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Friday, January 26, 2007

Why do you believe...?

25 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.
26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Matthew 20 (KJV)

Given these verses, as well as many others, I have to wonder at those who seek to establish an order of authority within the body of Christ. Nearly every denomination grants certain persons with specific powers and authority to govern others.

Why do you believe that anyone should have authority over any other in the Church?

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25 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, brutha. What a ripe topic. Scripture speaks of submission to each other. Scripture also speaks of authority, and submitting to those who work to lead the efforts of the local body. Therein lies the rub. We read those passages and interpret them through the lens of the leadership model under which we operate today. Then, logically, we assume that scripture is telling us to submit to and obey our pastor. Exegetically, it's pretty lame, and unfortunately, it's as deep as most people go.

Leadership in the body should be vested in those who are gifted as such, not automatically in the guy with the bible degree. And leadership should never rest on the shoulders of a single person. When you have real leaders in place, it's seldom that anyone ever has to bring up the subject of authority. As I've quoted Maxwell, over and over, "Being a leader is like being a lady. If you have to tell people that you are, chances are, you're not."

Look at Jesus' leadership. I might stand to be corrected, but I don't think he specifically talked about his authority until moments before he left the earth ("All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Matt 28:18). Yet, people followed him. His authority was evident, not tied to a title.

This is how it ought to be. But somewhere down the line, we've required that the pastor, like Jesus, be the total package. Very unfair to the pastor/teacher, and damnably harmful to the body.

1/26/2007 07:10:00 AM  
Anonymous rrbj said...

" Why do I believe " I believe because down the journey in my life , I have been taught a lot of the things that I know about the Bible today and trying to live a lifestyle that is pleasing to God! I don't see why the word authority is such a problem with churchs? Maybe thats because we as humans reject the idea of being under authority, but as a small child growing up we have to be under the authority of our parents , in other words how could we progress to adults and be responsible ? I don't place all the responsibilitys on the Pastor but as a new believer it sure does help to look for authority to answer our questions? We should have other leaders of various groups that are qualified, such as Sunday school teachers and bible study teachers and deacons board to help in the responsibility of equipping the new believers in their walk in life? Each function of the church should promote unity and love in their church and then the Holy Spirit will be their authority in trying to accomplish Gods will for us ! Blessings To All ! Ron.

1/26/2007 08:35:00 AM  
Anonymous luthsem said...

The Bible clearly speaks of positions of leadership in the church 1 Cor 12: 27-31 is an example but they must be servants and not lord over the people. This does not make them more "spiritual" than other members of the body of Christ as well because we are all one in Christ and have equal access to God.

1/26/2007 09:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not believe this.

I believe that an individual has the responsibility to submit to others - but rather in compassion, humility and love, not in obedience. I do not believe that I Cor. 12 implies obedience or authority of leaders in the church, but acknowledges gifts that the members of the body may possess and honor the body with. I believe the gift of prophecy is the gift to persuade God's people into obedience to God, but the authority is from God, not the man - and the prophecy must be tested. I am a-feared of people who use this and other "unity" scriptures to assert their own authority over the church.

All forms of authority given to man by God over His people were given at the persistent request of His people (I Samuel 8 and then all scriptures to follow it!). God's desire has always been for Himself alone to be king of his people - the only authority.

Heb 13:17 and 1 Peter 2:13 - these are the scriptures I typically contend with in this discussion. Neither of these are talking about submission to the church's authority, but to the governing authorities God has permitted to exist in the world.

Anyway, that's my opinion for what it's worth, not much to most :)

1/26/2007 11:30:00 AM  
Anonymous luthsem said...

Hmmm Missy I don't know if you are addressing me or not but I'm not talking about pastors or whoever lording it over people. I thought I made this clear. I'm totally against authoratative leadership which happens in many churches and denominations. This happens just as much in non-denominational and independent churches because it is easier for a person to come in and abuse the members of the church because there is no accountability.

1/26/2007 11:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, luthsem, I was not addressing you, just the question, "Why do you believe...?" Sorry!

I am not totally against authoritive leadership in the church either - just those that place THEMSELVES in one of those positions and use this and other scripture as justification. But even on the up and up, it's a slippery slope. My personal belief on authority is that it should not be given alone. It comes hand-in-hand with responsibility and transparency. And within the church, ideally, I believe that the choice in whom to give any (administrative) authority to should be made in unanimous enthusiasic agreement by the congregation being served.

1/26/2007 12:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Gordon Cloud said...

I think that most of the time, "authority" in a church is because of organizational structure and not because of scriptural mandate.

While a pastor has a responsibility to be a spiritual guide to the church, he is not called of God to "lord it over God's heritage".

Church leaders who set themselves up, or allow themselves to be set up as having spiritual authority over others are headed for trouble.

1/26/2007 12:56:00 PM  
Anonymous luthsem said...

Good thoughts Missy and Gordon.

Does anybody remember the Shepherding movement that was popular in the 80's. Very scary and manipulative leadership. There are a lot of good books on abuse in leadership.

1/26/2007 02:36:00 PM  
Anonymous JP said...

Upon reading this post and comments I felt a need to turn to the wisdom of the saints of old. I read through Book 4 of the Intitutes of Religion by John Calvin.

Very interesting read...

1/26/2007 04:21:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Dorsey this is “a ripe topic” but I think we should be able to address at least this point. I suppose I should have asked why do you believe it should be any different than what Christ’ commanded in these verses. I agree with your assessment concerning our perception of the leadership model but I think even our understanding of what leadership means is tainted. Is it really something we bestow or is it according to the specific gifts within the body?

Ron, I think we’re headed in the same direction on this. We are several members of one body with Christ as our head.

Rich, that’s a good point on leadership. I think, sadly, too many who should be ministers perceive themselves to be rulers in the Church. I would agree the problem is not only denominational but local as well. I’m too young to remember the Shepherding Movement. (hehe)

Missy, it seems perhaps you’ve had this discussion before? I think I might best reply in this manner, “Right on sister!” ;-)

Preacher, we agree and I know this error isn’t confined to ministers. I’ve seen deacons who believed they could determine the sermon content.

Rev I’ve started it but in all honesty I was previously jaded by his historical record of persecution in trying to establish a clergy similar in structure and power to that of the Roman church. I am put off even more by his stated intent for book 4 section III as refuting the “error” of the Novatians and the Anabaptist.

To all, I am rather fascinated by the early Waldensians beliefs regarding Church structure. They seem, to me, to be more in line with Christ’ teaching and in place long before the Reformation. I also understand that one of the primary tenants of the Nicolaitanes as well as the Gnostics was a powerful clerical hierarchy.

1/26/2007 06:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I said ripe, I meant that it's prime for discussion. Kudos for bringing it up.

I guess my observation is that too many (most) in the church act like the princes of the Gentiles, angling to impose dominion over each other. Clearly, Christ sets a different standard,

As far as our perception of leadership, I agree that the popular understanding is distorted by church culture. Leadership conferred by men is as corrupt a notion as bestowing the title of "Reverend" ("revered one?" really?).

But, as things stand, the world looks upon a church that operates in a system similar to its own. Nothing peculiar about it. Imagine how the systems of this culture would be shaken if our very foundation was as these verses describe. Wow.

1/26/2007 09:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been pondering leadership a lot lately, coming on the heels of a power struggle in my company. It's just a truism that leadership is never positional. Never, never, never.

Especially in the Kingdom, where the King himself lead from the rear ("he who would be first must be last," etc.). Man wants to be boss, to be at the right hand, to count his subjects and his direct reports. The servant leader counts everyone above himself.

So true leadership requires no authority, no position.

1/26/2007 09:48:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Dorsey, before anything else...I LOVE the title of your current post, "The Church I want to be" and that's a great quote too!

I thought "ripe" was perfect and I could draw several good analogies from it. ;-) I would have asked your opinion of how we might alter those perceptions but I think your current post sums that up well.

Dr. Z, great thoughts! "The servant leader counts everyone above himself". Very well said.

1/27/2007 05:59:00 AM  
Blogger Bhedr said...

The strongest point not to be part of these denominations and not to carry on the reformers legacy of using the state to Lord God's people. I don't know why this is always defended and this teaching of Christ clearly ignored. This is one reason why I am a homeless Calvinist:-) or should I say Christian with a Calvinist perspective.

...but then since I do not agree with the Calvin decree then I am really not a true blue Calvinist. I won't lose any sleep over it.

1/27/2007 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Bro. Brian, I think all of us would have to admit there are times when our systems of theology fail us and we’re left simply clinging to His word. I think the fact you are willing to admit that indicates you’re a great Calvinist. ;-)

I’m also persuaded we have a great home to go to but we’ve got a little ways yet to go before we get there.

1/27/2007 06:28:00 PM  
Blogger Bhedr said...

Thanks boo...longing for that home too.

1/28/2007 02:35:00 PM  
Blogger Jody said...

Why do you believe that anyone should have authority over any other in the Church?

i think i do not believe that anyone should have authority over any other in the Church. i am not sure but i might think that no one should have authority over another in any institution. (practically it might not work at present, but in theory it seems to be that God was telling the israelites that no they did not need a king - it wouldn't be good for them)

the dictionary says that authority is the power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior b : freedom granted by one in authority : RIGHT
3 a : persons in command

i just don't think that it is God's intention that someone or group have authority over another person or group. perhaps churches may profit if there weren't so much leadership and organizational structure involved. i don't know really...

1/30/2007 02:25:00 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

If your question is pertaining to any individual person having authority over another person or persons, then I say no one has this authority.

In fact I think only cults would allow for this.

A board of elders having authority? I would yes they should, but only in biblically clear defined terms agreed to by each elder and the body as a whole. I am not a big fan of congregational rule but at same time I would not be a big fan of a number of elders less than 7 having authority either.

But I think there has to be some authority to maintain sound doctrines and to discipline in extreme circumstances.

1/30/2007 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

Oh and Paul used his authority to give the corinthians authority to discipline. So without any authority given at all, I think maybe chaos among believers could result. After all we believers are still sinful and not all will agree to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.

1/30/2007 06:18:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Jody, I tend to agree with you in all points though I do accept civil authority by virtue of Christ’ command. I think the love of a believer will make him a model citizen so long as the law of the land does not conflict with Christ’ command.

Kris, this may be our first contention since we intermet! ;-)

From a practical standpoint, wouldn’t proper discipline negate the need for any head other than Christ?

1/31/2007 04:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been thinking about my initial response to the question. I am, by nature, as many are I am sure, extremely rebellious. I am obedient, to the extent required, but my mind is very rebellious. So I wanted to ponder the idea of authority a little more and make sure my nature was not clouding any truth. I wanted to go beyond a word search in the Bible to the Story of Authority.

I think I can confidently stand behind the fact that spiritually God wants no other authority in my life but Him. I believe both the story of authority in the OT and the NT confirm that. However, I also see a consistent pattern whereby God places various worldly authorities over His people for many different reasons: to mature them, to remind them of Him, to bring justice or even at their request. Jesus’ command to submit to these authorities is clear. God allows these authorities to exist – for a purpose. Maybe not one I can understand, but still for a purpose of His own design.

Jesus also makes it clear that we are to submit to one another in the Church, without disclaimers like, “Only submit when you agree or when the other is nice or when you get what you want.” This submission we are called to is not given because of the authority of those we submit to, but out of the authority of Christ. If you haven’t noticed, leaders come and go - even more frequently in the Church. Some will start out as servant-leaders, some may even continue that way, but most do not – we are called to submit. There are people who will never lead and seen as “weaker” – we are called to submit.

These people may seem to have spiritual authority and probably do for some, but I think what the Word is telling me is “So what, I know the truth! Submit under My Authority.”

So I think the consensus here is there should be no authority over one another in the Church. And I agree. But Jesus tells me to submit anyway.

How’s that for foolishness?

2/01/2007 08:18:00 AM  
Blogger Kris said...

Kc, I am in agreement that no single person should have authority over another. Christ is the single authority over each believer.

On the other hand didn't Paul authorize the corinthians to discipline the man with his father's wife? If he did then who carried out this command to discipline? Didn't someone or group in the church have to tell this man to leave until he repented of this behavior?

Didn't Paul tell Titus to rebuke the cretans who were not living according to sound doctrine? Isn't this authority on Paul and Titus?

Maybe I am missing something here. Help me out.

2/01/2007 10:34:00 AM  
Anonymous sofyst said...

Kris, I think what could be argued is that the authority did not originate in Paul or Titus, but rather in God. Paul and Titus were merely messengers of the authority, if you will.

Let me attempt to create a scenario.

A father has authority over a child. If the father puts that child into the care of a teacher, the father then can tell the teacher what authority to take over the child, or what discipline to enact upon the child. If the child misbehaves, and the teacher punishes, it is not as though the teacher is exercising any authority of their own. They are merely conveying the authority from the father through the teacher to the child.

I think that is the idea that is attempting to be presented.

2/01/2007 01:58:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Missy, I agree with your observations but I do believe the Church is gifted with elders, however I do not believe these elders are authorized to govern the Church.

Kris & Adam, thanks brothers. I hope we can continue this discussion with my next post.

2/02/2007 04:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

KC, I agree. I think elders should be wise advisors for the congregation. Not authorities.

I think my conclusion there was more to address my sinful nature that refuses to accept any authority - even God's.

2/02/2007 09:58:00 AM  

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