Power, Money, and Control in the Church

Our churches have a leadership crisis when it comes to power, money, and control. When power, money, and control are threatened, then church leaders risk behaviors that perpetuate toxic cycles of abuse. Decisions, policies, and behaviors that seek to protect the church may actually be driven by a fear of losing power, money, and control. Accountability becomes nearly impossible to enforce when the church’s leadership is committed to protecting the status quo because retaining the power, money, and control becomes the highest priority.

Who suffers most at the hands of leaders who are motivated by fear of losing power, money, and control? Women, people of color, specifically Black people, and other oppressed groups. For White churches operating out of this toxic fear of losing power, money and control, the result is serious harm. Abuse of power is a sin. The White church needs to be honest about its fear of losing power, money, and control and the insidious, systemic, and sinful abuse of power.

What would it look like to conduct a church-wide audit of abuse of power, especially toward the oppressed? How can we better hold our church leaders and institutions accountable for their abuse of power, money, and control? What systems can we put into place to ensure the oppressed are safe from harmful toxic leaders who make decisions that value power, money, and control above the lives of people who are viewed as less valuable?

More than boundary training, more than anti-racism training, in addition, what is needed is a leadership revolution that deconstructs White supremacy and patriarchy.

What would it look like for church leaders to be committed to ethical use of power, money, and control? What would it look like for the lives of the oppressed to be valued as equal partners in service to the mission of the church?

Until we find a way to disrupt the status quo, the cycles of abuse of power will continue. The way of Jesus calls us to be people of justice. Leadership modeled after Jesus means that when power, money, and control are threatened, we do whatever we can to enact justice for the oppressed.

True justice is not when the powerful retain power, money, and control. True justice is when we are all held accountable for our actions.

True justice is when the oppressed are allowed equal access to power, money, and control. True justice honors the whole Body of Christ for the purpose of ushering in the realm of God, a realm of justice and peace for all of Creation.

This is the first in a series of reflections about women, leadership, and the church.

An Open Letter to The Crossing Church

Your pastor and I both preached in my hometown on homecoming weekend about Jesus on Sunday, October 13, 2019. We did our best to share a message of compassion and hope to the people God entrusted to us at our two different churches across town from each other. My sermon was about the story of Jesus’ miracle turning water into wine. Your sermon was about Jesus’ view of people who are the “T” of LGBTQ. You were warned that the sermon was risky because it is a topic avoided by most preachers.

I watched the video of the sermon. The risk of preaching is that what we say from the pulpit will be heard and interpreted a thousand different ways. What was heard may be different than what was said or different than what was intended. Yet, what I heard was ultimately harmful.

I heard the preacher say that transgender people will not get beat up at The Crossing. They will not get called names. The preacher said that as Christians we need to treat transgender people with compassion. Yet, compassion is more than promising not to bully, physically abuse, and harass someone, right?

The preacher also said that if someone is transgender, then they need to make a choice: to follow Jesus or to follow culture. The preacher says that being transgender is a choice influenced by a sexually promiscuous culture. For the preacher, transgender identity is not of God.

He says this is the Biblical view and that Christians need to submit to Biblical authority over and above culture. He gives the example of slavery, saying that culture supported it for a long time. He forgets to mention that the Bible was the authority used to defend slavery. He forgets that Christians used the Bible to defend their God-given right to own slaves.

I am concerned for my hometown of Columbia, Missouri. The Crossing Church is an important community partner, doing great things (eliminating medical debt for hundreds of families). Yet, The Crossing’s message about transgender people is not reflective of Jesus’ love. The thing is, what the preacher said was a spiritually abusive interpretation of the Bible. And that is not Christian compassion.

Church, we can do better than to say to a whole population of people “you can come here and we won’t call you names or beat you up.” Is that really what Jesus would do?

Church, let’s do better. Jesus loves LGBTQ people a whole, whole lot. And Jesus would never ask us to choose between loving God or loving ourselves. I am a Christian Minister, pastor of a church and a preacher. I preach Jesus and Jesus loves LGBTQ people just as they are…beautiful, beloved, and created good.

World Mental Health Day Prayer

God who created the heart and the mind, heaven and earth, in the beginning of creation You said it was good.

But what about when “good” no longer describes how we feel?

What about the times when we feel bad, low, lost, alone, anxious, scared, hurt, sad, depleted, hollow, dull, lifeless, listless, haunted, depressed, worthless, and nothingness?

Are we still part of Your good creation, even then?

Hear us when we cry out “What is good in us when there is mental illness?”

Come near to us in our time of trouble. Do not let us go. Do not take Your Spirit from us. Save us.

Help us find life again.

Hold us close to Your heart and whisper to us once more that we are good, that we are more than our mental illness, that we are made in Your image.

God of wholeness, we give thanks that You love us even when we do not love ourselves.

God of hope, we give thanks for our minds and our hearts. We are good and we are whole because we belong to You. Now and forever. Amen.