Interesting question this evening as the topic of conversation… concerning what authority is held by church leaders, what it looks like, how it operates, and if it’s actually valid. In this context, a favorite passage came to mind as being quite instructive:
Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he had around him. [John 13:3-5]
The challenge is to determine the place of leadership and authority (if any) in a non-heirarchical structure for church. I’m hard-pressed to think of a passage in the New Testament that clearly and unambiguously gives chuch leaders authority over other believers.
If one does contend that chuch leaders have authority over other believers, should it not look the way Jesus demonstrated it? Can a church leader have authority over anyone they’re not serving (i.e., figuratively washing the feet of)? Or is the question moot?
True service to a person with no other agenda than the love of Christ, which over time wins the right (authority) to speak into that person’s life.
One of my favourite passages on leadership is Matthew 20:25-28: 25Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave– 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” ”
I think authority is based on trust. If people trust each other, they will listen when advice, even correction, is needed.
I once met a church leader who was really controlling and often harsh with people. I found out, over several years of dialogue, that he honestly believed that Hebrews 13:17 — “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.” — meant that he, as a pastor, was personally accountable to God for how his congregants lived their lives. Total bondage and performance orientation for this leader, based on a faulty understanding of Hebrews 13:17. I felt sorry for him, as the weight he laboured under was immense and unnecessary, and I felt sorrier still for the poor memebers of his congregation.
Throwing “leadership” out the window isn’t an option that the Bible gives us, but I would STRONGLY suggest that we need new models of how leadership is truly meant to function, and the example & teaching of Jesus must be our lumbline.
End of sermon. Sorry, I get worked up about these things sometimes! :)
Oops, I meant “plumbline” not “lumbline” — for some reason, when I’m typing in a comment, the cursor goes UNDER the links bar on the right, so I can’t see if what I just wrote is spelled correctly until after I post…
I am all for leadership etc. I think the church needs leadership and guidance. I do not think
many “leaders” are willing to lead like Jesus. That is where the problems come in. IT becomes about control and power rather than service.
Thanks for the post,
MOst of my blog surfing and interaction happens at home, so I’m on my Mac G4 using Safari. But the same problems happen on my work computer (like right now) which is a Dell (spits derisively to the left) which runs on the default ofMSIE (spits derisively to the right). FWIW, I can’t see parts of my sentences for this comment. Maybe it’s just an MSIE issue, which wouldn’t surprise anybody I know…