There are 2 places you can find power in a group of people in relationship with one another. The first is in position and the second is in people.
When power is found in position, the control, authority, jurisdiction, permission-granting rights and influence are there regardless of the person occupying it. It’s static and unchanging.
When power is found in people, it’s revolving.
This environment of revolving power is what allows a church to be ordered by the Life of Christ.
Power is to be stewarded
Power revolves as time passes and activities change. What’s going on in a group of people at any particular time is what determines the people through which power is temporarily stewarded.
A church that operates organically by the Life of Christ will always be asking “Who is now the steward of power?” and “Who is now leading?”
Why? Because each person in a church is designed to take on roles consistent with their competencies.
The #1 sign power is being abused in a church is when there are identifiable dominant members and permanent positional leaders who steward power when situations aren’t calling them to.
Leadership is revolving
When people dominate or assume they own the power in a situation they haven’t been given it, there’s a domino effect that happens. That one decision affects all of the other people in the group. The environment being set encourages others to start jockeying for position instead of working together to decide where the power is being activated.
Listen to how Joseph Myers describes how power is meant to revolve in communities of people in his book Organic Community…
We lead because that project “asks” us to do so. Like the dynamic game Rock, Paper, Scissors, no one element stands as permanent leader. Rock smashes Scissors. Scissors cut Paper. Paper covers Rock.
He also quotes this Fast Company article that provides even more clarity…
People figure out what they’re good at, and that shapes what their roles are. There’s not just one leader. Different people lead during different parts of the process.
Sounds a lot like how New Testament authors describe how a church should function, doesn’t it?
This is for every relationship
But it’s not just the church context this applies to. It’s every relationship where people are working together to accomplish something. Whether it’s a marriage or a church, when people in relationship don’t discern and decide together who has been designed and prepared to steward the power of any situation or project, they quickly find themselves in the midst of power struggles or abusive situations.
This is why churches that operate with hierarchical business models aren’t very healthy, and the relationships don’t tend to be sustainable. Power gets locked into positions people occupy. The people in those positions steward power over projects regardless of what it is. This inappropriate taking of power means someone else isn’t stewarding it when they should be.
Rock always wins.
Many times this situation is built right into the systems churches operate with. I mean, why should I volunteer to take power over a situation I’m competent for if someone else is getting paid a salary? But that’s a whole other conversation.
Submit to power through one another
In order for power to be stewarded correctly, the people must be focused on the health of the whole group. When power gets locked into positions, the people in those positions concentrate on what they perceive will help keep them in their position by justifying their occupation of it.
When power is revolving through a group of people, they are always discerning together how the power is shifting.
They’re noticing together who’s being asked to steward power and who’s being asked to cede power in each situation.
This is healthy. This is what Paul was communicating to churches when he said…
Subject yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)
He understood that our submission to Christ’s power aligned with our submission to appropriately stewarding His power through one another. This way of using power allows Christ to be the one ordering life together. This is what it means to be organic.
This results in peace
Myers goes on to talk about what happens to the individuals in a group when they operate this way…
This view of the whole instills a sense of peace in each participant. They know that the success of the whole is not entirely on their shoulders. When people work in a “silo,” they begin to believe that everything depends on them—and them alone. Silos are lonely places.
Revolving power brings the security of knowing that you are not the only one the project is relying on. Peace also comes from knowing that if power is relinquished to someone else, it will return in due time as it revolves through the group.
Finding power in position was exactly what the first disciples fell into when Jesus gave them the speech about greatness in the Kingdom. Kingdom citizens don’t jockey for position. They’re humble beings looking to serve like a table waiter and steward authority together in the most appropriate ways.
The rest of the posts in the What It Means To Be Organic series are here.