, 2. strong wariness, 3. external balances to prevent your corruption, and 4. a continuing, almost pathological desire to give it up the first moment this becomes possible. George Washington's greatest act ever was in establishing the rule of law in the transference of power. A role-model as only God himself has the ability and the right to hold and exercise power without corrupting effect

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Tom Nash

October 05, 2013  5:33pm

It seems to me, we should look primarily to scripture when analyzing things like "low power" or "high power" distance. In the New Testament, Jesus and the apostles dressed "low power" like the common people, and they mingled with the common people. Of course, they operated under the power and authority of the Holy Spirit, so the results were monumental. Paul did make use of "high power" speaking venues such as the Jewish synagogues (Acts 9:20) to communicate the Gospel, but such public displays resulted in plots to kill him. Paul also made a living as a common tent maker. The high priest, elders and scribes (who projected "high power" distance) were amazed by Peter and John's boldness "and perceived that they were uneducated, common [low power?] men...." (Acts 4:13). So, if anything, the low-power approach is most Biblical, but I think God can use those who choose to display high power. If the Lord can speak through a donkey (Numbers 22), he can speak through anyone.

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Rick Dalbey

October 05, 2013  2:14pm

You don't want personal power. That's the power of Nebuchannezer. You can be a leader, but you don’t want to be called “Our Leader” as Jesus pointed out. Commanding respect, fear and power as a Christian leader is antithetical to the gospel. Peter said “why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk?” Doesn’t matter if you wield power with an iron fist or a velvet glove. Instead, we want to be clothed with power (Dunamis) from the Holy Spirit. Paul did not wield personal power. In fact, just the opposite. “I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” The power of God heals the sick, casts out demons and brings the unsaved to Christ. Andy bemoans the loss of the power for pastors who are too casual. “I have begun to worry...What is also becoming invisible, especially to those with the most to gain and to lose, is power.”

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Steve W

October 05, 2013  12:36pm

David's right, it seems like most of the commenters are missing the point of this very important article. It's not that Andy Stanley has less power than his father; it's that it appears that way to most people because of his presentation. Yes, even with the lights, staging and large venue, the appearance is that Andy is a regular guy just like everyone else, with the same amount of power. That's what a low power distance society is. That's not to say this is wrong, any more than Charles Stanley's suits are wrong. Rather, the danger comes is assuming that the appearance is the reality, that power does not exist. In general the conversation about power has fallen into two camps: the neo-reformed embrace of power, (even to domineering levels) or the neo-anabaptist rejection of power (pretending as if there is a way to give it up completely). Crouch is correct that we need a new conversation that seeks to understand power as a resource. I pray others will join him in the dialogue.

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David Randall

October 05, 2013  11:06am

Thank you for a great article. It captures something I have noted intuitively but not taken the time to think through as clearly as it is presented here. I think some comments reflect misunderstanding of the article. It is not about power being good or bad, or about Andy ACTUALLY having more or less power or closeness to his congregation than Dad. It is about how each chooses to have their power/intimacy perceived. It is the application of "stealth tech" to the implementation of power. Either high or low power distance can be abused. But there is an added danger in the low power environment, since it is both less visible and so less accountable, and also because we easy come to believe our own propaganda. I have also witnessed pastors and managers in the business world who start with a "low" approach, but will quickly switch to "high" when "low" isn't working. This indicates a willingness to share authority only when fellow elders don't disagree.

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Tom Nash

October 05, 2013  3:21am

Leadership is a Biblical reality and a necessity. "...the one who leads, [do it] with zeal..." (Romans 12:8). On the other hand, Jesus frequently said things like: "the first will be last, the last will be first," "blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven," and "he who is least among you all is the one who is great." Christian leaders must be servants, first to God, then to their brothers and sisters in Christ. Who cares how they dress or what size microphone they use? It's what's in the heart that matters.

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Rick Dalbey

October 04, 2013  2:48pm

Should Andy Stanley have more power? "What is also becoming invisible, especially to those with the most to gain and to lose, is power." If we lose the suit and tie and vestments, the pomp and trappings of authority and become invisible (which Andy is not, to One 9's point), and they are mistaken for one of the congregation is this a bad thing? Jesus said about the pastors (Rabbis) of his day, "They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders" (What!!) "for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant." Matt 23:8 NASB.

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one 9

October 04, 2013  2:17pm

Dear Writer of This Article, Can you please clarify invisible to who?

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Rick Dalbey

October 04, 2013  1:26pm

I agree James. Andy Stanley's Sunday morning church service is precisely 65 minutes long. He expects you to laugh in the first 5 minutes. All are seated in pews facing him and he's performing in a pool of light on an elevated stage while all the pew-sitters watch. Whether he wears a suit and tie like his father or a polo shirt is immaterial, he is the American protestant CEO/prophet/evangelist/teacher/apostle/preacher all rolled up into one Super Office called The Pastor, commanding the tithes and offerings of thousands. So unlike Peter, James, Paul, Timothy, Aquilla and Priscilla and the first century church who met informally from house to house. No one in the 1st century was called "the pastor". Paul greeted evangelists, prophets, teachers and apostles by name but nowhere do we hear him say, "greetings to Pastor Bob." Every church had a group of elders, some of who could teach, who led the church, as well as prophets, deacons and evangelists. A shepherds humble heart was valuable.

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Rick Dalbey

October 04, 2013  12:18pm

Andy, I think when you refer to power, you are really referring to authority or respect. Worshipping and deferring to pastors is just plain wrong. Real power is active, Dunamis accomplishes something. Biblical power is power on display. The 120 average believers and 12 apostles were clothed with power and began to prophesy and speak in tongues. In reality, most pastors today have little power. We have a “form of Godliness but deny the power.” “the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing.” “for power was coming from Him and healing them all.” “Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs” Unlike today, Paul did not want the faith of new believers to rest in persuasive reasoning, but in miraculous acts of the Holy Spirit performed through Paul. “my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”

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James Stevenson

October 03, 2013  7:57am

I would debate that this example represents a shift in power distance: "Andy is universally referred to by his first name, has no doctoral degree, and usually wears an open-collared polo. He stands in a pool of light on a darkened stage cluttered with worship band gear, occasionally consulting notes on a café table" This is just a new look power distance that reflects modern pop culture. Andy, in this case, is no closer to the congregation than his father is. What is disturbing is that it models the world of modern pop icons and we are gradually seeing our churches turn into entertainment palaces with a dearth of intellectual and spiritual engagement. "A pool of light on a darkened stage" - is this Christ like? or Bon Jovi?

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