How Can Christians Use Power for Good?


Christians are called to use their power to impress Christ on those around us. But I want to be careful not to hang the millstone of "changing the world" around your neck. Yes, we are responsible to make an impact where we live, work, and play. But that is quite different from changing the world.

Andy Crouch defined cultural power as "the ability to successfully propose a new cultural good."[1] A cultural good is something concrete, a tangible artifact, whether a book, a tool, or a building. But an artifact is more than a fork found in an archeological dig. It can also be a mass-produced, inexpensive object that reflects the contemporary culture, such as a mobile phone. The mobile phone has affected how we do business, relate to others, pay our bills, drive our cars, manage our families, and even where we live. As Christian leaders, we must recognize that much of what we hold sacred—modes of evangelism, preaching styles, Christian music, even the gospel itself—are cultural artifacts. All reflect the consumer culture in which we live. There is one thing more serious than the gospel's being a cultural artifact; it is that the Christian is a cultural artifact—inexpensive, common, and mass-produced. Christians have always found it difficult to speak of their own power. We talk about God's power working through us, the baseline for all work that is to be done in his name. No doubt the early church and any church since have best been able to find new followers through miracles and acts of power. This is the dominant theme in the first half of the book of Acts. Virtually every major address given in Acts was a result of a miracle or a conflict that was created by miracles. It is a shame how the church via the media has cheapened "signs and wonders." The general perception is that miracles are the private property of the carnival that is Christian television.

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However, a different kind of power can be used for good: personal power. Any person who is recognized for his or her achievements has personal power. For example, judges who are followers of Christ have power in a community. Their character is crucial to the integrity of their work, but when they decide in their non judicial life to speak for Christ, they likely have more influence with colleagues than they would if they were, for example, plumbers.

Even though there is deep suspicion in churches regarding power, Christians are called to be stewards of their power. In fact, this is a crucial piece of God's plan for reaching our world. We are to use our personal power to influence those around us in our everyday lives. This is why Christian athletes are important to those they influence. The youth of a community or a nation are deeply impressed by the famous. Few people are as recognizable as athletes. When athletes are willing to use their platform for Christ, it makes a difference.

But a Christian doesn't have to be famous to influence others for Christ. A coffee shop owner has the power to create an environment, to sponsor events, to employ certain kinds of people in a way that influences the community for Christ. The stay-at-home mom with school children has ongoing influence among the families that are connected to the schools, children's athletic teams, and social life that surrounds her. We should make it a matter of ongoing prayer and effort to learn how to leverage our power to help people find the Christ who will transform them and to make a dent in the world.

NOTES: [1] For this citation, see note 19 in Chapter 3 of The Christian Leader by Bill Hull. Copyright © 2016 by Robert W. Hull from which this excerpt was taken. Used by permission of Zondervan.