Preaching To The Power Brokers -- By: Browning Ware

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 03:1 (Fall 1985)
Article: Preaching To The Power Brokers
Author: Browning Ware


Preaching To The Power Brokers

Browning Ware

Pastor, First Baptist Church, Austin, Texas

A minister desiring to preach to the power brokers should grab a mirror and get with it. No person has more power than that available to a preacher of the gospel of Christ. Preaching, however, is not necessarily an exercise of power; it can be as easily an abdication or abuse of power. Preaching may be empowered, passive, or poison. Furthermore, targeting the power brokers for a sermon is difficult. It demands more insight and skill than simply bombarding unsuspecting politicians and bankers who wander into church.

All persons possess power. From the Latin, posse, meaning “to be able,” power is being expressing itself. It is the leverage of the living, the clout of life. Rollo May defines power succinctly as “the ability to cause or prevent change.”1 He insists, “Power is always interpersonal.”2

Power owns no life of its own. People possess power, although at times power seems to possess people. Power has no initial moral connotation; persons do. Power is amoral until imprinted by the persons who exercise it. We speak of benevolent and malevolent power. The bottom line, however, is persons making what seem to be simple choices in what often become powerful webs of both good and evil.

The mixture of persons and power is complex. Are we good persons with the power to do evil or evil persons with the power to do good? Both? Neither? Hannah Arendt has cogently exposed the riddle of our involvement with power: “Cain slew Abel, Romulus slew Remus; violence was the beginning...” Arendt concludes: “The conviction, In the beginning was a crime—for which the phrase ‘state of nature’ is only a theoretically purified paraphrase—has carried through the centuries no less self-evident plausibility for the state of human affairs than the first sentence of St. John, ‘In the beginning was the Word,’ has possessed for the affairs of salvation.”3

Erich Fromm poses the same riddle with different images. “There are many who believe that men are sheep; there are others who believe that men are wolves. Both sides can muster good arguments for their positions.4 On a grander corporate scale, Robert Bellah observes a particular strand in our national history that “can never quite decide whether our society is Babylon or the New Israel.”5 Nor can some preachers. We fall into the “suspicion trap” believing that power is probabl...

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