POWER PLAYS & A Leadership Exercise to Uncover When Influence is Abused (& what to do)

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 10/6/15.

An important exercise for leaders is to reflect and address abuse of influence by others … and by ourselves.  Here is the leadership exercise I use with my students and which is suited to be utilized with leadership teams:

1)  To delve into the difficult even sometimes shadowy, but always critical area of the “abuse of influence” the leadership exercise begins with rereading  two pages from Wayne Schmidt’s Power Plays: Overcome the Need for Control and Learn to Live with Strength and Integrity (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2006, pp. 155-156).

2) Then take 10 minutes of quiet reflection in prayer.  Spend this time communing with God, asking Him to show you how this lesson from your textbook relates to you and your ministry.

3)  Then write down in one paragraph your thoughts.

4)  Finally, share with your team (or classmates) what you can.  Don’t divulge anything that might be too personal.  But, share what God has taught you about your own abuse of influence.  Write a paragraph or two.

I’ll start.

I have to admit that abuse of influence is a difficult area to address, for in my early years of ministry I succumbed to it without realizing it.  I often saw naysayers as a hindrance that must be confronted and if not compliant, be encouraged to go elsewhere.  I did not see them as God-given mediators, that might help broaden my vision.  Rather, it was the people who caught my vision who I wanted to join me, and it seemed a waste of time (as Schmidt says on p. 156) to “move people who are negative about the church to a position of neutrality and people who are neutral about the church to a place of positive contribution.”  It just seemed too much effort and too slow, and besides I was leading a young church plant and we had plenty of new attendees always joining our church.  A loss of a few was no great loss.  At that same time I began to be asked to conduct church growth consulting for churches due to my doctoral work at Fuller Seminary.  As I consulted for churches, I suddenly was exposed to the other side of the issue.  I consulted for many aging churches, and here I met dear senior saints who the world, and often their pastor, had left behind in the name of progress.  I conducted focus groups with all people at the church, and I heard story after story of how their long-years of sacrifice and commitment were now called into question because they were of a different generation (i.e. culture).  I began to realize that I had not worked with the people God had sent me in the past, but often dismissed them because they did not resonate culturally with my strategies.  Rather, I began to see in my consulting practice that my lack of compromise on methodology (still I never compromised on theology) was an abuse of influence.  To right this wrong has been my mission since.  My books have focused upon the research that shows that churches grow best (Dyke and Starke, 1999, pp. 800-803), not when they have what Schmidt calls “body counts” (2000, p. 156), but when the Body of Christ grows together in unity (Acts 2:44).

So, how about you?  What did God show you during your quiet time?

Yet, if this is too personal of a question, here is an out.  As an alternative question answer the following from Power Plays (p. 156):  Is “a high body count … a sign of healthy change or a symptom of the abuse of power?”