Monday, June 10, 2013

Leadership, Celebrity, and Power in light of Philippians 2:6-11

This is the first official synchroblog of "The Despised Ones", a new blogging collective.  You can read my initial thoughts on being a"despised one" here and here.

This month, we're blogging on Philippians 2:5-11:

5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,  6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,  7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,  8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-- even death on a cross.  9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,  10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.   

There are two instances of celebrity and power that immediately came to mind when I saw the topic.

I remember one time, I attended a church in which many of the people I knew were often talking about what "Pastor" said.  "Pastor said this" or "Pastor said that".  At times, it seemed as if people spoke more about "Pastor" and with more reverence than they did about Jesus.  That was my first experience with Christian "celebrity".  One day recently, I was curious about this church I'd attended years ago, because I knew it had grown numerically over the years.  When I looked at the website, something that struck me was that there seemed to be a wall preventing communication.  The e-mail addresses given for connecting with the church were generic and there was no way to know where they would end up.  There was no way to contact the pastor.  It gave me the impression of bodyguards, of a person too busy to be concerned with every communication request.  

At another time in my life, I had a job in which I had two co-workers (we'll call them CoWorkerA and CoWorkerB, because I'm trying to protect identities, and because I'm so creative with pseudonyms).  Together, the three of us, all part-time employees that didn't even add up to 40 hours per week, were responsible for our department.  And nobody was in charge.  It was deliberately set up that way, because those higher up in the hierarchy couldn't really fathom a part-time person being in charge, so, we were told, "just figure it out together" (Plus, to make it more confusing, each of us were paid from different entities).  Ideally, in a Christian atmosphere, this should work.  We should be able to work together, communicate well, and get along.  But, the problem is, we're all still sinners.  And two of the three of us definitely had our battles.  I had ideas.  I had plans.  I had already worked there for a year, and I thought I should be the one in charge.  CoWorkerB was a recent college graduate, and didn't have any desire to be in charge.  But CoWorkerA did have the desire.  CoWorkerA also had a certain number of years of experience, an advanced degree, and ordination.  CoWorkerA also had an outgoing and friendly--and possibly even overbearing--personality.  His presence, in a way, automatically exuded power and celebrity.  He and I were opposites in many ways.  

Soon after we began working together, I created a small poster to put up on the wall to remind myself how I wanted to act in this situation.  It's the verses that come just before today's verses about power:

Philippians 2:3-4   3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

I needed to remember this, because the small sense of power and control that I felt I had was being threatened, and I wanted to learn how to not need to be in control for my own benefit, but I also didn't want to let CoWorkerA walk all over me, either, and let him have all of the power by default just because his personality seemed to demand it.  It was a difficult line to walk.

In all of these examples, there are different types of leadership, celebrity, and power.  Some of it, such as being unreachable or being a more extroverted person, is more obvious and gives the impression of a celebrity pastor.  Some of it, such as my own, is not obvious, because it was internal.  

But we all have some type of power.

We need to be aware of the type of power we each have, whether it is economic, political, through parenting, through any individual choices we make, and when we demand others to look at and consider the power they have, we must also demand ourselves to do the same, because there are situations in each of our lives where we can all be humbled, where we can all think of others as better than ourselves, where we can freely give up our power for the benefit of all.  

The only question is, will we do it?

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