Tag Archives: faith

The Spiritual Danger of Having Power

Reading recently about the Mark Driscoll situation at Mars Hill Church as well as seeing the ongoing falling and failings of other spiritual leaders, I thought it time to become a part of the conversation.

Let me first start with stating I don’t condone ungodly or hurtful behavior from anyone toward anyone. With that being said, I don’t think it is time to move from mere condemning of the problems to seeking solutions. For the past decade I wrestled with the question of why so many in spiritual positions of authority and leadership were falling to reprehensible behavior in their lives. I often heard that they were human, just like you and I. Although true, I also knew that even humans (of faith) like you and I are called not to live this way. In addition when becoming a spiritual leader myself, I took to heart the truth that those who lead would be judged more strictly.

I discovered something else while becoming a spiritual leader that lead me to my doctoral research on how one’s status can influence their behavior. I my time as a leader in ministry, sports, education, and business, I have noticed three things: 1) Many leaders do not live and behave in the way they expect their followers to live. 2) People can drastically change when they became leaders. 3) Followers can be guilty of treated leaders differently than their fellow followers.

1. People in Power Behave Differently

When leaders get a hold of too much power and status, their behaviors begin to change. Research shows that the more power people get the more their behavior differs from those without power. Power is said to set off behavioral systems in people which moves them to pursue their desires and wants more than others with little fear of consequences. When power is high, people are more driven by what they can get rather than the consequences of their pursuits. I’ve seen leaders who made unwise decision even when warned by others.  I’ve seen leaders who put themselves in situations that most would not, simply because they thought that could handle it. Lastly, I’ve seen leaders who justify their actions and are blinded to their implications of their actions on others. Power can change the way a leader sees the world.

2. People  Can Change When They Get Power

Power and status seems to be the drug of choice in most churches, and business organizations. I have often experienced good people become elevated to roles of authority and suddenly become totally different people. Having others look up to you and admire you can be an intoxicating feeling and experience. It can and has changed people’s leadership to where they start leading for the feeling of being admired instead of the need for making hard choices and doing the right thing. Because of the addicting influence of being elevated in the hearts of others, many spiritual leaders (and leaders in general) have unknowingly become slaves to appeasing their followers in exchange of their approval and support. This is a dangerous trap that most spiritual leaders can’t seem to find their way out of.

3) Followers Can Worship Their Leaders

Many followers are not aware that they can actually fall into idol worship of those in spiritual positions of power.  Research again shows that the more we admire a person, the more we are to champion their behavior and ideas, and the more  likely we are to defend and justify their actions and behaviors. This is a dangerous recipe for wrong worship. Followers can be just as much the reason leaders fall as leaders the reason followers are manipulated or deceived.

I am convinced that many of the ungodly behaviors that happen among the spiritual leaders of our congregations are greatly influenced by the status and power they have. What many of us fail to realize is that only God can handle worship from man; man cannot. To prevent and avoid the damaging behavior among leaders we must become aware of the power of worship and it’s impact on our behavior. There is a real danger in having too much power; it can create an atmosphere that makes moral failings among those who lead and follow an inevitably sad reality among most churches.

In my latest book on Worship (spoiler alert: it’s not about music, it’s actually about worship), I bring a much-needed awareness to how easy it can be for us to worship any and everything except God. I am giving my book away free this weekend as a part of my writing on this issue today.

None of the Above

Free Download here:

None of the Above: The Power & Pitfalls of Worship http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00F1QVI2C/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_awdm_G6ffub1TWCMPC

It’s Reality…Not TV

Is it just me? Am I the only one watching this stuff today and saying, “uh…is this the world we live in?” Never growing up in the 80’s could I have imagined the world we live in today. Technologies I only saw on the Jetsons cartoon makes my boys today seem like Elroy (just YouTube the Jetsons…or better yet just ask Siri, google).

Are most cartoonist or movie makers prophets cloaking themselves behind the camera? Or are they promoters and evangelists of things they desire to become realities to us all? Either way, they are either seeing, creating, or influencing the futures we are discovering. I mean, how many times can we be told about the future in movies or shows and still seem oblivious to what’s happening as these futures slowly become our realities.

Here me out…I’m not fatalistic in the sense that I think we don’t have the free will to be different. However, societies become what the majorities eventually accept as normal. A great example is America’s first ever African American President. America was able to select an African American president in part because the idea had already been normalized in the American psyche several years prior. Just go back and look at the number of movies and TV shows that began to have African American presidents years prior to President Obama being chosen as President. So subconsciously society was being predisposed to the radical idea of a back man in office.

After numerous movies and shows displaying a black man or woman in the power position of Commander and Chief, I knew it was only a matter of time before such an idea was no longer radical, but a reality. While I am appreciative of such an experience being normalized in our social consciousness and birthed into our social experience, I am equally unappreciative of many of the other ideas being placed into our psyche that are manifesting themselves into our present and future realities.

We are seeing a world numb to war, disease, “natural” disaster, sex trafficking, killing, hypocrisy, corruption, and the list goes on. We enjoy entertainment today that defame our highest leaders (often even killing them), that promote sex scandals, admire serial murderers, belittle women, and encourage foolishness and rebellion from our children.

We can only fight againts something we view as wrong for so long, until right and wrong is lost. It is then replaced with what’s normal. What I mean by normal is the fight between right and wrong. Eventually what was once seen as right and wrong becoming merely seen as two opinions or views of what is right. Eventually the things many have believed to be wrong for so long (regardless of your perspective on it), goes through an evolution of being wrong, not as wrong, kind of wrong, kind of common, common, kind of normal, normal, kind of accepted, accepted, kind of right, and then right.

You see normalcy is the result of a combination of intensity and repetition over time. Something that was once viewed as wrong has to become normal before it can become viewed as right. The biggest way this happens today is through the things we repeated take into our human experience for music, to video games, and definitely through movies and TV shows.

The things our parents and grandparents once knew as right are not the norms of our day. In fact it’s quite fascinating how much of a shift has taken place in what’s accepted today then 15, 30, or 50yrs ago. Now don’t get me wrong; there were indeed some evils in the world during that time that needed to change. However, unlike then…today we publicize, retweet, and recreate TV shows from our evils.

So what’s the big problem?

What am I even saying?

What I’m saying is this…today TV shows, news media, and movies are no longer alternatives our conveyors of our realities; they are the creators of our realities. If they are not giving a platform to the evils of our world today, they are sowing the seeds of the evils of our world tomorrow.

The truth known by many powerful people is the scientific reality that our brains and hearts do not have a differentiating mechanism to distinguish between something we see is on TV or if it’s happening right in front of us in real life. This is why food, cars, video games, and just about any commercial for that matter, that’s geared toward men have half naked women or sexually suggestive women in them. They want you to get an emotional connection to their product. So when you are hungry, ready to buy a car, or deciding what TV show or movie you are going to watch you will more than likely be inclined to choose those in which you have developed and unconscious emotional connection with. You don’t have to believe me; do your own research. This is why sex sales, because people are emotionally drawn to sex.

This is also how we are becoming

Thus because we’ve seen such horror, scandals, dehumanization of others, and the romanticism of sexually explicit experiences placed before our eyes in such intense and creative ways, we are birthing such things into our realities and into the realities of our children.

However, because we are told it’s only entertainment we become desensitized to the realities we see around us that mirror our video games, movies, and music. In other words, we are becoming a world of intense feelings and radical thoughts, of which we are ignorant of their origins and thus do nothing about their emergence into our world.

I’m not even sure if I understand what I just described.

The point I’m trying to make is this…reality today is TV and TV today is reality. If this is true, should we be concerned to the point of taking action? Or should we just keep calm, carry on, and continue to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show?

As with our numerous channels, packages, and show times….

….the choice is yours.

What’s on your Mind? How to Avoid Leadership Groupthink

I Hate those Meetings…

I hate meetings where no one is really saying what’s on their mind. I have seen many just flat out stupid plans proposed by leaders receive unanimous support from other “leaders”. I have also seen those who actually shared what they were thinking about the plan receive the black sheep death stare or worse the ostracized death sentence. This is often times the result of a toxic organizational culture of groupthink that permeates many organizations today.

A Culture of Mind Control

The culture of group think comes from a lack of power balance (true empowerment) within an organization. When such an imbalance occurs, people who are power holders experience leading mostly in a world of all green lights from their people. They often face little or no resistance from others on their ideas, opinions, or decisions. This makes it extremely easy for those in power to begin to believe their own hype. The toxicity of groupthink does one of two things to group members; for one group of people it intoxicates (the aroma of life) and for another group of individuals it suffocates (the stench of death). Let me explain.

Groupthink Intoxication

    The intoxicated ones are those who are heavily influence by the power of those who are power holders. They desire acceptance from those individuals and fear rejection or a lack of acceptance from them because of the status or power they hold. Listen, power or status influence creates high degrees of admiration in such a way that the intoxicated ones fight to champion and preserve the thoughts and actions of those in power. When you are intoxicated, your thoughts are no longer your thoughts, but an extension of the thoughts of those in power. So not only do you support the bad ideas, you also oppose those who speak up against such ideas. Thus I have come to realize that intoxicated leaders or team members are actually saying what’s on their minds;  the problem is, what’s on their minds is usually whatever the person in power has (directly or indirectly) placed there.

Groupthink Suffocation

    The suffocated ones, on the other hand find themselves in an organizational twilight zone. They know they are seeing supposedly very smart people continue to make very stupid decisions. They feel trapped; not being able to say what they are really thinking because of the overwhelming backlash that usually comes from their questions, points of concern or opposing ideas. When toxicity levels reach a breaking point, the suffocated ones snap and act out of character. They can’t take it anymore and usually they just say whatever is on their mind, at this point however, it is said with no filters what so ever.  This lashing out or out of character response in the moment comes from built up emotions that can no longer be contained. Unfortunately, this type of behavior only reinforces groupthink by devaluing or eliminating those who think differently and justifying it due to their out of character behavior.

To avoid intoxicated and suffocated minds in an organization, leaders must become intentional about the following practices:

1. Create a culture of empowerment: 
True empowerment involves power holders actually giving some of their power to others, thus lessening their own direct influence and increasing the influence of others.

2.Create a culture of high level dialogue: 
Encourage and challenge people to come prepared to add something of value to the conversation. This helps team members focus on developing their own thoughts and ideas.

3. Ask open-ended questions: 
This prevents from directly or indirectly placing thoughts into the minds of those who are easily intoxicated by influential leaders. When no responses come, this tells you they are merely waiting to be told what to think. Don’t take the bait!

4. Use your independent thinkers as pulse checkers: 
When their frustration levels are increasing, it is probably because people in the room have stopped thinking (for themselves especially). Acknowledge their value and ask them if they think things are heading in the right direction.

When the culture isn’t toxic, organizational leaders will began to truly experience the value of saying to their team, “Tell me what’s on your mind.”