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Authority

January 24, 2011

“If you hear any voice that makes you think you are superior to those whom God has put in the church to rule the church, watch out; that is surely the devil.”

– Smith Wigglesworth, Ever Increasing Faith

Thoughts?

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 24, 2011 11:28 am

    Considering the different sects of faith that exist even within Christianity, I find this statement difficult to agree with. Which church leaders am I supposed to believe are superior, exactly? Not to mention the fact that at the end of the day I’d have to say this line of thinking is unjustified.

    You’ll have to excuse my ignorance, as I’m mostly a passive observer here who hasn’t read much of the New Testament–but is there even any mention of churches or church leaders? In any way that would lead someone to believe that church leaders are infallible?

    I keep thinking of instances in the Old Testament where individuals were given duties as a priest, but failed: such as the story of the golden calf. Aaron and his sons were supposed to be spiritual leaders of the people, but he still disobeyed God and had the golden calf created. Obviously, even people God has chosen to do his work can still fall prey to their own, human imperfections. And standing up against the chaos that ensued after Aaron created the golden calf actually proved to be a good thing: God blessed the Levites for going against the rest of the people (Exodus 32).

    Now, as I said before, my knowledge of the New Testament is circumspect at best, so perhaps there is something there that I am not aware of. But I would have to say I disagree. Sure, it isn’t ALWAYS a good thing to go against church leaders–after all, if Aaron and the other Israelites had listened to Moses in the first place, the golden calf incident wouldn’t have occurred–but it still doesn’t make sense to sit back and blindly follow your church leader if something really feels wrong.

  2. Lex permalink
    January 24, 2011 3:26 pm

    Jennie,

    Great question/thought. Some scripture, to start with:

    Romans 13:1-2//Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

    Ephesians 4:11-12//And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,

    Acts 4:18-19//So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.”

    I think the language we use to discuss something like this can be huge.

    Wigglesworth used the word “superior.” He did not say anything about obedience or blind allegiance. When or whether or how we follow the instruction and teaching of those in authority is a slightly different discussion (but addressed below because I think that’s where your comment was headed).

    The attitude that Wigglesworth was addressing is the one that gets a hold of some people because they disagree with a leader, and they let it fester into a heart that says, “I know more than that pastor, so I don’t have to listen to him.” That’s how a lot of people justify “quitting” church, or tearing down the Church by talking badly about people.

    Scripture DOES teach us, that authority is given by God. It doesn’t mean that everyone in authority uses it properly, but where the person in authority is not violating the word of God, we’re told to submit.

    A lot of the New Testament talks about believers gathering together, and why we should do it and how. Part of that teaching – like Ephesians listed above – talks about different roles that the Holy Spirit choses people for within the Church.

    The key is that we keep going back to the Bible. If a leader is advocating something that is contrary to scripture then no, don’t follow. See Peter’s response to the “church leaders” in Acts, above.

    If a leader, however, is advocating something or teaching something or doing something that we don’t like – BUT WE CAN’T DISCOUNT WITH SCRIPTURE – we HAVE to submit to the idea that we’re wrong.

    We also have to be humble enough to admit that it’s more likely that God is trying to do something in us, than that the leader has issues. What is usually happening is that God is trying to teach US something, or refine something in US, and we resist by covering our ears and saying, “The leader is wrong.”

    I can’t tell you how many times this has been the case with me. Every time it’s hard, and I want to gossip and be angry about it. The faster I pray and submit, the faster I realize my error and I become a little stronger and a little wiser.

    And, I work in a local church. I see things. I see people who have issues with our pastor or our structure or whatever, and I see how they react and how they end up. I can tell you that without exception, the ones who meet privately to talk about it, pray about it, and submit to good, godly leadership end up stronger believers and happier people. The people who insist they’re right, start gossip, and quit “church” altogether end up confused, unfruitful and oftentimes bitter.

    Jesus said He would build a Church. Scripture calls the Church, Jesus’ “bride” (Rev 19:7-8), and His “body” (1 Corinthians 12). He wants us together and unified, but when someone starts believing that he/she is “superior” to the leaders that God Himself has chosen for His own Body, unity starts to break down.

    What about leaders who are acting contrary to scripture? Matthew 18:15-17 tells us how to deal with it. And, we need to pray for those people. God doesn’t make mistakes. He doesn’t put the wrong people in leadership. But people are still people: subject to temptation and error. The devil knows that if he’s going to spend time trying to draw someone into sin he’ll do a lot more damage if it’s a leader than if it’s a whiner who isn’t involved in a local congregation. We don’t exalt ourselves above them, we pray for them and try to help them.

    And the ones that never change? God will deal with them one day. The rest of us are responsible for finding good pastors – humble people of good integrity – and submitting to their leadership.

    • January 24, 2011 11:08 pm

      Great response, Lex! An Old Testament story that is also a great example of submission to leadership, even when that leader is clearly in the wrong, is David’s respect and honor for Saul, even when Saul was trying to kill him and was oppressed by demons! David’s view of authority is pretty intense and he refused to do any harm to God’s anointed and chosen leader, even though God had even told him that He had removed the kingdom from Saul and was going to give it to David. David didn’t try to take it on his own, but trusted that God would hand him the leadership in His way and His time. David had amazing humility and meekness, even when under a terrible leader. Now, this is perhaps a bit different than church leadership, but it still has some awesome lessons for how to handle our hearts!

      • Lex permalink
        January 25, 2011 1:39 pm

        David and Saul is a GREAT example. David submitted to Saul’s authority by not killing him when he had the chance(s), and honoring him as king even though he was a bad king. On the other hand, David didn’t submit to – and participate in – the evil that Saul was doing.

        We can do the same thing. Not participate in the evil that some bad leaders may be doing, but still respecting them by not speaking badly about them or giving in to gossip, etc.

  3. January 24, 2011 3:43 pm

    I started reading “Spiritual Authority” by Watchman Nee and it is very sobering and thought-provoking regarding the importance of submission to all authority – whether it’s your spouse, church leader, government leader, etc. From what I’ve read, I would guess that Nee would agree with Smith Wigglesworth, but I haven’t finished the book. :)

  4. January 24, 2011 10:01 pm

    “I can tell you that without exception, the ones who meet privately to talk about it, pray about it, and submit to good, godly leadership end up stronger believers and happier people. The people who insist they’re right, start gossip, and quit “church” altogether end up confused, unfruitful and oftentimes bitter.”

    Yes! I’ve seen this too. Authority is admittedly a difficult concept for me and my little church community. Alongside of that goes the concept of power. If I say these two words to some of the people around here who have the most power and authority, they become frustrated with me and insist that we operate according to responsibility, not power. I say the two go hand in hand, and that with increased power comes increased responsibility. The way responsibility is carried out will affect how much authority one has in a group.

    I really resonate with your last statement, about finding Godly and humble leaders. And I have a question: any experience with people who fall into the “insisting they are right, gossiping” group who don’t quit church entirely? I’m talking about the folks who quit without leaving, therefore dragging others down with them?

    • Lex permalink
      January 25, 2011 1:35 pm

      Totally agree that “responsibility” is pretty much a “kinder”-sounding word for the same concepts as authority and power. Call it what you want, God puts some people in leadership. And when you are in leadership you have responsibility, and the God-given authority to fulfill those responsibilities. How could God “assign” responsibility to individuals without giving them the authority to do it?

      I have seen those who “quit without leaving.” Talk about a thorn in the side. ;) Matthew 18 takes us through that, but that’s where it gets hard. Those who quit and don’t leave force you to verse 17, which is hard, but is there for a very good reason. Verse 17 says,

      “And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”

      This is after you confront someone privately and they ignore you. Then you bring a few trusted leaders with you to confront the person, and they still ignore you. This is Step 3. I don’t think it means making an announcement from the stage during a worship service, but it means getting together with other leaders and people close to that individual to explain the situation. Sometimes people will accuse you of gossip, but it’s Bible and they’ve kind of forced your hand.

      ‘Cause you HAVE to do it. You have to get together with leaders and people who know those “quit without leaving” people, and explain. Tell them the situation, tell them what Matthew 18 says, tell them how you tried to correct the person but they won’t listen. Tell them what is happening, where the Bible says it’s wrong, why it’s wrong, etc. They need to know so they can guard themselves against it, and guard the Church from being divided.

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