Powerbrokers Use Intimidation – Part 2

By John Kimball, D.Min.

In my last post I talked about why people seem so quick to surrender to a congregational powerbroker.  You can read that post here. In this second installment, I want to talk about how a church member can directly address the intimidation tactics of a powerbroker.

Intimidation is fear. Intimidators utilize fear to get their way — to push their agenda. When an emotionally healthy, spiritually mature person lovingly engages a powerbroker without fear it usually stops the intimidation tactics in their tracks, opening the possibility of a redemptive dialog. This takes the power away from the powerbroker in a healthy way, setting the stage to help both the powerbroker and those who suffer from his or her intimidation.

So how does one do that? Here are some keys:

  1. Trust God – I believe the number one issue in the hearts and minds of both powerbrokers and those they overwhelm is a lack of trust in God. Fear and worry are signs that we do not really believe God is in control and is working toward our best interest. Trust here is an identity issue. We must find our identity in Christ — not in our jobs, our roles, our ethnicity, or anything else. Misplaced identity is always a foundation of sand. But if you know in the depths of your heart that you are the precious child of the King of all Kings, then you know you are royalty and not a victim. Powerbrokers reign because the congregation does not trust God enough to stand up to them and stop them. But those who are not victimized by them can act from their strength.
  2. Set the time and place – It’s a simple step, but choosing the time and place for the engagement with a powerbroker is huge. They are not in control of the meeting, you are. They will vie for control of the meeting when it starts, but this is an indication that they have not started there. Use that precious time to establish the content of the conversation, “Friend, there is something I want to discuss with you…” Use this gift of control for God’s purposes, not your own. Your goal is a redemptive dialogue, not to win an argument.
  3. Keep your cool – This is critical. Do not allow them to addle you — remember, they are not in control. Do not fear. Do not work to overpower them (verbally or otherwise). Do not become defensive. Do not become them. Any control you have at this point belongs to the Lord, not you. Remain calm and prayerful.
  4. Know yourself – Know the ways you typically feel vulnerable. Watch for the powerbroker to exploit those perceived weaknesses. If they do — even if they become belligerent — be assertive without being aggressive. And if others are watching the exchange, it will also have an empowering effect on them if you do.
  5. Prepare well – This is critical. Most tough conversations do not go well because the parties are not prepared. Have a clear understanding of the issues you are going to address. Be thoroughly prayed up — in fact, you might also ask others (in confidence) to intercede for you. You are engaging the powerbroker to address the issues and how they made to feel. A lack of preparedness usually degrades into more personal attacks and these are unhelpful. In fact, the powerbroker will know what to do with that — don’t go there.
  6. See their humanity – Often this is the point of breakthrough. Remember that Jesus saw people with compassion – he knew what they were created to be and saw with a broken heart what they had become. We must do the same. There’s a reason powerbrokers have become powerbrokers. It’s true that intimidators have a need for control — and they use various forms of fear to gain it. But in every case they are compensating for something. It may be a sense of worthlessness. It may be a past wound – particularly from a situation when they felt they lost control. It may be a personality flaw that was never addressed as they matured. It may be a form of mental illness. But in virtually every case it will not be that they are evil incarnate. See their humanity. Recognize that they, like you, are made in the image and likeness of God. Treat them with the dignity of Christ.
  7. Stand for righteousness – Where wrong has been done or someone has been hurt (including you), stand for righteousness. Detail the hurtful event or comments. Thoroughly explain the related wound. Ask for full reconciliation — and hold them accountable to process through it with you.
  8. Take them to Scripture – Finally, be ready with the appropriate passage(s) from the Word of God to raise up Jesus’ standard in the conversation. Show them from the scriptures what is right. Call them to align with that. God’s Word is powerful and effective. End by praying with them for reconciliation and peace.

Powerbrokers are rarely confronted for their behavior — at least not in a redemptive way. As more and more people step out trusting God and have such engagement with church powerbrokers, two things will begin to happen. First, those who have historically been intimidated will no longer operate in the realm of fear. Second, because people are no longer fearful, they no longer surrender to the powerbrokers. Whether the powerbrokers ever change or not, they no longer wield their control.