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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

You don’t know the power of the Dark Side

Written by: on February 7, 2019

I’ll never forget the comment made by the Youth Minister that was teaching myself and a room full of Bible majors during a 3 day seminar: “I have been at the church so long that the elders don’t have the guts to tell me what I can and cannot do; well, that is not entirely true…there is one that always insist on being a thorn in my flesh.” I was appalled! I was raised as a PK with a strong respect instilled in me for the eldership of a church; and yet, here teaching me, was some man that obviously had no understanding of the concept. In fact, for three days I had to suffer through his sanctimonious-better-than-thouattitude as he tried to impress us with his ministry. The fact was though…I had absolutely no respect for him after that first introductory comment.

Though the fact is that I am a geek by nature, and the very fact that this week’s reading had a reference to “The Dark Side,” I was pretty sure it was not the latest addition to the Star Wars Saga. However, I was also immediately intrigued by the fact that we can so often make the parallel between the Dark Side and Church leaders…including ministers. One of the comments that I have often used with my own church family has been; “Sheep I understand…but some of these shepherds are really starting to anger me.” I am not sure that any of us can ever dodge that inevitable run in with an overly arrogant or pompous leader; sadly, I have met more than a few.

So how do you overcome this problem? More importantly, how do we as leaders, prevent from falling from the lure of…as the book put it… “the psychology of power[1]?”

The answer to this in “The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership,” is to go after the institutions that are misrepresenting the allure of power itself. Take for example Tourish’s reference to bankers: “They have come to symbolize much that is wrong with leadership and the paradoxes of our attitudes to it[2].” Abraham Lincoln was quoted as saying, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power[3].” Christopher Shea wrote in his article in Smithsonian Magazine, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely[4].” Do those with the power tend to corrupt those who they have influence over? Or perhaps the problem is that those who are intended to pass on power to others, have failed to pass it on properly.

Right upon graduating with my BA in Bible and Youth Ministry, I had a conversation with a few other Youth Minister graduates; we were all a little confused; you see, even though we had this really cool diploma, we had no idea what to expect when the ministry actually started. We had no training of leadership practices; how to teach others; or even how to no manipulate the power that was given to you. We were taught a lot of bible and even a little psychology, but still…no leadership training. As I stood there, nervous and unsure, about to walk into my first eldership interview as a potential youth minister, one of the women from the church pulled me off to the side and said, “One is a push over…he’ll give you anything you ask for; one is fair but stern, so just make sure you have good reasoning, and he’ll give you anything you ask for; and the last one, he is hard core…he will probably never give you what you ask for. Good luck.” What the heck was I supposed to do with that?! Well, I learned how to manipulate the system really early on…that’s what I did with that. However, I am not sure that this was the lesson I was meant to learn early on. Fortunately, the words found in James 3:1 started to guide me, rather than the influence of information passed on to me:

“My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.”

This verse slapped reality back in to me: rather than power being something to swim in, it became something to respect and fear at the same time. We need to “rebalance the notion of ‘leadership’ and that of ‘followership[5].’” It was the reality check I needed to remind me that when my leadership is founded in Christianity, I may have a role of leader, but ultimately, I am just another follower of Jesus Christ. If I lead the flock that was entrusted to me off of a cliff; then I am held accountable for that flock. Even today, the foundation of my ministry is one of accountability for the gospel that I preach. Paul warned Timothy that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers…[6]

So how does all of this interact with my dissertation? My dissertation is encouraging leaders to re-evaluate the importance that they place on the role that water-baptism serves throughout scripture; and thus, should serve throughout modern-day ministries. It is that desire to show that sometimes it is far to easy as ministers to become teachers of accommodation rather than the teachers of scripture that we are supposed to be. However, it is not just the topic of baptism; I believe there are so many lessons that as leaders, we should always search our hearts and motives to see what we are truly hoping to accomplish in the role that has been entrusted to us. If we are only in this for the money…well, we probably picked the wrong profession. If we are in this for the next book deal…look on the bookstore shelves and ask if we are going to really be the next big thing; but then remember that this ministry was never supposed to be about our words; but rather those of Jesus Christ.

I wish leadership programs taught more on leadership: I really do. Perhaps more lessons on ethics, personal integrity and biblical integrity would help us to be those that God has truly called to the ministry. So with that thought, I close with this quote by Leo F. Buscaglia:

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring; all of which have the potential to turn a life around[7].”

 

 

 

Bibliography

Goodreads.com.2019. https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/power (accessed February 7, 2019).

Shea, Christopher. Smithsonian.com.October 2012. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/why-power-corrupts-37165345/ (accessed February 7, 2019).

Tourish, Dennis. The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A Critical Perspective.London: Routledge, 2013.

 

 

[1]Tourish, Dennis. The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A Critical Perspective.London: Routledge, 2013.Pg 8.

[2]Ibid, p 5.

[3]Goodreads.com.2019. https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/power (accessed February 7, 2019).

[4]Shea, Christopher. Smithsonian.com.October 2012. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/why-power-corrupts-37165345/ (accessed February 7, 2019).

[5]Tourish, Dennis. Pg 8.

[6]2 Timothy 4:3.

[7]Goodreads.com.2019. https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/power (accessed February 7, 2019).

About the Author

Shawn Hart

8 responses to “You don’t know the power of the Dark Side”

  1. mm M Webb says:

    Shawn,
    Did you read past page 8 in Tourish? If not, believe me it is OK. I struggled to give it a fair review but persevered and really searched for anything redeeming, but in the end, found nothing to undue all the damage the author did. While I agree that many leaders fall prey to spiritual warfare schemes of the devil and thus pervert whatever model they subscribe to I just did not feel that Toursih did anything to help matters. His intent was not on improving leadership but just burn it down for the old power model.
    Take courage, we know the ending and this fight that has already been won on the Cross of Christ.
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Mike, I am happy to report that I did manage to suffer through much more of the text beyond page 8. However, I did not intend for my post to sound super supportive of the text itself, but rather to say that I did appreciate the light that should always be shown on leadership in general. I feel as though we have become a “fast-food” society in so many ways and choosing leaders is one of them. We do not always choose the best person for the job, but rather the most popular or sweet spoken.

      We were discussing in one of our bible classes the way the Israelites settled upon Saul as their first king; it had nothing to do with actual qualifications, but rather, he was the tallest and best looking of the people. Is it really any wonder he was such a disappointment.

      The point should really be made in regard to churches; the kind of leadership should not just be a popularity contest, but truly one of qualification.

  2. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Shawn,

    Glad you connected this reading to your dissertation work. Well done.

    Also, I was hoping you would reference the Star Wars movie, and I smiled when you did.

  3. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Shawn,

    Your opening story demonstrates that the dangers of leadership are not limited to those in positions of senior leadership. Tourish provides examples but they are all of the extreme nature. Your story indicates that narcissism is something that all of us have to battle, particularly those in leadership. If only that young man had been willing to hear constructive criticism and be humble enough to encourage accountability partners. I hope you and I are willing to learn from his arrogance and not fall into the same trap.

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Dan, what are you talking about…I’m perfect! LOL…NOT!!! My sermon this morning actually discussed that we should all never forget that we are works always under construction. I am actually thankful that I have seen the bad leadership that I have encountered, because it makes me paranoid of repeating those mistakes.

  4. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Great job Shawn. I like your challenge to focus more on character development. even the best colleges seems to be at the most 85% content and 15 personal character development.

    I think the major barrier for this is that character cant be taught, it can only be grown and modeled.

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Character Growth and Modeling 101. Now that’s a course I’d be willing to take. We can combine it with a Biblical Ethics and Integrity 311.

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