At the inauguration of our president, one could glimpse the importance of power in this world. A stage filled with people acquiring power, losing power, seeking power, hoping to gain access to power, and those wishing to demonstrate their power. The presidential inauguration made visible the power of “power.”
One simply has to reflect over the centuries of Church and Christian history to see how power has shaped the landscape of the Church, culture, tradition, practice, and even nations. In what way were our denominations and distinctions crafted from equal amounts of theological differences and power struggles? How many councils, commissions, confessions, and catechisms arose from issues of worldly power masked in theology? How much bigotry and bloodshed resulted from a Church consumed with earthly power? In some ways, the desire for power had at least an equal shaping effect on the Church as did the theology of the time.
The question arises, how should we think about, understand and wield power? In other words, what does Christian power look like? Authors Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel confront this question squarely in their new book The Way of the Dragon or the Way of Lamb.
“Power is the capacity to affect reality. We human beings have the capacity to physically, emotionally, and spiritually influence the world around us. God has given us this capacity for good—to glorify him and bless the world.”
Kyle and Jamin share their personal stories, confronting their misshaped desires and misuses of power.
They ask, “What happens if the church rejects the power of Christ? What happens when Christians embody a worldly approach to power and try to use that to advance Christ’s kingdom? What happens when believers live their lives according to a power that is antagonistic to Christ?”
Through a series of interviews with great sages of the Christian faith and life, Jamin and Kyle seek to answer these questions, and together we the readers deeply ponder power in the church, in ministry, and most importantly, and in our hearts.
J.I. Packer shares about weakness being the way and the danger of churches seeking pastors with “powerful” abilities and platforms.
James Houston shares about the risk of Christians pursuing “achieved identities” over and against our God-given identities.
Marva Dawn explores the abuse of power that pits the power of personality against the Gospel.
Eugene Peterson expounds on misshaped definitions of pastoral success.
Dallas Willard shares the dangers of seeking great things for ourselves.
And on and on it goes as the authors explore the misshaped, misguided, misaligned, and the misappropriated use of power in our world, in our churches, and in our heart.
But too, the beautiful examples of sacrifice and struggle in the face of power: racism and John Perkins, the communities of L’Arche with Jean Vanier.
Kyle and Jamin have recorded for history wise and insightful thoughts on power from some of the sages of our day. Kyle and Jamin help us arrive at the place where the road of power must diverge; the “way from above” and the “way from below.”
“The way from above is power from God. The way from above is embracing God’s power and depending upon him…embracing God’s power involves embracing our own weakness and abiding in Christ…”
“Conversely, the way from below is a rejection of God’s power and a dependence upon ourselves in sinful autonomy. The way from below rejects abiding in God in favor of our own willpower, turning to the power of the self to make a difference in the world.”
“The way from above is power from God and power for God; it is a power known in our weakness and expressed in love. The other way of power, the way from below, seeks power from within and pursues power as an end in itself. “
Jamin and Kyle remind us that “…our first inclination should not be to identify the problem of power as somewhere ‘out there,’ but as ‘in here,’ within our own hearts.” The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb is a gift to every follower of Jesus who seeks to do this, especially those of us who wrestle with our desire for and use of power.
It is dangerous when leaders endeavor to lead in ways that God never intended for us. Too many leaders do that which they were never called to do in search of success or admiration they were never meant to have. Whom a leader accepts their authority and power from and why they accept it is just as important as what they do with it.
In the pursuit of serving Christ, let us never succumb to the temptation to be more than “Christ-like.”
And to the pantheon of world’s leadership gods–power, praise, prestige, perfectionism, pace, and position– let us be atheists.
Let us leaders, in our churches, in our ministries, in our communities, in our families, and in our hearts, choose the way of the lamb and cast out the way of the dragon. This book is a wise and passionate call to do just that.