As our organization moves through the research process, many of our members are thinking about and dissecting the power dynamics in our area. They are even considering how much power we have to make systemic change in the areas of youth unemployment and homelessness. Kendall Clark Barker, pastor emeritus of First Congregation UCC in San Bernardino, CA says this about the power of churches:
As with every good gift, power can be abused or squandered through human sin. But even a cursory exploration of the New Testament reveals that virtually every reference to power is positive. The gospel is “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16). Christ is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24).
Community organizing also speaks openly and positively about power. How real power is often hidden. How power – our own, as well as that entrusted to public officials – must be held accountable. How there are two kinds of power: organized money and organized people. It was clear which of these was more accessible to our congregation as we became powerful people of faith and more effective in our ministry and mission.
Pastor Baker says there is a hidden power embedded within our faith communities and specifically in our congregations’ justice ministry networks. They empower and build us up individually but also collectively as an organization with the intent of building a powerful sense of community. Since 2007, our justice ministries have used their power of relationships within our congregations to remind them of the call to do justice, to seriously consider the injustices in our community and to reflect on the great strides our justice ministries have achieved. Harnessing that power allows us to change the power dynamics and the status quo of how decisions are being made. It may feel uncomfortable and daunting at times, but as people of faith we possess the Armor of God:
Ephesians 6:10-13 ESV
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
As people of faith we must put on the Armor of God that not only gives us power but the ability to withstand the negative powers of this world. Standing together at our Nehemiah Actions allows us put on the armor of God as an organization, to show that we are powerful people of God that will “withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand firm.” It will give us the confidence and assurance that God is with us in our communities and it allows us to stand proudly for our community. We must always remember that “God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control”, 2 Timothy 1:7.
Check out the whole article: CHURCH POWER! By Kendall Clark Baker, Sojourners, January 2013