On Whose Authority?

Position is most often the precursor of power, promotion the predecessor of prominence. That’s how the world works. It’s a simple plan, move your way up the ladder and you will become more prominent and receive more power. Only those above you can tell you what to do. Only those over you have more prestige. With each rung on the ladder you control the destiny of more people, with each step up you inherit more responsibility.

The pressure mounts with each promotion but the perks make it hard to turn down.

Ambition is a great driver, it is the fuel of advancement. I want more, more power more prominence and more perks and I will not stop until I get them. I live in a land of opportunity, a place where the American dream or in my case the North American dream (I am Canadian) is only a little more hard work away. I can stand on the top of the heap, the pinnacle of the pyramid where I will call the shots. I will have the power and I will determine my future and the future of those around me.

I got to the top because I know what is best for me, for those I oversee and for the company.

On the way up I have proved myself, my abilities, my strengths and I have made all those who did not see the innovator that I am and did not share my vision, irrelevant. My personality lends itself to leadership and my actions seem second nature to me. Where I fall short there is a course on leadership that will help my understanding of the best way to influence and when necessary manipulate people. The power I wield for the most part stops opposition in its tracks. If someone wishes to pursue a different course I remind them of my position and they soon fall in line or fall out of favour.

Power, position, promotion, prominence and perks.

There will always be those who don’t understand the need that is at the core of people like me, the discontentment I feel when I am at the bottom and the pleasure I take when I move up. I submit to those above me while ruling over those below me so that one day I will be the one at the top of the pyramid, submitting to no one, submitted to by everyone. This is the journey of leadership, the course to the top, that is just the way it is in the world.

What does leadership in the world have to do with leadership in the church?

Recently I have been reflecting on the things pastors and leaders say in defence of themselves, the things I have said, the things I now try to correct as I work with churches in transition. (see: The Shepherd Focuses on the SheepConsumer Christianity and the Church Hopper  – Church Worship Fails)

The business model for leadership promotes advancement as the goal and prominence, position, power and perks as the prize. While there is much to be learned from seasoned leaders we need to remember that applying all of their techniques in a church setting is not a good idea. If Jesus is our example of leadership then much of the goals and methods just don’t fit into the way we are to lead the church.

Those who seek to lead must serve in humility not reign in power.

Leadership in God’s design is about serving those above and below us. It is not a ploy to move up the ladder but a response of love and submission to our fellow Christ follower, and of course God regardless of the possibility of personal advancement. There may be gains made in the church by understanding universal leadership techniques but these gains are not made by the leader as they grow in power and advance their position but rather the gains are made when those they lead allow the power of God to grow in them and advance them in their journey as followers of Christ.

When gains are not made and opposition forms it is not the leader’s job to wield power to stop it in its tracks. It is not the leader’s job to remind those who pose a threat to the leader’s vision that they are the leader in an attempt to force them to fall in line or fall out of favour. While there is biblical precedent for removing someone from the church to protect the rest of the church there are far more instances of correction and redirection with reconciliation not excommunication as the goal.

On whose authority does the leader provide leadership in the church?

God’s, at least we hope that is the case. To accept the world’s model of leadership is to accept that the individual is the authority and to promote seeking more authority. Although church leaders are quick to refer to the biblical model, Christ as the head of the church, they often employ the worldly model of control rather than service and self-promotion rather than humility.

It is hard to ignore the world’s ideas of leadership and control the personality traits that drive those who are in most cases best suited for leadership, but we have to.

Jesus said:

…“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…” Matthew 28:18 (NIV)

Jesus also said:

“… whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28 (NIV)

Be careful how you wield the power you have and pursue the personal advancements you desire, it may look good in the eyes of the world but it may have no value in the eyes of God.


Note: Non-leaders, there is biblical precedent for obedience to those in authority.

Leaders, there is biblical precedent for not lording your authority over others.


  1. All my life I have striven to be the top dog, the guy in charge; I am just that way. It’s served me well, as I have always been able to make a decent living. I have absolutely no interest in that in my faith life. I suppose I am a leader on our body, although I don’t hold and won’t ever hold a church office of any sort. But, it’s ….different. As you said, if we do what we do because God called us to do so…it will work.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In the job that I have now after being laid off, I can honestly say I enjoy being “the new guy at the bottom of the ladder” rather than being halfway up the ladder…middle management is tough! I have learned to enjoy having everyone else tell me what to do and to give “boosts” to help others look good. Perhaps that’s a key to being a good leader or a good follower: lift others up, make others look good. Good post, Dave, for anyone on any rung of the ladder!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s