Gentile Power in the Church

Seven things you can do to rein in an unbiblical reign in your congregation

You know how politicians push their position and wield their authority. So many exert their power at the expense of others. Often the favors they do are suspect; at times, even condescending. They lord it over others. They control and oppress. They're movers and shakers. They know hierarchy and how to (ab)use it. They're rulers, after all. Pecking order in the church: Chicken Power

Someone familiar with hens might be forgiven for calling that Chicken Power. Chickens are big on establishing and enforcing a pecking order, you know.

However, I call it Gentile Power. Like this:

"Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them" (Mark 10:42).

Jesus said this to His disciples because they were getting rather worked up with each other as they continued to try to figure out which of them would be greatest. They had a "Gentile" mindset about authority and position. They had a political distortion to their understanding of greatness.

Power. Authority. That's pretty heady stuff! Too often, those who have it want to preserve it, and those who don't have it want to acquire it. [Excerpted from a piece I must have written back in 1994.]

Is This Your Church?

Is your church infected and infested with that spirit? Are there those entrusted with leadership -- as church deacon or board president, for example -- who wield it as "the Gentiles exercise lordship"? Do they accumulate more of it?

If you answered "Yes," you fall into at least one of these categories:

What's to Be Done in the Face of Such Authoritarian Rule?

I offer you seven options as you consider your response to the authoritarianism in your church:

  1. Boldly and openly expose it.
  2. Drop generic, conceptual zingers against it into your public comments and prayers.
  3. Cautiously find out who else is concerned and build a coalition of the opposed.
  4. Try to dethrone it at election and ordination times.
  5. Pray for revival in the hearts of the practioners.
  6. Go talk redemptively in private with those you think exercise it.
  7. Repent of it, if you yourself are guilty of it or envious of it.

Let me be blunt. Options 1-4 are themselves manifestations of Gentile Power. Sure, a couple of them actually could have their place with the right Spirit, but that would be unusual.

Recently I advised a young church leader, "If others resort to political ways of doing things in the church, don't lower yourself to respond in kind."

The Answer Jesus Demonstrated

True greatness in the church: Jesus washing His disciples feet

I quoted Jesus at the beginning of this article. He wasn't done on that occasion:

But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:

And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.

For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

(Mark 10:43-45)

Back in March 2016, I wrote a lesson titled "A Model of Practical Greatness." Here are some excerpts:

Christ's chosen few had a recurring problem. Just before the triumphal entry several days earlier, James and John had made a move to have the Lord grant them the two honored places next to Him in His kingdom (Mark 10:35-45). When the other disciples learned of it, they were quite displeased. Not long before that, they all had argued about "who should be the greatest" (Mark 9:34). Now, this very evening during their supper, even after Jesus had told them that one of them would betray Him, "there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest" (Luke 22:24).

The Lord Jesus knew the state of their souls as well as their soles. He could see their dirty feet (and feel His own uncomfortable feet). He could hear the sound of their unclean spirits. Wordlessly, He rose from supper and the conversation that pained His heart. Going to the neglected water basin and towel, He silently chose the position His disciples considered the lowest.

On hands and knees, His own feet still dirty, Jesus washed and dried their feet. What an object lesson in humble service to counteract their prideful concern for position!

Peter had been watching and wondering. Something just wasn't right. Lords just don't do this type of thing!

What Jesus Wants to Do

Well, back to the problem in your church...

You have gone to talk redemptively with the practioners of Gentile Power. You have prayed for their repentance and revival. You have purged your own heart of a resistant, resentful attitude and of any inclination toward Gentile Power. But that person -- minister, chairman, whoever -- continues to use his position as license to exercise Gentile Power.

What are you supposed to do?!

Keep on praying. And be a servant. To him.

That's part of Jesus living His life in you:

"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).

Yes, I know Matthew 18 lays out additional steps to take after Option 6 above. Take them, if you haven't.

It's the Jesus life.

A seething, sniping, resistant, resentful existence is not.

Which is the life for you?

Choose well. You'll pay dearly for either one. But only one will reward you handsomely.

Now...what will I do? That's where the rubber meets the road, no? It's where our thinking and/or writing gets boiled and tested in the cauldron of real living.

* * * * *

We are called to have the mind of Christ!

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

(Philippians 2:3-11)

* * * * *

I close with an excerpt from "Jesus Teaches True Greatness," something I likely wrote in 2004:

Worldly greatness is about me. If my life reveals a focus on me, then it reveals a distraction from Jesus. I should listen for echoes from my own heart in the words of some of the disciples and in the reactions of others. "We would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire...Grant unto us that we...And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John" (Mark 10:35,37,41).

Please add your comments, perspective, and feedback! Do so in the comments section of my blog post promoting this article: Seven Things You Can Do to Cast Down Gentile Power in the Church. Thank you!

In case you think I'm some rebel or malcontent, I have more than passing experience with being in authority. I was principal at a church school for close to 15 years, pastor in a foreign mission church for somewhat over 3 years, and chairman of a church mission board for 20 years. I'm not boasting of some sort of pedigree, OK? Just providing a bit of life experience background for this article.

© Copyright 2017, Mark Roth

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