A few weeks ago I heard a lecture on Power Distance. No, the term Power Distance does not refer to home run hitting. The given definition goes like this:
- “Power distance is a term that describes how people belonging to a specific culture view power relationships - superior-subordinate relationships - between people including the degree that people not in power accept that power is spread unequally.” - Hofstede
- Power distance refers to the extent to which less powerful members of organizations and institutions (including the family) accept and expect unequal power distributions. This dimension is measured not only from the perspective of the leaders, who hold power, but from the followers. In regard to power distribution, Hofstede notes, "all societies are unequal, but some are more unequal than others."
I was intrigued by the lecture because I had never heard of it, yet it explained so much about government rule and how it affected the church. The USA has low power distance because supposively we elect our leaders, so essentially we elect what we want in government and that happens. (Again, this is in general; I have watched the news lately...) Countries with kings or dictators would have a high power distance because they say it and that settles it; the people have little control.
High Power Distance Low Power Distance
So Americans generally view organizations with a low power distance mentality and generally disagree with high power distance society's. Think of the family. I am serious when I say if I am the head of the family, my wife Sarah is the neck that pretty much controls the head. Women have fought for equality in society to the point where having a female president is a very real possibility.
Churches also deal with Power Distance. I grew up in a more High Power Distance type church where the Pastor had a lot of control even though there was a board as well (deacons). Recently I have seen many churches go to more of an elder led Low Power Distance type governance.
So when you study the family or government or church; what is the right way to go? The lecturer (whom I am not able to name due to security issues) talked about his experience in both settings, both in country and out of country where he served in a high power distance society where Americans were going in and creating unsuccessful church governing systems.
He discussed how the Bible addresses both sides of the issue. Moses learned from Jethro to have people help lead, but that still didn't turn out too well. The New Testament encourages church members to submit to those who rule over them. (Hebrews 13:17) The Bible also emphasizes the Kingdom of God; meaning a land with a King who rules...
But it doesn't end there. Jesus says, "you call me teacher and Lord" and then says that He came to serve. So yes, Jesus is Lord! Jesus is King! But He says to use that power to get down and lift people up.
Personally I learned a lot from this lesson. I don't need to be afraid to lead and make decisions cause people look for that from leadership. But when I am making the decisions I need to serve people because that is Jesus' example. He uses His power to lift others up. I also need to submit to the leaders in my life. God has put them there and I need to follow their lead. (Of course, we need to be careful who we are following).