(it may appear this article is about drug addiction, but it is not)
Anyone who has ministered to addicts knows the term “enabling.” To enable an addict is to help (enable) him/her continue in his/her addictive behavior. How? By making excuses for his/her addiction, taking on his/her responsibilities, hiding his/her addiction, or denying that there is a problem. Enabling prevents an addict from experiencing the full consequences of his/her addictive behavior. One who enables (an enabler) contributes to the delinquency and inappropriate behavior of an addict. However, an enabler may also contribute to, allow and even promote inappropriate behavior in others such as children, employees, spouses, friends, relatives—and, listen to this one: brethren in the church. Hold that thought; I will return to it.
On the other hand, those who work with addicts can also empower them so they can overcome their addictions. What does this require? First of all, it requires that an addict admit his/her addiction as a detrimental thing. He/she must also admit that they have a problem over which they have no power; he/she cannot change things without some outside support (in Celebrate Recovery, this is Jesus Christ, in Alcoholics Anonymous, this would be a higher power). An addict cannot be helped until these two admissions are made. It is only then, that an addict can be empowered to deal with his/her problem. He/she then turns to the One (Christ) who can transform him/her and thus empower him/her to new purposeful whole living (John 10:10).
What’s the point? What does this have to do with church involvement? Let’s get really honest for a moment. Speaking from experience, at times I’ve seen enabling behavior in the church. Yes, it is sometimes seen when we allow sin to go unchecked in the church. However, there is another kind of enabling that I’ve seen: instead of discipling members of the church (making them disciples), we’ve enabled them to sit in their pews and do little more. Now, that’s not true of all members of the church or all churches. However, it’s a rather large number that we’ve allowed by our silence and our lack of equipping them for service. We’ve enabled them to remain inactive.
There is an alternative: empowerment. When God designed His church, He designed her with empowerment in mind. The Lord has gifted (empowered) us with spiritual gifts and other blessings that empower us (when recognized and exercised) to serve Him in great ways. We are His workmanship (handiwork, creation) to do good works (Eph.2:10).
When we were delivered from the addiction of sin, He re-created us to do good works; He empowered us. Who are we to stand in the way of God’s design (and purpose) [empowerment] by replacing it with enabling brethren to be something less?
As individual members of the bride of Christ, we can either be enabled or empowered. As church leaders, we can either enable the brethren to be much less than the Lord designed them to be or we can empower them by following what we sometimes call the Christian disciplines, one of which is ministry. Ephesians 4:11 says that different ones in church leadership exist in the church to ‘equip’ the saints for ministry (among other things). Equipping, in my mind, is (at least) a means of empowering church members. Equipping is more than assembling for worship and sitting in a Bible class. Much more.
Church leaders, are you enabling your members or are you empowering them? My ministry exists to assist church leaders in learning how to empower those under their care for service. I would love the opportunity to work with you in such an endeavor.
Following are examples of empowerment:
- Assisting members in discovering, developing (training/equipping) and deploying (exercising) their gifts.
- Giving permission to serve. In the truest sense, none of us needs permission. Some of us want permission and when we have it, we then proceed to serve with greater confidence. In other cases, members need permission for ministry by those in leadership because of the special nature of a ministry.
- Provide resources: this could be money, it could be equipment, this could be other people to assist, this could be facilities, etc.
- Words of affirmation and belief
- Encouraging creativity. Some churches discourage creativity and it shows. When Christians are not allowed to exercise their gifts and passions fully, then God’s designed and purpose for that person is thwarted and I believe, the local church is adversely affected in some manner.
- Words of appreciation
- Biblical submission (cf. Eph.5:21); a recognition and appreciation of others’ gifts and an attitude of total cooperation with them in making the local church what the Lord wants her to be.
- In some cases, ‘position’ such as an elder, deacon, etc. Such positions grant to folks the authority (empowerment) to get things done. However, every Christian holds the position of servant which empowers him/her to serve the Lord. What greater position is there?
- What would you suggest as means to empower someone in the church?
Travis Irwin, Athens, TN
423 920 3060