"Empowerment" is a popular cause these days. It is seen in civil rights movements, social justice campaigns, even Christian organizations like CPT seem to think they are doing a great thing by "empowering the people." This is seen in their efforts to gather and organize the many weak individuals into a powerful collective. The message is "Together we are strong."

But is this God's message? I can immediately think of two examples where God decisively rejected such an idea: The Tower of Babel and Gideon's army.

They said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves"... So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. (Genesis 11)

The LORD said to Gideon, "The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, 'My own hand has delivered me.'" (Judges 7)

I think this is also why God does not have his church organized under some human leadership (he alone is the head of the Body), or gathered into "empowered" institutions. Because then people would say (and give the impression to others) that their own power had accomplished the work.

I see something similar in Jesus' life. He intentionally stays (humanly) powerless and poor. He does not make use of the political or economic power which he could have exercised (and been so much more "effective"!). Even in his healings and feedings, he does not use money or human capabilities, but only heals or feeds people through miracles, so that it is clear that this is God's power at work and not man's.

We see the same message in Paul's writings. Such as these lines:
We have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Cor 4.7)

[God] said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Cor 12.9)

And why is serving out of our weakness so important? Because the goal is not to convince people of how strong and effective we human beings can be--when we are "empowered." Our purpose is not to assure people that they can depend on us.

Our purpose (as Christians, following Jesus' example) is to encourage faith in God. Not just "I believe in God" faith, but faith that actually leans on God. Faith that demonstrates God's reality and love by resting all our weight on something that other people can't see. Not just psychological dependence, but also physical dependence, economic dependence, spiritual dependence, resting our whole self on the love of God. To do this and to encourage others to do the same is what we must be about.

And this is best done and best demonstrated in weakness.