Many times when Christ was declaring or demonstrating that the Kingdom of God was near, He did so through interactions with the marginalized, oppressed, and physically challenged. He also gave His followers the authority and responsibility to do the same. When Christ interacted with the paralyzed, the blind, the outcast woman, one facing the death penalty, and the stigmatized minority He left them all changed.
In many cases the Gospels show us that when the marginalized and broken encountered Christ, they left empowered. Those religiously unlearned followers willing to leave their working-class occupations found themselves empowered to preach, speak to evil spirits, and heal the sick. The good news that Christ spoke of and performed led to the oppressed becoming the empowered. This version of empowerment is quite different from how empowerment is defined in our upside-down world today.
Empowerment in our world is based on title, educational level, economic class, and celebrity. Because of the social matrix that we are still held captive by, skin color and gender can be major factors when it comes to empowerment. Minorities and women lag behind white men in many social and religious areas such as work pay, executive positions, and pastoral leadership.
But what does empowerment look like in the body of Christ? What does empowerment look like in the Church? How does one become a pastor? How does one become an elder or board member in the Church? How does one become a Para Church President? How does one become President of a Christian University or College? How does one become leader of a denomination? How does one discover an amazing Kingdom advancing call regardless of their occupation?
Now, I want to recognize that the face of empowerment is becoming more and more diverse. But the real question is, what would the Church and our world look like if we followed the empowerment strategies and theology of Christ? I believe if we did, the Poor would be empowered to lead Churches. We'd see even more ethnic and gender diversity when it came to leadership. We'd see more indigenous leadership. The broken, the oppressed, the marginalized, and the Poor would become apostles, prophets, church planters, missionaries, and executives; advancing the kingdom of God like we've never seen. We'd see an incredible revival and transformation in under-resourced communities.
Empowerment is a way of understanding the declaration of Christ, stating that He came to give sight to the blind and set the captives free (Luke 4). Empowerment is a way of understanding the many interactions of Christ with women. Empowerment is a way of understanding the miracles of Christ. Empowerment is a way of understanding discipleship and mission. As Christians we must wrestle with how we are stewarding and extending empowerment.