Power and authority in the church – Choose who is in control

When Herod was questioned by the Magi (Matthew 2:2), he was presented with a choice. He could recognize a greater authority and submit to it or he could seek to maneuver into a position above that authority. He chose the latter and his kingdom suffered for the choice.

Church leaders are faced with the same choice today. Either God is in charge and He is working in the individuals in the church, or the pastor is in charge and arranging the events to his satisfaction. There is no middle ground.

The danger for church leaders is that we can start believing our own press about our ministry. We can start believing that we have a better handle on God’s word and God’s plan than those we lead which is not necessarily the case.

A. W. Tozer which speaks to this issue:

“I believe it might be accepted as a fairly reliable rule of thumb that the man who is ambitious to lead is disqualified as a leader. The true leader will have no desire to lord it over God’s heritage, but will be humble, gentle, self-sacrificing and altogether as ready to follow as to lead, when the Spirit makes it clear that a wiser and more gifted man than himself has appeared.”

It takes wisdom to know the role that God has for a man and wisdom to stay within that role. I have seen pastors who have felt the need to do it all who struggle to empower people in their congregations to minister under the direction of the Holy Spirit. I can think of a few potential reasons for the lack of empowerment:

  1. A need to control which results in micromanagement of the church. The root of this is lack of trust in God and a deep seated insecurity. This leader has an inflated sense of responsibility and is often more concerned about his own reputation than he is of that of Jesus Christ.
  2. Feeling pressured as the “full time” minister to do it all. This is rooted in an inability to say no or to ask others to step up. The congregation bears some responsibility in this situation because some churches have this expectation of their pastor.
  3. A feeling of superiority because of talent or training. This is rooted in an inflated sense of self worth and an inability to receive feedback. This leader is often critical or suspicious of those he leads so people do not step up to take on aspects of the ministry.

Leaders need to keep in mind that we are all equal before the Cross. Yes, God gives the leader increased responsibility and a different role to play but this does not make the leader superior or of greater value. The leader cannot usurp Jesus’ authority by feeling the need to lead and control all of the activities of the church.

The process of making disciples requires that leaders recognize the gifts that God gives to those in the leader’s care. After those gifts are recognized, the leader needs to turn those people to use their gifts as God leads.

Allowing people to be led by the Spirit is scary and requires much faith in God. Yet for the health of the body the leader needs to know when to lead and when to relinquish control and do it all graciously and in love. To do this well requires Supernatural wisdom, a wisdom that God promises to provide if we ask for it.