Spiritual Authority

Okay, I wrote it – Authority.  Many of you might find that a bad word. You might have personal experience of someone in authority over you treating you in a such a way that tainted your love for this God-concept. Maybe a parent, an employer, dare I say … a pastor.  It’s no surprise to any who have paid attention to the news over the past few years that religious leaders abuse authority.  The Catholic church has spent millions trying to “settle” the sinful abuses of their leaders. News of “big-time” pastors involved in sex scandals, misappropriating funds, or just changing truth to fit their own desires aren’t things of fiction, but a sad reality.  A reality that I, as a religious leader, am very well aware of – many in the world start from a place of mistrust, a place of skepticism, and I can’t blame them … I would too if that’s what I saw.  

I’d much rather be under authority than lording it over others.  Come to think of it, that’s how a leader keeps from lording it over those he serves.  I AM A MAN UNDER AUTHORITY.  I am called by God to shepherd His people, with eagerness setting an example for the flock to follow (1 Peter 5:1-3) so that you find it delightful to imitate my faith (Hebrews 13:7).  Jesus Christ is the leader of His Church, He is the Senior Pastor, He is the One we all follow.  Any spiritual authority the elders of the Church have (of which I am one) is delegated from on High for the good of the people.  Being a man under authority is what gives me spiritual authority … and in understanding this, I thank my Puritan predecessors who so diligently labored to lay out a model of pastoral authority and function that I embrace whole-heartedly.  Listen as J.I. Packer describes it,

“Spiritual authority is hard to pin down in words, but we recognize it when we meet it.  It is a product compounded of conscientious faithfulness to the Bible; vivid perception of God’s reality and greatness; inflexible desire to honor and please Him; deep self-searching and radical self-denial; adoring intimacy with Christ; generous compassion manward; and forthright simplicity, God-taught and God-wrought, adult in its knowing-ness while childlike in its directness.  The man of God has authority as he bows to divine authority.”  AMEN!!

Over the next few posts I’ll do my best to describe this Puritan model of spiritual authority as it plays itself out in pastoral ministry.

Joyfully Submitted to God,

Pastor Mark 

2 thoughts on “Spiritual Authority

  1. Mark, I understand your point about preferring to be one who is under authority more than being one who is in authority. It’s safer there. Along with delegated authority comes a great responsibility. Ultimately that responsibility is to God … kind of scary. Anyone who abuses the authority that God gives him will have to give an account to God himself.

    I remember the parable of the talents [Mt 25:14-30]. The one man who simply buried what had been entrusted to him by his master was called a “wicked, lazy servant” [v.26], before what had been entrusted to him was taken away and given to another. Then he was punished [v.30]. How much angrier then, would the master have been if that money was actually used for evil or for personal gain?

    However, if Father has called you here to walk out a vision that He has given you for us, which I believe He has, then you have two choices: 1) you can willingly obey a loving Father and accept the role that he has called you to, or 2) you can disobey and run away. Of course we all know what that did for Jonah! =0)

    I joyfully and eagerly submit myself to the authority which you carry. I understand that I and every other member of this church will have a specific role to play if, together, we are to fully realize the mission and ministry that God has called us to. And, like you, we also are ultimately accountable to God for what we choose to do, or not do as we are called.

    I thank God that He has chosen the church to bring His world into a right relationship with Him, and that “His intent was [is] that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Eph 3:10-11

    I look forward to serving in shoulder-to-shoulder ministry with you, Brother. To God be the glory forever and ever. Amen!


  2. Mark,
    OK you did write it, authority, a nine letter word that in most secular circles as well as the church is often seen as a “four letter word”.
    As you have pointed out, there’s plenty of history to cause even the most trusting among us to be cautious when we here leaders use that term.
    As I ponder the writings of early church leaders we can see the same “balancing act” that we struggle with. Three things come to mind: The need to be “in Christ”, the need to be in “the word”, and the third leg of the stool is “the brothers”. These men of God walked with, and submitted to “the brothers”. As we move in God and grow closer to him, He seems to moves us into places of spiritual authority, and our need for “the brothers” to speak into our lives becomes even greater.
    A quote that I read years ago that I hope to walk in some day: (not sure the author)

    “The greatest of a man’s strength is the measure of his surrender”

    Praying for you guys,



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