Leadership and power go together. As a leader, you have the power to influence people. As you live into the responsibility of discovering and developing the potential of people, you learn how to use your power appropriately. You learn to influence people, not by controlling or micromanaging, but by giving your power and influence away. To be an effective and courageous leader, you learn to use your power to empower others.
Most people think of power as the control that high-level leaders exert from their positions. But power extends beyond the formal authority that comes from a title or a position. Before looking at the power you have as a Christ-centered leader, let’s name seven bases of power that often are used and misused in leadership.
7 Bases of Power
The power of position. This is the power of formal authority that derives from a person’s title or position in a group.
The power of expertise. This is the power of influence that comes from developing and communicating specialized knowledge, or the perception of knowledge.
The power of charisma. This is the power of influence that is generated by a leader’s style or personality.
The power of relationships. This is the power of influence that leaders gain through their formal and informal networks both inside and outside of the church or organization.
The power of information. This is the power of control that is generated through the use of evidence either used or withheld.
The power to reward others. This is the power to reward and recognize individuals for adhering to standards or expectations.
The power of punishment. This is the power to sanction individuals for failure to conform to standards or expectations.
As a Christ-centered leader, you have another base of power. You have a power that comes from a higher source. Effective leaders draw their strength from an inner source of values, character, and faith. Let’s use our practice of “Read, Reflect, Respond, and Return” to explore that base of power.
Read Acts 1:6-8
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
This scripture reflects two different understandings of power. The early followers of Jesus had political power in mind. They had grown up learning about the Messiah being a military and political leader. In their hearts and minds, Jesus was the Messiah. He was the anointed one of God who would restore Israel to power, a political and military power. For them, the Messiah was going to drive out and destroy the Romans and restore power to Israel.
Their question shows that they have missed the point of Jesus returning in the power of the Spirit. Jesus’ teaching had become twisted in their understanding and ideas of the kingdom. They had missed what Jesus was teaching and were wanting Jesus to meet their agenda.
I can imagine them saying, “Jesus, we appreciate all you have done on the cross and in the resurrection, and what you are saying about the kingdom and power is fine, but is it going to move toward our agenda? We became your followers because we thought you were to restore Israel to power. Now, we aren’t pressuring you, we are just reluctant to ask, “Are you going to do it or not?”
With their assumption that the Messiah would drive out and destroy the Romans, Jesus replied that only God knows the time of the coming of the kingdom. Instead of answering their misunderstandings, those early followers were given a job to do.
Holy Spirit Power
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…”
Jesus is saying, you will receive power, but it is not the power you think it is. You shall receive power, but not political or military power. You will receive power from God when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.
The church’s mission is not carried out in its own strength. The church is not merely a group of good people trying hard to make the world a better place. The church functions by the presence and power of God. This is a unique kind of power rooted in communication, service, compassion, and a deep sense of purpose. To lead from this kind of power involves empowering others. It involves sharing your influence beyond yourself to bring about transformation in your church, your community, and in the world.
The presence and power of God is the power of Christ-centered leaders. So, what does that mean for you?
You will receive power:
“…you will be my witnesses…” To be a witness means several things. One, a witness is a person who says I know this is true. Two, a witness is a person who lives the truth. Three, a witness is a martyr, not in the sense of dying for what you know is true, but living for what you know is true. To be a witness means to be loyal no matter the cost. “You will be my witnesses” means you will be loyal to Jesus, regardless of the cost, in what you say and do.
To be a witness is enough, but there is more to the power of communication. There is an example of the power in the second chapter of Acts. “Now there were devout Jews from every people under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.
Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”
This story is an example of the power of communication. When you look at the story closely, it says once that “They…began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enable them to speak.” It says three times people heard in their own languages.
The early followers of Jesus were given the power to communicate in ways people could understand. This is a power given by God and practiced by followers of Jesus. As a Christ-centered leader, you are assisting followers of Jesus to communicate in the language of the people in the neighborhood and community.
To organize and strategize
“in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” This scripture is the introduction to the story of the Acts of the Apostles being commissioned to reorient their lives from looking up and expecting Jesus to return to looking out into the world and their mission in it.
The story in Acts is about communicating and sharing God’s love starting in Jerusalem, where they are at the moment, moving to Judea, which would represent home for most of them, moving to Samaria, which represents an area of hundreds of years of prejudice, and then moving to the ends of the earth, which includes their enemies in Rome.
The deeper meaning here is that Luke presents the church as a community that, though it began as a Jewish sect, will become a universal inclusive community transcending languages and cultures.
The early followers of Jesus were given the power to start right where they were and to move out in taking God’s love to all the world. This organized effort did not happen all at once. In fact, you, as a Christ-centered leader, are a part of the movement at this very moment. You are leading people in becoming witnesses, first at home, then with friends, colleagues, and neighbors, then with people who are marginalized, outcasts, and looked down upon, and then to all the world which includes your enemies.
As a Christ-centered leader, you have the power to replicate, at home, what you have been leading people to do in other communities and cultures. You have the power to teach people to welcome others as God in Christ has welcomed them and to love others as they have been loved. I know it seems strange to say you have the power to organize and strategize such love in action, but if you don’t plan it, it will never happen. When you aim at nothing, you usually hit it. You have the power to organize and strategize God’s power starting right where you are.
To embrace diversity:
“in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Luke knows that the church is destined to become a universal community. In the second chapter of Acts, the list of nations is symbolic of the whole world. His list transcends the Roman Empire and includes the Parthians who have been a constant enemy threat. Jews and Arabs are both embraced in the vision of the universal church. Luke includes those born into Jewish families and those who have been converted to Judaism from Gentile religions. Ethnic and racial diversity is represented from the very beginning. There are even visitors from Rome. Luke concludes his story with the arrival of Paul in Rome. But there were people from Rome present at the beginning of the church.
As a Christ-centered leader, you have the power to appreciate and value different perspectives, cultures, and backgrounds. You also have the power to lead others in that same appreciation.
You will receive power…Who you are is how you lead.
As a Christ-centered leader, you have a base of power that comes from outside yourself. Your power is not based upon position, although you can leverage your position to give your power away; expertise, although as you learn and gain knowledge you have more to offer; charisma, which comes more from character as it does from personality; information, which means you have the opportunity to share what you know and are learning; reward or punishment.
Your power comes from a higher source. And as a Christ-centered leader, you draw your strength from that source that forms your values, character, and faith. You draw your strength from God who you know in and through Jesus.
Although the early followers of Jesus missed the point of power, you have the opportunity to assist people beyond such misunderstandings. You have received the power to communicate in ways people will understand, to organize and strategize so the world will know of God’s love, and to embrace diversity. So, be who God has created you to be, not by the power of position but by the power of God.
Who you are is how you lead.
Give God thanks for the people you met today. Where did you exert your power? Did you use your position to leverage power? How did you interact with others? What did you learn about yourself? Who is helping you remember that you are a child of God and that you have been empowered to love others as God has loved you? What will you do differently tomorrow? Ask God to give you the faith to be the leader God has created you to be.
O God, today I give you thanks for life and work. I pray for the power to be your witness starting where I am now. Remind me throughout the day of how you love me and how you have empowered me to love the people around me. I offer myself to you in the name of Jesus. Amen