Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Power or Service?

After college I knew a guy who was a monk in the Catholic Church for a while. Ever bothered by the fact they do not allow women to be priests I asked him what the reasoning was. He told me that the priesthood was a position of service, not of power. I loved that! But then he said that a woman seeking priesthood was probably doing it for the power and not from a heart of service or she would just become a nun. (All my feminist friends just groaned in disgust).

I do not know if this is the Catholic Church’s official reasoning, so I won’t hold it against them, but I was very confused by whether or not he believed the priesthood was an act of service or a position of power. Now before all the Protestants reading this think “thank God we’re not like them” I’ll stop you and say, we are the same. Our pastors may get spouses instead of cool hats and robes to wear, but the same issues exist on our side too.

The majority of people who enter ministry do so with good intentions. I truly believe that most people who feel called, destined, led, whatever, into church ministry want to share what God has done in their lives and thereby help others. This desire to do “God’s work” is not the problem. The problem is when that work is no longer done in response to a hurting world. When the work someone does in the church (be they pastor or lay person) becomes about anything but helping those in need, it is only a matter of time before it becomes a problem.

Imagine with me for a moment someone who has a job they do in the church. Once upon a time they did that job because it was something that needed done and they volunteered. However, now they’ve been doing it so long that God forbid anyone come in and do it differently or try to steal that position. Or consider a person who has substantial wealth and gives faithfully to his church. He began giving money as a way to help the ministry but now uses it to make sure everyone knows his opinion about how things should be done is the only one that counts. Or the pastor who was once eager to learn how to lead, is now convinced that he has it all figured out and anyone who questions him should move out of the way.

Crazy, right? It is crazy, but sadly, extremely common. Serving has turned into self-serving. Acts that were once done to draw people to Christ have become ways to attain self-importance. The people in these scenarios forgot that The Church is not about me, it’s about them.

Am I saying that people should not continue to serve in one position for fear they will abuse it? Certainly not, we all have gifts and we should use them. However, I do think it illustrates the need for accountability for everyone involved in the life of a ministry. Church should be a place of conversation, where lives are shared and people find acceptance and belonging. 

But, when a person holds on too tightly to their “position”, conversation stops, egos run rampant, people get bulldozed and the church becomes 


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