Ministry as Empowerment
“Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.” (Confucius)
“Instead of guarding power, Jesus gives it away; instead of rational discourse, he tells stories; instead of claiming status, he reaches to the lowliest; instead of excluding the rabble, he includes them—even at table fellowship! Even the tax collectors, sinners and prostitutes seem at home in his presence. This is not merely a male Jesus with soft edges. This is a Jesus whose very identity is radically different from the norm of human personhood that prevailed at the time. Relationality rather than rationality illuminates his entire story.” (Diarmuid O’Murchu, via Inward Outward)
It was 10 pm., and the 60-year-old patient would not last the night. She was still conscious so her grieving daughter and I prepared for a bedside vigil.
Then a thought: I preach about the ministry of the whole church, so why was I there in the hospital? I phoned the chairman of elders (Russell Costello - yes the father of Janet, Tim and Peter) and asked him to arrange for a different person to come each hour. They did, and Ted Dufty was there at 4 a.m. when the lady died.
He held the lady and her daughter’s hands, committed the departed and grieving ones to the Lord, and ‘went home on a high’, privileged to have been involved in such a strategic pastoral opportunity! When I saw him again – many years later – he lit up again as he talked about it!
The saddest question pastors ask is ‘How can the church learn to minister to itself – and to the world?’ And the laity’s saddest question: ‘Why won’t pastors empower us for ministry too?’
Catch 22 here somewhere
There’s a catch-22 here somewhere… ‘Ministry as empowerment’ is mostly in the category ‘What they didn’t teach you at theological seminary!’
Where two or three are gathered together there is power. ‘Power is… an ever-present reality which one must confront, use, enjoy, and struggle with a hundred times a day’  (1) Rollo May, Power and Innocence, 1972:121.
History is about power. So is psychology: self-esteem derives from the ability to influence one’s destiny; to be involuntarily powerless is to be without hope.
All behaviour, says Adler, has something to do with striving for power. However such striving is sick when those at the apex of power pyramids bolster their images with larger offices, special titles, distinctive clothing, deferential treatment, and prominently-displayed certificates and honours.
‘Image-makers’ earn big bucks giving advice about ‘power dressing’, ‘colour and flow analysis’, ‘impression management’ (‘don’t grasp the lectern when speaking: look what happened to Nixon!’), and even what glasses’ frames best make the wearer look more sensitive/capable/authoritative, etc.
There’s a story (apocryphal I hope) of a pastor who advertised his degrees on his street letter-box plaque!
Brother Roger of Taize refused to be called ‘prior’ in his community. ‘I am their brother… It is impossible for those holding positions of responsibility in the church to add honorific titles to their service of God’  2. Brother Roger of Taize, The Wonder of a Love, 1981:85.
Theology, too is about power: ‘On every page of the New Testament one finds the terminology of power’ (Walter Wink)  3. Walter Wink, Naming the Powers, 1984:99. Some believe all power is evil – Tony Campolo, in The Power Delusion says power is the opposite of love – others (Machiavelli, Nietzche) that power is good (‘All weakness tends to corrupt, and impotence corrupts absolutely’  (4) Rollo May, 1972:24
Here we’ll assume power is neutral, but is directed to good or evil ends.
Essentially power is the ability to get things done. Authority is power conferred by an institution. Leadership is getting things done through others. Empowerment is giving away, rather than accruing, power.
Part 2 is next from Rev Dr Rowland Croucher the Pastor’s Pastor for well over 40 years, founded John Mark Ministries.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html