A little while ago I went to the Industrial Areas Foundation National Leadership Training. It was one of those moments where I was hearing and learning precisely what I needed to learn in order to grow in my own leadership. One of my key learnings was how important it is to think clearly about power and its use. It is interesting, that as a clergy member, again and again I was taught how not to use power well. I was taught to keep everyone happy, to avoid conflict, to work for vague terms (like justice and love) and that it was somehow wrong to defend one's own interests. In reality, I have learned again and again, is that all this does is allow others, who are not shy about using power, to manipulate and destroy good ministry.
To use power we need to first start thinking about and being aware of power, both ours and others. We need to be clear about what are our interests, and what is in the interest of our ministry. What is negotiable and what is not. How do we build power, by identifying where there is a shared interest and who are leaders that have power to effect change. Power is only realized in action, and when power acts, it creates tension. This tension is not comfortable, but it is what moves things. So how do we create tension wisely? How do we polarize where change needs to happen, and then depolarize once things have move? Does power create conflict? Absolutely! So how are we prepared for this conflict, how do we move though it, and not see it as a failure. In one of Richard Rohr's sermons he talked about how without conflict there is no growth.
Jesus was a man of power. He healed and it caused tension and conflict. He taught and people sought to kill him. Eventually those who held on to the status quo succeeded in killing him. From this was revealed the power of eternal life. So how do we learn to also use the power that we have been given, to heal, to teach and to lead all of us into a greater taste of the fullness of life.