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Power and the Church by Rev. Clint Walker

Power and the Church

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

(Mark 10: 42-45)

            As a pastor, I always hated leap years, This is because leap years are also election years. And every election year members of the congregation would seek to enmesh their political ideology with their faith. They would then force their political ideology upon others as a way coercing the pastor and the church to align themselves with some sort of worldly power. Both liberals and conservatives tend to make efforts to influence myself and the congregations I served in this way. I always resisted because the gospel is bigger than political partisanship.

A friend and teacher of mine recently released a book. I am making my way through this book a little bit at a time. The book is called Reckoning with Power by David E. Fitch. I am looking forward to taking it all in because I have heard Dr. Fitch talk about this book as it was being developed, and it offered some unique insights on the journey of discipleship.

            Fitch’s thesis is that there is worldly power, and there is godly power, and that godly power functions in a much different way than earthly power. He says in the introduction,

“There is worldly power, which is exerted over persons, and there is godly power, which works relationally with and among persons. Worldly power is coercive. A person or organization takes control of things with worldly power. Worldly power is enforced. It is prone to abuse. God’s power, on the other hand is never coercive. God works through the Holy Spirit, persuades, never overrides a person’s agency, convicts, works in relationship….”

            When Jesus talks about leadership he talks about servant leadership. Matthew 20:26 says, “Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant”, and when he offers them an example of godly leadership Jesus does not run a political campaign, he washes feet (John 13). He warns us not to be like Gentiles, that use their power as a weapon of control and self-aggrandizement.

 Jesus warns exercising worldly power to weed out people from the church to make it purer by telling us the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13), and tells us that when we exercise church discipline we should be very cautious because wherever two or three are gathered together, he is in the midst of the congregation (Matthew 18). Jesus resists the temptation to lay claim to worldly power as Satan tempts him in the wilderness (Matthew 4). Christ’s power comes from the cross, where he resists earthly power to lay down his life, and let’s God the father raise him from the dead.

As American Baptists, we are founded on the distinction that the church should be separate from government and independent of political ideologies. We have believed early on that we should “render unto Ceasar what is Ceasar’s, and unto God what is God’s.” Thus, we are a relational network of disciples that partner together in mission, worship, and service.

As we head into a season of vigorous debate and heated ideological conflict in the world around us in the next several months, let us resist Satan’s attempt to sow discord and strife among us. Let us live as people who reflect godly power instead of using worldly power. And let us trust in the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who stands above all nationalisms, ideologies, powers, and principalities. Let us live with grace, love, justice, and truth in a world that desperately needs to see a different way—the way of Jesus.



Lord, to often we have sought to claim and use worldly power. We have hurt others, and pushed them further away from you as the Way, the Truth and the Life. Help us to live as servant leaders, offering the grace, love, and truth to the world in the relationships we have, and in how we live our lives in our churches and communities. Amen.


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