Power is one of the most pressing issues facing the evangelical church at the beginning of this new decade. How do we steward it in Christlike ways? How are we tempted to adopt the world’s (usually corrupting) approach to it? How can we avoid the many ways power and platform can ruin lives and slander the name of Jesus? As we enter a U.S. election year and look ahead to the 2020s, so much of the church’s mission and witness hinges on how we approach power.
Recent years have brought an array of shocking headlines about the power abuses of high-profile celebrity pastors, #churchtoo scandals, unholy political alliances motivated by fear of losing power, and various other grievous examples of power gone awry. Headlines like these—and their tragic, wide-ranging consequences—have sparked urgent and welcome conversations about power among evangelicals. This has included the release of several helpful books like From Weakness to Strength by Scott Sauls (TGC’s review) and The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel (TGC’s review), both released in 2017.
Sauls, Goggin, and Strobel—along with Michael Horton and Ann Voskamp—will speak next month at a two-day conference on how pastors and Christian leaders can wield power in healthier ways and “shepherd and lead in the way of Jesus.” In this Q&A I asked Sauls and Goggin to reflect on the topic and its relevance for the church in 2020 and beyond.
Why is power a critical topic for pastors and church leaders today?
Scott Sauls: On the one hand, power is entrusted to leaders by the Lord, so that we will use it for good. The more influence, resources, and opportunity a leader is given, the more potential he or she has to do good in the church and the world. On the other hand, power in the absence of gospel virtue and the fruit of the Spirit can become a breeding ground for all kinds of toxicity, injustice, inequality, abuse, and other injurious treatments of others. Sadly, the ministry is not exempt from this kind of corruption, because ministers, like everybody else, live with a sin problem. Power, like money and time and relationships, must be stewarded faithfully for it to remain a good thing in the hands of a leader.