what could be: power diffused


i was thinking today how it is kind of weird that i am doing this series during advent and i know so many people are writing about great things related to the coming of Jesus and here i am talking about church, yet again.  but the truth is that a big part of advent is focused on expectation, on hope, on what is coming. i do believe that amidst all the church craziness out there, all the woundedness, all the same-old-same-old, there is a longing, a hope, a dream, a new reality, and a lot of people experimenting with different ideas of “what could be.”

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in case you haven’t noticed, i have issues with power (if you’re extra bored and want to kill some more time you don’t really have on the world wide web, you can read an old post i wrote in july re-thinking power). i think misused power is what continues to ruin so much good in the body of Christ.   clearly, since the beginning of time, humanity has struggled with our need for power.  we do whatever we can do to create it, keep it, serve it, make other people serve it.  i honestly believe it is the root of all evil and that this side of heaven we will always have to live with the tension of our tendency to want to get & keep power.  the problem i have with power issues related to the church, though, is that as christ-followers we are supposed to be strangely different from the world. the kingdom principles that Jesus shares in the sermon on the mount aren’t just good ideas he decided to share for the fun of it.  he made very clear that the ways of the kingdom will require a totally counter-cultural way of living. it will mean giving up what we have held dear. it will mean making ourselves incredibly vulnerable. it will mean humbling ourselves to be radically reliant on God.  it will mean giving up our power, diffusing what we have so that those who don’t naturally have any will get some, too.  it will mean sharing instead of hoarding. it will mean lowering ourselves instead of elevating.

the only bummer is that we, as people, as churches, are generally addicted to power.  we are attracted to it.   we either want it ourselves or want the people we are connected to have it. sociologists have had a hey-day experimenting & exploring all of the wacky things people are willing to do to get or keep or submit to power.  when i say “we” remember that i am making a lot of generalizations. i know many of you reading this blog have developed a general aversion to wacky power stuff, too, but the bottom line for all of us, whether we like it or not, is that we all will continually have to reckon with issues of power.

when i use the word power i think of these words: leadership, value, and voice.

one of my dreams for us as people, as churches, is that we’d be people who would learn what it means to diffuse power–to give away leadership, value, and voice as much as possible. as deeply as possible.  as creatively as possible.   this is so counter-intuitive to what so many have been taught in terms of leadership.  i know there are many out there that will say that the reason that some big churches/ministries have gotten where they have is because there has been so much leadership, value and voice given away.  that their leaders haven’t pulled the power card in the traditional sense.  okay, i am going to be really bold here & say that the reason why lots of things have been grown and built is because power has been re-distributed to other powerful people who then replicate themselves & keep hoarding all the power.   that is not true power diffusion.  true power diffusion means it goes to people who aren’t typically powerful. the least. the last.  the marginalized. the oppressed. the not-quite-as-pretty.  the not-quite-as-talented.  the not-quite-as-educated.  the not-quite-as-socially-acceptable.  the not-quite-as-all-kinds-of-things-that-usually-get-ignored.  the beautiful, wild diverse kingdom of God-in-the-flesh.

the real kingdom of God is a priesthood of all believers. it means we are all important. we all have something to bring. we all have value.  not just the ones with the seminary degrees and charisma and experience and preaching talent and visionary leadership.  i am not saying those things shouldn’t be valued because they are honest gifts that people bring to the table.  my big issue is that they get elevated to a far higher place than they should be.  and in every group, whether it be a group of friends or a house church or a community or institution, there are always people in the room who end up, for all kinds of reasons, to have more power.  in some crazy circles i am marginalized because i am a woman pastor.  in the refuge, that is not the case.  equality is so integrated into the fabric of our community that i am not marginalized in the slightest; in fact, i probably have way more power than i really want.  but what i am deeply committed to, what our team is deeply committed to, is giving as much of it away as we can.  yes, it is hard sometimes. i am one of those people who have a million ideas that i would love to implement, try, experiment with.  trust me, i have several lifetimes worth of dreams & some of the weird crazy energy (aka dysfunction) to do it if it weren’t for all these kids and a strong belief in collaboration & teamwork!  and while some of my dreams are important, the dreams of my friends are just as important & sometimes i have to give up a few of mine to accomodate theirs.   but this takes real relationship.  you see, if the people are just bodies, people who fulfill certain roles & perform certain duties to increase the effectiveness of the institution, then it decreases the importance of caring about their dreams: “there’s work to be done and we just need to figure out a way to get it done.”  i can’t tell you the number of horrible things i have seen done to people “for the sake of the kingdom.”   but real relationship, real community, means that we care so deeply about our sisters & brothers that we continually make room for them to use their leadership, value, and voice, whatever that looks like-maybe for the first time, maybe in a totally different way, maybe more than ever before.

so what would power diffused as people, as communities, really look like?

if you have it, find ways to give it to other people, and not people just like you. it’s easy to pass on power to people who think like us, look like us, act like us.  how about giivng it to people who normally don’t have any? how about giving it to people who see things differently & might even get on your nerves & make your life harder? 

intentionally create space at the table for people who aren’t used to sitting there.  a huge way to diffuse power is to make more and more room at the table.  there’s plenty of room.  the table’s big enough (just keep putting in more leaves).  the question is always whether we are humble & brave enough to keep pulling up new chairs and inviting new people to sit in them.

fan into flame people’s passions even if it has nothing to do with extending the ministry at hand. yeah, this is a hot topic for me because i know that usually the people that get the most attention are the ones who will advance the ministry at hand.  but what about nurturing dreams no matter who gets the benefit because it is a brother or sister with dreams & ideas that deserve nurturing?  i know so many people with so much to offer the world who are drying up and stifling so much of their creativity because they do not see that some of their hopes & dreams are important because they aren’t part of what’s right in front of them.


get away from one leader, i think it’s generally a bad idea. i have said plenty about this in the past. you can read more about it here, but i honestly think that the model of one leader is a bad idea.  it is hard when some people are really strong and gifted. it is easy to put too much weight on their shoulders & give them more power than we should.  it is still the model that gets replicated over and over and over again, and i honestly believe it is modeling something that is dangerous to the wider body.  changing this is a two way responsibility–the responsibility of people to not perpetuate models of one leader & the responsibility of leaders to resist taking it & consider different forms of intentional sharing.

provide avenues for as many voices as possible in as many ways as possible.  a true community is made up of different voices, all deserving to be heard, all important, all powerful.  voice is not just words. voice is creativity, dreams, passion, purpose.  i think every group of people, whether it’s 2 or 3 or 100 or ? need to figure out ways that every person in that community is seen & valued & nurtured to use their voice, whatever that looks like.  for the refuge, we continue to press out what this looks like & know we don’t have anything mastered, but it does mean that our floor is always, always, always open for dialogue, different people facilitate and anyone can do it, and we go out of our way to intentionally create ways for as many different people to participate, lead, contribute in as many ways as possible.  there’s nothing more glorious than seeing some of my friends step out of their fears & inadequacies & all kinds of other barriers and share their gifts, their voice, their heart.

as always, this barely touched it and was still way too long, but i’d love to hear some of your perspectives.  what are some of your experiences with power?   what are some of your dreams of how it could be diffused?

here’s what i hope:

we’d be people & communities who were keenly aware of our power & the powerlessness of so many others, both in and outside of the systems we live in.  if we have it, we’d do everything we could to give it away, cultivate new voices, and make room at the table for those who normally wouldn’t have a seat.

God, help us be power diffusers, to be humble & courageous enough to take any power you give us & give it away.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • I’ve got to admit that even though I believe that institutional church in any form is un-biblical nevertheless as usual you have spoken so much that resonates with my heart. However even the use of the word Church in stead of ecclesia almost nauseates me.

    I truly thank God for giving you this platform. I thank God for your simple and yet powerful way of communicating. I pray that I am learning power diffusion as well as you communicate about it, if so I’m doing well by Fathers grace.

  • I think that it is possible to both have power to give away , and also sometimes need to be advocated for in a different context. Obviously, there is a tendency towards one way or the other, but in reviewing how I live my life, I am thankful that community, at its finest, can provide opportunity for both.

    I was curious, however, if you had some practical examples of how to ” fan into flame people’s passions” in action? I am most likely overthinking it :shocking:, but I want to be one that does that for sure, and the only thing I can think of it too simplistic. Of course, helping people follow their dreams is a must, but even that sentence doesn’t have enough meat to the thought. It has been a looong week, so I need some help picturing it. 🙂

  • Wow — this post has raised so many questions for me. On so many levels what you say here resonates with me, as I think of how Christ used his power to serve others, sacrifice himself for them, and empower them.

    I’m bothered by the word “diffusion” however (probably my pro “focus” bias kicking in here) — in that diffusing power has the sense of undercutting it or weakening it. What I see Christ doing is using his power to challenge us, break down our old patterns/habits/sinfulness, and then charging/empowering us to take up our cross, follow his lead, and pursue the unique missional calling he places before us. Makes me think of Paul, for example — incredible zeal, yet channeled in the wrong direction initially as Saul — took Christ blinding him, then several years of solitude to sort it all out, then coming as Paul, whose zeal was now tempered and channeled into service for Christ…

    Perhaps there’s a difference in learning to wield the power we’re given responsibly, versus shunning or avoiding it? Perhaps this is what discipleship is really all about?

    FYI, I do have an ulterior motive in asking all these questions — namely, to keep Kathy blogging well into the future 🙂

  • Steve- Clearly Christ used his power to serve and empower others, I agree.
    I disagree with you on two points here.
    – One is that power is finite (in a Kingdom of God context).
    – The second is that Christ’s work in us is primarily personal.
    Power in the Kingdom of God is not a Malthusian construct. There is plenty to go around. It is true that concentrated human and institutional power is undercut and weakened by diffusion, but for those who have not previously had much, being empowered is a big deal. And in the Kingdom of God, there is an infinite amount of sacred power to go around.
    In this season of Advent, I think of the stories which foreshadow the life of our savior. In the vision given to Mary, who literally had Christ within her, she could see that the arrogant of heart and mind would be sent running, the monarchs will be brought down from their thrones, and the humble lifted high. I’ll also mention the older story which He fulfills, that every ravine will be filled in and every mountain leveled and the rugged ways made smooth. Since I am not a literalist, I don’t think the story is about God bringing in a D10 caterpillar and running it around. I think that it is a metaphor for what Kathy is talking about here.
    peace, brother

  • Stacy, Practical examples are (from my own experience) things like wanting to deliver a message in a refuge time together, wanting to get donated food in, wanting to paint a wall, or even wanting to get a new space for us to meet in. When I had the idea that the old Grange Hall would be a good meeting space for us (when we all knew that we needed a different space) I just started in on it. I never sent anything thru any committee, or had any administrative hoops to jump thru with refuge leadership. I asked around, “do you think this is a good idea?” and folks said, “go for it, let’s see if it works out”. 6 months of effort later, with the help and co-ordination of many others in the community, we are in a new space. the challenging thing about doing things this way is that there is a different kind of support at work. Typically in the IC, you have an idea, speak up about it loud enough long enough, and they’ll tell you what committee meeting to go to. then you present and it goes up for consideration, etc, etc, politics, blah blah. Things get done but they have to run the gauntlet of institutional power first. Once things get to that point, there are all kinds of helpful things the institution can do for a project. Secretaries, money, people with titles and credibility, committees that work to complete a project.
    While the refuge is amazingly free of all of that, there is a kind of “cost”. once you start into things, you have a personal responsibility to see them thru, while remaining responsible to the body at large in an immediate sort of way. It requires communication, and the personal interplay of working with others and trying to get along in a loving way. I am not always good at that, but I really keep trying.
    Even more, when I first started to step into the power of serving more and more, I kept looking for the “hidden” power, I have such an authority complex that I was sure that my little dog Toto would find the man behind the curtain. When there wasn’t one, I felt really disoriented, a power vacuum. And when I did have an idea that seemed generally to be a good idea, there was no institutional sanction, no committee vote of record in meeting minutes, and while help is there in the body of Christ, I had to learn to ask for it.

  • Ohh, I said AMEN at so many bits!

    I also believe in bringing forth the voices, and giving people that space (I’m not a pastor though :))..as you said, we all have value and importance. And it should show! But why is it so little evident? 4-5 years ago I thought I had found a community like that, only to find out little later I hadn’t. What a disappointment it was. In the end, at least so I felt, I was allowed to speak just as long as I adhered to their (pastors’) theology and emphasized what they emphasized. It was very pastor-lead. There was a moment in time in that community’s history where there had been more space for people to express themselves and for creativity, but to my sadness it was soon after boxed and controlled. It’s the thing about controlling… I do know two church communities, one here where I live now, one back in Finland where there is openness and more power diffusion. I pray they stay that way (and open up even more). Not saying they are perfect, but at least much more open that many other places I know.

    Also believe in fanning people’s flames even if it has no gain in it for me. That’s love!

    I am glad I have come across your blog Kathy. Thanks for the strenghtening and encouragement!

  • Sage — it’s always great to hear from you — thanks for your comments! In reading them I realize that the points I was making were apparently not as clear as I thought they were 🙂

    Re: your two points of disagreement, I think we’re actually in agreement here. I don’t see Christ’s work as being primarily personal either — rather, I see each of us as having a personal calling that engages us in a self-sacrificing, corporate, and Kingdom oriented mission.

    I also agree with you that power within the Kingdom is not limited or finite. In fact I’ve made this point in the past to argue that we shouldn’t view our own missional effectiveness as being hampered when other Christians or churches seem to be cavalier or wasteful in their use of resources. And I certainly wasn’t going down the road of a Malthusian argument re: scarcity of resources to justify a “poor will always be with us” or keep the status quo mentality.

    That being said, my point had to do with stewardship. What do we do with the power that God grants to us? If we see whatever power we have as something that comes from God, then we ought to be humble and responsible in our use of it. We also ought to value it, and look for ways to maximize its effectiveness, investing, entrusting, and giving it away to others in a way that truly empowers, but does not overpower them.

    I’m probably reading too much into the word “diffusion,” but the sense I have of this word is one of watering down, dividing, or diluting. This strikes me along the lines of the woman before Solomon who was ok with having the child cut in half, as long as she got an equal share.

    Seen this way, diffusion robs power of its power, devaluing it. How do we empower people then, when we diffuse or dilute the power we’ve been given?

    Is it possible that some folks develop an aversion to power altogether, based on past abuses of it? Could such a fear of power short-circuit our ability to wield the power God does give us? Could such an attitude cause us actually to ignore God’s call on our lives to participate in his mission?

    Perhaps this is why discipleship is so important. Mentoring. Engaging in relational community, where one is held accountable for both actively engaging in missional calling (not avoiding power), and using the power they’ve been given in a responsible way (not abusing power)?

    Not that any of this is what Kathy was saying, mind you, because I think I generally agree with the sentiment of sharing and unleashing power she’s expressed here. Just not fond of the word “diffusion,” in case you couldn’t tell 😉

    Power entrusted? Conferred? Granted? Shared?

  • One little parable came to mind as I reflected on diffused leadership. It is a reasonable fear that in church or anything we call society, diffusion of leadership is equal to incipient anarchy. Then how does Jesus respond, ‘this widow has given more than any of them’? He explains that she gave all she had rather than an acceptable percentage from abundance. Does this mean Jesus expects her to go home and starve to death? Do we see Jesus as suggesting, ‘no pain no gain’? Instead, I think what’s going on here is Jesus showing what living in the Kingdom is all about. As Bill Gates and the Rockefellers walk up and give generously at the temple they are demonstrating excellent leadership skills. They have publicly displayed their authority to all, they have the power to give and to take away. The silly welfare chick gives the last part of her last check. She has no authority to do this, in fact this is misuse of funds. How can Jesus say, ‘ she has given more’? What if she truly understands real authority in the Kingdom, and through this understanding has demonstrated true leadership. Jesus is sitting right there but the leadership,at this moment, belongs to the widow. This is how Jesus can say that this women gave more than Bill and all the Rockefellers.

  • Another great post that we at the Bridge can learn greatly from. Your post reminds me that we are indeed a body – all parts important, all parts of value all parts working together.

  • Great to hear from you too Steve, I love the conversation! 🙂
    We are in agreement on the heart of being kingdom focused, I have no question. I appreciate that. please forgive the “malthus” poke, I was being provocative.
    Regarding stewardship, whatever power we have is God’s power. It is not divisible- it is always whole and complete. You suggested a couple of alternatives to ‘power deffused’- perhaps power granted or conferred. Again, whatever power we have is God’s power. From a human standpoint, I can only grant or confer something which belongs to me. Since the power of the kingdom is God’s, I can’t grant it or confer it. I can only apply it as well as I can, and encourage others in their power from the holy spirit. I think these are qualities that are in your understanding of stewardship, I’m just telling you why I don’t think those words are as good as “diffused”.
    A synonym for diffused is “disseminated”, which has a nice evangelistic tone to it. maybe in the future we can study at a “disseminary”. please forgive the pun 😉
    Thank you for bringing in the story of the woman before Soloman who was ok with the child being cut in half. There is no better story for understanding that some things cannot be divided, they are either alive or they are not. Our relationship with God, the power of God, is exactly like that. The true mother would rather sacrifice her own rightful claim to her own child, than see it’s living wholeness taken away. To the usurper, power was everything, to the point of bitterly fighting to the death of the child.
    God’s power, made whole in our lives thru the blood of Christ, is alive. It cannot be divided. To diffuse power (in a practical, everyday sense) is to multiply God’s power in it’s wholeness- while sacrificing our human grasping for the power which divides.

  • Loved the post. This topic is pretty new to me – never really heard/seen anybody talk about this ever really — but I totally get what you’re saying and can relate to it very much.

    It’s amazing to me how many even use helping the oppressed/needy for their own personal gain as well – power popularity, their own value or ego. I feel we as a culture – go through cycles where it gets totally trendy to be an advocate for a certain group that need help….. and people really use that for popularity gain or power…. (look at what a good person I am for doing xyz)…. but I never got that feeling about you. I really believe that through you, Christ will get the credit as you talk about becoming more like him and ‘what He would do/be/want’….rather than wanting to be an advocate for _____ for your own fame/ ego.

    anyway – loved the comments as usual as well. Steve & sage’s comments were way over my head but bits & pieces made sense and were enjoyable to read. thanks to all 🙂

  • tom – thanks so much for sharing, it means more than you know, really. i know what you mean about the word “church.” you are so not the only one. i just had a conversation with a dear friend here who said “kathy, new word, please!” but the reason i have held onto the word even though it has a lot of baggage attached to it is that i believe in the body of Christ. ecclesia is a great word, too, of course, the only thing is that lots of people i know have no idea what that word means so it would get lost. i always joke that most of my refuge friends don’t care about the word emerging, missional, evangelical, new monastic, church, leadership or a host of all kinds of other buzzwords that get tossed around. they care about “where the hell are you God in the midst of this life i’m trying to live?” thanks for reading & taking the time to comment. look forward to hearing more!

    stacy – thanks for asking for clarification. yeah, not much meat on those bones, that is for sure! to me, what that means practically is: what do people love to do? what is stopping them from doing it? what are some of their dreams & desires & passions beyond just the day-to-day? usually, the way churches work is they look at everyone there and go “oh, they can do kids, oh they can do set up, oh they can do this or that that benefits the ‘church’ or the ministry at hand.” what gets overlooked & undernurtured are things that have absolutely nothing to do with ‘church’ in the typical sense but have everything to do with the kingdom & people alive, using their gifts & trying new things that light their heart on fire. over the past years i have seen what can happen with a little bit of encouragement & love to go back to school, to take a class, to create a 501c3, to open a counseling practice, to move to a new city, to change careers, to do all kinds of things that have nothing to do with “the refuge” but have everything to do with my friends coming alive…does that make sense?

    steve – i love it how you and i have our word issues! i know there are others who see this as a watering-down word but i see it as just the opposite. maybe the word sage used is better–disseminated–but i think that’s not as pretty of a word in all kinds of ways. i also think that idea of shunning or avoiding power is a huge one that needs to be overcome. there are so many out there who are afraid of it for all kinds of reasons & there’s this fine line of wielding it vs. avoiding it. there’s no question to me, when it comes to being christ-followers, that we are extremely extremely powerful people. we have been entrusted with leadership, value & voice. the problem is that for so many it has been so covered up with so many negative messages & systems & barriers to it that it is often left undiscovered. that makes me so sad. i think that is why it is so important to me that those who are aware of their power do everything they can to empower others. but because power can be so dangerous, often it gets used for just the opposite. and yes, i do think that it takes an incredible amount of relationship & intention to cultivate people’s God-given gifts & voice & passions. this is why i believe so strongly in true community, deep and authentic and safe and caring relationships, because i think those environments are where untapped power will get unleashed. yeah, i like that word, too. thanks so much for all the great conversation between everyone. i love that.

    sage – thank you for your thoughts & always engaging here. i liked how you described some of your experiences with power even recently. malthusian construct? i definitely had to look up that one on wikipedia and i still didn’t really understand it 🙂 i do think what you hit on is so important, though, and that is that power in the kingdom of God is most definitely not finite. it is beyond our wildest imagination, i think & the more diffused or disseminated or distributed or whatever-it’s-called it is, the better. how’s that for simplicity?

    mimosa – yeah, i do know both sides of the coin & there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that controlling is our default. we have come a long way in the past 2 1/2 years but my hope is that we keep going further and further in this area because the only thing we lose is control (hmmm, probably a good thing to lose, eh?) thanks so much for sharing…

    doug – beautiful metaphor. and i think that is why i see so often, up close and personal, the contributions, the offerings of the heart, the risks taken that could be so easily viewed as “little” by bigwigs are actually HUGE in the bigger story…

    randi – yeah, the truth is that in all my time in “church” i never heard this talked about one time. hmmmmm. i wonder why? i too am cautious of fads & am very passionate about “with” relationships and not “to” and “for” ones which have a much bigger tendency toward power differentials & a tendency to offer money or help or whatever when it is convenient for us & makes us feel good about ourselves. i am not dismissing that there are many amazing ministries going on out there that help people, but i also know that a lot comes from a place of “we will help those ‘poor’ people,whatever that looks like” instead of even considering a two-way relationship, of even considering what could be learned, instead of even considering that actually we are poor-er.

    brother maynard – thanks

  • Kathy, wow, I just got a chance to read the last few “what could be” posts and I so appreciated and resonated with all of them. But, this one in particular really touched a currently tender place in my heart…
    I have been really wrestling with the idea of leadership and authority and power in church. I desire and long for a place where EVERYONE has a voice, where power is diffused, where there’s room for everyone at the “leader’s” table. I long for a place where decisions are made not based on the opinions and beliefs of one person (no matter how godly that one person may be) but instead a place where decisions are made in community, through relationships, in touch with how the Spirit of God is at work among all of the beautiful people of his body.
    Anyway, that’s what I’ve longed for, and in some small ways over the past 2 years I’ve caught small glimpses of that in the faith community that I’ve been involved in, but lately there have been some experiences that really scare me and make me fear that power is and will become centralized instead of diffused. I’ve voiced some concern, but found that though people have allowed me to voice them and have listened graciously, there has been disagreement. I want to be honoring of the other voices I am hearing, but I am also finding that as they share their view of authority (being centralized – “it’s Biblical isn’t it”?) I’ve had a hard time expressing my belief that perhaps power shouldn’t be centralized – I can’t seem to strongly back it scripturally and I find that as I try to flesh out what it might look like for power to be diffused things get really messy and I’m not sure what these ideals I hold would really look like in practice. If we hold this idea of diffusing power how far do we take it? What does it really end up looking like? Is there still a place for some one person to exert power under the assumption or claim that they feel compelled by God’s spirit? I have a lot of questions, and I’m not sure this comment is making any sense as it is now past 2am here and my thoughts are rather scrambled.
    All this to say at a time when this issue is very much in my mind, this post encouraged me that I’m not the only one longing for a different type of power system in the church. Thank you for writing it.

  • Great, great thoughts as always Kathy. This need for power is directly linked with the performance drive that has been fed in the IC. IMO, it comes back to being all about “us” and not about letting the Spirit lead and guide. We “say” that the Spirit leads and guides but in the next breath “oh no, I couldn’t let someone take over that job! They won’t do it as well as I would!” I’ve seen this so many times and it’s sad that there are so many of these missed opportunities to let others grow in their strengths and flourish.

  • bethany – thanks so much for just putting it out there and saying what is going on in your mind and in some of your experiences, too. yeah, i can see some of the confusion, for sure. one of the things that is so interesting when it comes to the whole egalitarian-complementarian issue is the same question always comes up: what if you don’t have a head, what if there’s no ultimate authority in the relationship, what if you disagree, how do you make a decision? the reality is that shared power requires decision making to be shared among people instead of just putting it into one person because of their role or function. it means having to hash things out together & come to some agreement. sure, there are times that it is harder than others but ultimately people learn to submit to one another and practice what that looks like. i honestly just don’t see how we can lose with that? the only thing that’s on the line is some people’s egos & time. that’s about it. you ask such a great question about “is there a time where ultimately someone needs to exert their power because God is entrusting them to?” i would just respond with how dangerous this is in general. i think all the time the God card can get pulled in the name of exerting power & the checks & balances of a healthy community sharing power & leadership will keep some of that in check. oh i am barely scratching the surface, that is for sure. bottom line: i don’t think it’s a slippery slope at all, in fact, just the opposite, but i know that’s what so many fear. do you have some people near you to talk about some of these things out loud??? sending some peace your way…

    jenn – yeah, the whole performance trap drives this–expectations people have of leaders & expectations leaders have of themselves & others. it is all so dangerous & limiting!

  • Whew…just getting caught up with you here…interesting topic for sure and one that has been a hot topic for some of us here in PDX the last couple of months. Have you read Janet Hagberg’s book Real Power? She talks about stages of power and we have been discussing what that looks like for our community. It’s a hard one for me as I am a natural leader but don’t want the trappings of leadership because of how I’ve seen power misused. I’m thankful for some incredible role models that are helping me see the difference between being a “land grabbing, overlord” style of leader and a leader with a “servants” heart.

  • A few friends and I are running a conference in Toronto in March (www.epconference.net) on this exact topic. It’s been something I continue to wrestle with daily and I’m learning now that It’s more my own pride now that makes it difficult for me to lay down “power” than it is needing to me to be convinced that it’s what needs to be done.

    I also just came back last weekend from hearing tony campolo speak, he spoke about the differences between power and authority, and while i haven’t heard too many messages where he makes me excited, this one did it. It was a great message, if you ever want to hear it, send me an e-mail and I can send it to you.

    Thanks for the post, I enjoyed watching you wrestle with these important issues.

  • donna – great to hear from you as always. can’t wait to see you all next year!! i am going to order hagberg’s book. i know i will love it. the critical journey is one of my favorites & hit the nail on the head and sounds like this one did, too. yes, you do have some incredible role models & it’s beautiful to see you step into who you were created to be…you were meant for this…

    nathan – great to hear from you, thanks for stopping by and i am really looking forward to hearing more about TheStory and what you all are doing there. i saved your link and yeah, send me the campolo link if you will…


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