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Community Power Analysis

Community Power Analysis

Emmanuel Lutheran Church Yola, is one of the Lutheran churches in northern Nigeria Adamawa State. I worship with Emmanuel Lutheran church and have the opportunity to converse with the church secretary on power and the potential abuse of power. His response is as follows:

Power, in my opinion, is the capacity one possesses to have an impact on the choices or lives of others. This authority may be granted to people temporarily or permanently by God, through laws, doctrine, custom, or another means.

The likelihood of a member of a religion group abusing their position of authority is mostly brought on by:

1.  Selfishness: when someone uses their position of authority for their own selfish interests or personal gain as opposed to acting in the best interests of others. For instance, the pastor makes the majority of financial decisions and leans in that direction. Even the mother church designates the last Sunday of the month after the payment of salary as her sacrifice.

2.  The majority of power-abusing stakeholders arm themselves with the intention of taking control or dominating others. Because they have power over the elders and may thus influence the council, I have noticed that the majority of rich members of the church always want their ideas to be heard at council sessions. Additionally, the pastor will occasionally reject what he knows to be correct in an effort to assert his authority.

My Response/experience in the church

All forms of leadership include the use of power. The phrase “abuse of power” refers to the misuse and unscrupulous use of authority. When someone in a position of authority behaves in a way that cannot be rationalized in the context of reality or morality (goodness, empathy, equity, or compliance), the exercise of power turns into an abuse of power.

Most abuse of power in the church as rightly observed in our conversation above, stems from the desire to:

  •  Control: The desire of pastors to always remain the supreme authority in the church is seen in the majority of congregations, not only the Emmanuel Lutheran Church. As a result, they utilize the scripture and their vocation to exert control over their flock by imposing harmfully severe religious rules and practices and shunning or excluding anyone who does not adhere to these standards.
  • Self-satisfaction: Pastors, lay leaders, and other powerful members of the church frequently want satisfaction; the wealthy give larger gifts in order to be acknowledged as the foundational members of the church. Pastors and lay-leaders embezzled church funds in the name of projects.
  • Manipulate: The Bible is being used by pastors to enslave their flock. For instance, one pastor (not in the Emmanuel Lutheran Church) asks that his followers who want to be successful in business lick his feet. Another preacher pushed pregnant ladies to sleep with him so that God would open their wombs.
  • Take advantage of: Many affluent church members, officials, or pastors take advantage of others who are less fortunate by contributing to the church. Due to his exploitation of certain church widows in sex relationships, one of the pastors in this congregation has to be transferred.

These and many more are possible abuse of power that is seen in most religious institutions including Emmanuel Lutheran Church.

The following are some unhealthy behaviors or attitudes that might encourage the misuse of power in the church:

  1. Prioritizing Church Reputation: Pastors, ministers, and other church officials frequently place the church’s prestige over the security and wellbeing of its people.
  2. A double standard approach: In this circumstance, a leader separates people covertly while pleading for togetherness in public. The majority of religious leaders use the hypocritical tactic of “divide and conquer,” which divides their followers into groups based on their ethnicity or tribal connection, to maintain control over their members.
  3. Lack of transparency in decision-making: When there is a lack of transparency, especially in the church’s financial operations, there is a tendency for distrust or abuse of power.
  4. Emphasizing Laws: Pastors and other clergy members frequently influence their members by instilling feelings of guilt or dread, either to make them feel guilty and unworthy of God’s forgiveness or to make them believe that their sins are to blame for their misfortune.
  5. Believing that loyalty only flows in one direction—toward the leader: If a leader, pastor, or minister has a tendency to focus devotion only on themselves, it is a red sign (a possibility for abuse of power).
  6. Prosperity driven: An overwhelming emphasis on tithes and financial gain might result in the “entitlement gospel,” as Dr. Gibson refers to the use of scripture to exploit and manipulate members and congregation.
  7. Discrimination: Discriminating against particular groups (on the basis of gender, color, age, etc.) might encourage the misuse of power. We are commanded to reverently love God and our neighbors as ourselves.[1]
  8. When a church’s leadership is unable to be held accountable for their decisions, abuse of power is conceivable.
  9. Horrific kind of leadership: This is a typical mindset in the church, where the pastor or minister fosters an atmosphere where his/her flock is excessively anxious about speaking the “wrong” things about the leadership.
  10. Project-minded: An indication of the misuse of power in the congregation is when there is an unhealthy emphasis on church expansion (more activities) at the expense of spiritual growth (rest and meditation). Brueggemann contend that; “God and God’s people in the world are not commodities to be dispatched for endless production…”[2]

By: Martin H. Kamaidan

[1] Walter Brueggemann, Sabbath as resistances: Saying No to the Culture of Now (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2017), 22.

[2] Ibid. 6.