Power: Our One Great Need

Brad Powell: God’s power is the common and non-negotiable need if you are to lead a church of any size.

Question: Knowing that you’ve pastored small churches as well as a very large church, I’m wondering what’s the common need in both contexts?

Power. God’s power. Without it, no church, no matter how big or small, can genuinely represent Him and His hope in this world.

It’s the reason Jesus, before His ascension, commanded His first disciples to wait in Jerusalem instead of to go out and plant churches (Acts 1:4-8). Though their formal time of training, mentoring and equipping with Jesus was done, the disciples weren’t ready to lead, teach or build churches until they had God’s power.

His power is the common and non-negotiable need among those called to shepherd and lead His people and a church of any size. In fact, God’s Word makes clear that seeking to do these things apart from His power leads to the “terrible times” (see 2 Tim. 3:1-5).

And yet, we can and do lose His power and the capacity to genuinely reflect and represent Him. Some of His first disciples experienced that loss. In Luke 9:37-41, we find them defined by words that should never define those representing Christ: “but they could not.” There they were, publicly claiming to represent Christ and failing miserably. And though according to 1 Corinthians 4:20, “the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power,” they proved themselves to be all talk.

If we want to avoid the same dangerous and tragic mistake, we need to learn from theirs.

The first two verses of Luke 9 make it abundantly clear that the disciples had the power to successfully represent Christ. Jesus had given them everything they needed to succeed, but they failed. The same is true for us. God has given us His power. Through Christ, we can do everything He’s called us to do (Phil. 4:13).

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The disciples failed because they had lost the power without even knowing it. In the words of 2 Timothy 3:5, they had “a form of godliness” but were “denying its power.” The same thing happens to us. Our lives and ministries become talk without power. We deliver the promises of God with words, but we don’t demonstrate them with our lives. Consequently, the church becomes just one more place that disappoints. It speaks of compassion, forgiveness and life-transforming freedom and fulfillment, but there’s no evidence of it anywhere or in anyone. No wonder so many have walked and are walking away from churches—of all sizes. It has nothing to do with church or the teaching of Jesus being irrelevant to their lives. It has everything to do with the failure of the church and those who lead it to properly reflect the power of God in their lives and ministries.

As always, the good news is that our failures don’t have to be final. I’ve learned firsthand that they can become the foundation for our greatest life lessons. In Luke 9 (and parallel passages from the other Gospels), Jesus helps us understand how to change our story from “we can’t” to “He can” and how to hold onto His power.

We lose God’s power when: