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a cup of jo
Hey Leaders,
When I was growing up and into my young adult years there was lots of teaching and training in Christian spaces warning us of the temptations in the areas of Money, Sex and Power. Correction: there was a lot of teaching and information about money and on the topic of sex . But there was nothing much on the subject of power. Not really. There was definitely teaching on the power of the Holy Spirit and generally relying on God's power, on the gifts and the fruit of the Spirit, and it was fabulous. But it was pretty quiet on the realities of human power, both individually and collectively. It's ironic really, because the issues we were warned about concerning sex and money often have a lot to do with power anyway.
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If you listen to my podcast Lead Stories, you'll know we're in a series called Honest leadership. This week episode revolved around an ongoing investigation into a Christian leader in the UK in response to allegations (historical and recent) revolving around conduct with interns. It wasn't easy to talk about, yet felt essential to do so. You can hear the full conversation HERE.
So leaders, can we talk honestly about power? And specifically, can we talk about how we Christian leaders understand and interact with the realities of power in our leadership and lives?
We don't often see or admit the ways unhealthy unbridled expressions of human power are at work in the way we identify, invest in, and elevate leaders. And we certainly don't do enough around dismantling unhealthy expressions of power in our faith communities.
When we don't talk about power, we don't acknowledge power's many faces. We don't observe if we aspire or acquiesce in spaces where power hangs out and is affirmed: in money, in institutions, relationships, in celebrity (and proximity to celebrity) in beauty and popularity. 
When we don't talk about power, we don't talk about the temptations found in a need or desire for control. 
We certainly don't talk enough about the seductive attraction of power and how it might seduce you. How it seeps into the fault lines of your own story offering a salve that seals and covers up, but never heals you. We won't talk about power and brokenness and the terrifying vulnerability it creates the way it corrupts and consumes.
If we don't talk about power, we won't talk about the dynamics that can emerge when human power meets hierarchy and faith. We don't talk about how power might be abused yet rationalized and protected in faith spaces. Audiences and algorithms begin to mean more than genuine accountability. Charisma and celebrity count more than everyday character. We don't talk about the way values like loyalty are twisted to minimize and silence (see my previous post Loyalty is not a fruit of the Spirit) how even values like honor can sometimes be weaponized to deflect and protect a leader or institution. If you question someone's conduct do you dishonor their gift and calling? Does our fear of dishonoring make us dishonest?If we don't normalize talking about power, how do we learn to talk about when we suspect or see abuses of power? The fear of gossiping and dishonor keeps us quiet and keeps abuse thriving in the shadows, tormenting the abused.
When there is no space for transparent conversations on how power can be abused, how will we learn to be transparent about power and our own leadership?
I'm still thinking on this, mid processing, with hopefully more thoughts and action to come. Until then, if like me you're thinking through the implications of power, perhaps you'll join me in praying these words:
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)
Copyright © 2023 Jo Saxton, All rights reserved.

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