Hard vs. Soft power...

I am frustrated with myself and my peers in ministry because we have generally bought into the myth that power comes with getting into a powerful popular pulpit in a large church. That is to say, power comes with getting older and moving into senior roles.

I believe this myth is true in a sense. When we get older and into these senior positions, we do gain power; we gain hard power. We gain the ability to appoint, to direct, appropriate, appoint, etc. These are obvious forms of power which many of us desire in order to create “institutional change” from the top down.

All the work as a young minister early in the process is put into gaining hard power. We take appointments and jobs and see them as “stepping stones” to “get where we want to go”. We even sit around and complain that we do not have “voice” to be heard and are not put into positions of power to create this institutional change.

However, I have found that as a young minister early in the process I have more power than I can actually fully be aware of. This is power of being naïve, full of energy and still “learning” (that is we are still in school). We are in positions of intimacy with groups of people which is very hard for senior ministers to have that same intimacy with people. We are given the ability to preach few times which means that people typically will give us the benefit of the doubt if we mess up or say something controversial/challenging. Additionally, American culture idolizes “youth” and even when we get older, we desire to be young again.

I, as well as many of my peers, am currently in positions of soft power. This power is less appointment and more of influence and challenge.

The problem is we are all so busy trying to get the hard power (because we think that is real power) that we overlook our soft power and dismiss it. Then when we do get into senior positions, only then fell we have a voice to start to make changes. By that time we are 30 years old and in the eyes of the people with all the hard power, we are really powerless.

We are so busy working to get this hard power, believing it to be the best power. While this whole time we are very powerful agents of change but we do not embrace. Do we not embrace this soft power because it means we would have to take ‘lesser’ positions, be vulnerable, be perceived as naïve. Do we not embrace soft power because it would mean putting our pride to the side (for those like me who are very prideful)?

I am making a declaration to be intentional about finding ways to embrace the soft power all around me in order to create change.