Reckoning with Power

Why the Church Fails When It’s on the Wrong Side of Power

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History is clear: Whenever the church has aligned itself with worldly, coercive power, it ends up on the wrong side of important justice issues.

But when the church cooperates with God's power through his presence among the least powerful, its witness for Jesus transforms the world into a better place.

In Reckoning with Power, David Fitch unpacks the difference between worldly power, or power over others, and God's power, which engages not in coercion but in love, reconciliation, grace, forgiveness, and healing.

In a world where we can see the abuses of power everywhere--in our homes, schools, governments, and churches--Fitch teaches readers how to discern power and avoid its abuses and traumas. By learning from the church's historical pitfalls, Fitch empowers Christians to relinquish worldly power and make space for God to disrupt and transform our culture for his kingdom.

Introduction: The American Church on the Wrong Side of Power
1. Defining Power: The Many Versions
2. Worldly Power and God's Power: There Are Two Powers, Not One
3. The Persistent Temptation to Blur the Powers
4. The Lure of Christian Nationalism: The Refusal of God's Power
5. Playing God with Worldly Power: The More Subtle Temptations
6. Living under the Power of Christ: The Church on the Right Side of Power
Epilogue: We Can Be a Different People; Getting Back on the Right Side of History


"From that moment in the fourth century when Christians were first offered a seat at Caesar's table, the seductive lure of coercive power has ever been the bane of the church. A return to the dynamic countercultural Christianity that turned the world upside down before the Constantinian catastrophe is possible, but only if we are willing to heed the summons of the Spirit to radically rethink our relationship with worldly power. In response to this summons, David Fitch's Reckoning with Power is the critical reassessment the church needs--particularly the church in North America. As he writes, 'This cultural moment begs for a reckoning with power.' I could not agree more! I urge those who hope for a better Christianity to read this book."

Brian Zahnd, author of The Wood Between the Worlds

"At this moment, there's nothing the church needs more than a Jesus-centered theology of power. Without it, the world will rightly turn away. David Fitch's book brings that needed word. May the church listen."

Beth Felker Jones, professor of theology, Northern Seminary; author of Practicing Christian Doctrine

"Ancient spiritual teachers warned against three great temptations: money, sex, and power. If we understood these temptations rightly and handled them well, many of our maladies would be curtailed. When it comes to power, sadly, too few Christians have bothered to understand or handle it well. Western Christians have fallen victim to the illusion that power is just power and that it is not inherently corrosive in the hands of the 'right people.' David Fitch challenges those assumptions by putting power itself under the microscope. No longer will Christians be able to strap on meaningless, empty signifiers, such as 'servant,' to baptize our abusive wielding of worldly power. Fitch asks us to look deeper, question more, and release that which so many of us have striven for: worldly power."

Sean Palmer, author, pastor, speaking and teaching coach

"In a time when American evangelicalism is being held hostage to political and cultural power, David Fitch offers another, more kingdom-oriented, way. Reckoning with Power should be required reading for Christian leaders and influencers. It is the best Christian introduction to the subject I have read."

John Fea, author of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump; distinguished professor of American history, Messiah University

"David Fitch has never been a shrinking violet, instead boldly going after the many idols of our age while pressing toward an account of Christian discipleship that makes the qualifier 'radical' redundant. Here he takes on power using his voice to show how our many accommodations to worldly power go hand-in-hand with accepting power on the world's terms. He calls us instead to Christ's power as the church's first and final reckoning with worldly power. Powerful!"

Jonathan Tran, professor of theology in great texts, Baylor University; author of Asian Americans and the Spirit of Racial Capitalism

"We all need power to be able to negotiate the challenges of our collective life. The question is whether the power we actually use is in fact theologically legitimate or not. In this prophetic book on what is clearly a pressing issue in our time, David Fitch criticizes the American church's latent cultural Christianity for its ties to ungodly forms of power. A much-needed corrective."

Alan Hirsch, author and founder of Movement Leaders Collective, Forge Mission Training Network, and the 5Q Collective

"David Fitch has courageously undertaken a long-overdue examination of the relationship between power and the way of Jesus. Fitch asks provocative questions that challenge established paradigms and invites the church to reimagine world change emerging from the practice of radical dependence. Reckoning with Power summons readers to a journey of holy unlearning that is the crucial first step to encountering the true, upside-down power of God."

Meghan Larissa Good, pastor; Theology Circle chair at Jesus Collective; author of Divine Gravity: Sparking a Movement to Recover a Better Christian Story

"As someone who grew up in an immigrant Hmong church, I always felt a power distance between my social location and more enterprising versions of American Christianity. Some evangelicals will have tension--or even disagreement--reading this book because amid the wealth of its sources, it engages with outside perspectives to show how entrenched we can become with worldly power. But I feel some of the tension is appropriate. After all, it is a form of worldly power to be able to avoid feeling uncomfortable and unchallenged in your own church tradition."

Daniel Yang, director, Church Multiplication Institute, Wheaton College Billy Graham Center

The Author

  1. David E. Fitch
    Garrett Black

    David E. Fitch

    David E. Fitch (PhD, Northwestern University) is the B. R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary and the cofounder of Missio Alliance. He is the founding pastor of Life on the Vine Christian Community, a missional church in the...

    Continue reading about David E. Fitch