Another Note On Authority

On March 2nd of this year I wrote an entry about church authority in which I revealed some of the issues I had lived through during my tenure at a local church I had attended for 22 years and recently left. The original article can be found at:

https://blog.lookingforthelongride.com/2007/03/02/authority.aspx

After I posted this entry I received a comment from a dear friend (DED) and in the moment of reading it forgot to click on the “approve comment” button and thereby broke the flow of interaction a blog lives to realize. I am new to this whole thing and want to allow you the opportunity to experience what was intended to be.

So, read the original post, and then the comment which is copied below.

Terry,

You stayed longer than us both overall, and well beyond
our stay. When my wife and I had left, she had been there 20 years and
I, 18. It was the only real church home I had known; though I had
attended a denominational church a few years in high school, I had
never belonged anywhere but in the organization you mention. The issue
of authority you describe is exactly the issue that separated our
family from the group. Since then I have thought over the role and
function of authority for nearly ten years. I have come to a position
which enjoys little favor in the hearts of folks who expect systems to
work for them.

1. In modern America we know very little of the authority God intended.

2.
It is never an office. Though someone who walks in Godly authority may
in fact dwell within an identified position of oversight for some group
of persons, no one has authority of an office conferred upon them by a
group of people which is the authority of God. Conferrence or
recognized authority standing on the aproval of men is not part of
God’s plan.

3. Even just accepting one man to be the core
speaker and thus the basis of a group’s collective teaching,
understanding, journey…fails God’s plan.

I recently visited a
very sweet fellowship of believers. Though the man speaking is
intensely sincere and full of integrity, the fact that he controls a
pulpit fails the needs of that group. This man would be more of a
support to this group, if he left for two-three weeks at a time and let
the group discover its identity in Christ without him. He could return
often and lend a listening ear and support. This would be good. But as
long as he speaks, the polite and gentle people listening to him will
never expect it of themselves to hear God to the depths that they
might.

At least, so I think, which may mean very little.

Love in Jesus,
ded

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12 Responses to Another Note On Authority

  1. Well, I was the complete opposite. I only lasted there for about three months, if that! I asked the wrong questions, diagnosed the problem in an unacceptable way, and became one of those that you referenced in your last post — it was my problem that caused me to leave. Or so I was told. At any rate, it’s not about that anymore, is it? Ded is right. “[A]s long as [one man alone] speaks [regularly as the “teacher”], the polite and gentle people listening to him will never expect it of themselves to hear God to the depths that they might.” There seems to be an awakening to this around our nation. But it’s like Rip Van Winkle waking after sooo many years. When will the sleep finally be wiped from our collective eyes? When will the blurriness of our early morning not-quite-focused vision give way to the vivid 20-20 of God’s eyesight? When will we as a body of believers get to the point where we’re able to actually live it out the way it’s supposed to be, and not just be weighed down by the failures we have known? Some days, I think we’re close. Other days, I’m not so sure. Either way, I keep pressing forward, keeping my eye on the prize. I have no other choice. I must keep seeking the ideal. I must keep seeking the pure, unadulterated version of what God has for us. And for those with whom I am sharing this journey, I give thanks to our loving Father. You’re one of those, Terry.

  2. Terry Henry says:

    Thanks for the encouragement—it seems I need all that I can get at this point in my journey.
    I remember being so excited about you being a part of the church we both were at at that time. My mind was filled with endless possibilities of where we could go with your music and input into the process.
    When is a thief not a thief? Not just when he stops stealing but when he gets a job and gives some of what he has to those who have none.
    I guess even though I was in leadership at the time of your arrival and subsequent to-soon-departure, I was locked out of the decision making process and didn’t even realize it until it was to late to do anything about it. My bad!
    During the past few months I have come to realize that I have a passion for words and sentences that form thoughts and patterns and that at some level even seem to bring a measure of peace to my soul.
    Like music, the cadence of these words beckon me to itself and in turn feels like a brush stroke across the canvas of my life at present.
    There is hope. During the lowest point of my struggle at the church in mention, I was stopped in my tracks while driving, with the realization that God had created me to be what I had come to feel was a hindrance in other people’s eyes. My idealism and the go-for-it let’s let Steve play exuberance is more a blessing than a curse.
    I am attempting to get comfortable in my skin while at the same time not thinking more highly of myself than I should. What this looks like is slowly forming as the clay of who I am is being torn down and re-sculpted.
    Thanks for being a friend.

  3. I have been finding that idealism is threatening to a lot of people. I think that’s why others felt like you were a hindrance. Let’s just never settle for anything less! 🙂

  4. Rodney says:

    You know, Terry, when I think back to my time at WCC / LWCF, I get a wierd feeling come over me and that seems to be the best way that I can describe it. I certainly enjoyed the relationships and friendships that we made during our home group fellowships. But when I think of the corporate experience, I cringe a bit. We left LWCF in 2000 and have found ourselves more comfortable in non-charismatic churches. We now attend Calvary Chapel. It’s not perfect (no church is), but no one there tries to “speak” anything into our lives. If God wants me to know something, I’m pretty sure He’ll just tell me. I don’t want some go-between, a liason of sorts. I think it’s just another way of controlling people to fit some view Christianity that they think you should be. Plus, I think it defeats what Christ did for us on the cross. Our sin no longer seperates us from God, so why try to seperate ourselves again by seeking a modern day prophet. Do I believe there are no more prophets among us – no. But I no longer want to attend a fellowship where people feel the need to “speak” things into people’s lives. It makes me cringe even now. This post may not speak to the issues you dealt with in your time there, and I don’t necessarily mean for it to. It just reminded me of a very bittersweet time in our lives.

  5. Terry Henry says:

    If the lobster knew that the water was going to get so hot that it would kill him, he wouldn’t stay in the pot.
    Our old church was birthed out of a movement that sought to be free from the doctrines of men and lo and behold became a denomination unto itself.
    As such it attracts people who have a desire to go deeper and experience more—the thinkers and the rebels if you will. No matter how free the formula seems to be at the point of entry, the end result seems to be the same—a group of men controlling another group of men—and us giving them the power to do so.
    The authority I am looking for is that of a friend, over lunch, telling me that he thinks I have number one: been a good friend and number two: that I might need to re-adjust my thinking in a certain area or two.
    Nothing has been in vain—it just feels like it for a time until we get a perspective on it.
    Keep thinking and moving forward.

  6. melody says:

    ditto there…i think i’d rather be out of the pot…swimming in the deep blue ocean is where i was created to swim, along with all the other millions of diverse and created creatures of the sea…can you give me a claw up so i can crawl out of this thing…

  7. Carey says:

    Some people thrive on authority. Others disdain it. It takes all kinds to make a world.C

  8. Rodney says:

    One of the things that bothers me the most (now) is that many charismatic churches cheapen the power of Scripture. There seems to be a greater emphasis placed on the “experience” of worship, rather than the power of the Word to change people’s lives. In Luke 24, when Jesus appeared to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he started with Moses and the Prophets and explained what was said in Scripture concerning Him. The disciples didn’t recognize Him at that time. Later on, when Jesus again disappeared, the disciples began to ask “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Some of the greatest experiences of my Christian life have been when God opens the Scripture to me in my own heart. I’ve seen firsthand what the power of the Word can do in the hearts of believers. To me, there is no greater experience with God than through his Word. I hope this doesn’t come across as too harsh, but it’s what bothers me about my time at LWCF. Is it my own fault? Partially – I neglected the Word myself. But part of it is the dynamic of that type of church. One of my favorite teachers, Allistair Begg, says it best “If you want to know what God is doing (not did), read His Word. If you want to know the power of God, read HIs Word.” Terry, thanks for letting me vent some of my frustrations here. I hope that my comments aren’t viewed as hateful comments or that if you are a Charismatic that there is something wrong with you. I believe Charismatics (as well as Presbyterians, Baptists, Lutherans, even Catholics) make up the body of Christ. Each part has it’s own function that ministers to different types of people. Again, these are just some of my conclusions in my walk thus far. And I’m nowhere near the end. Who knew your blog would be so therapeutic?

  9. Terry Henry says:

    It has certainly been therapeutic to me as well although at the time of digging this well, I didn’t know that it would go so deep.And I think that is the point that DED is making as well—when things are structured the way many services are, they invite us to shut ourselves off to listening to God on our own, day by day.It’s almost like that story of the mountain shooting off flames and the people telling Moses that they were afraid to get close but would do whatever he told them to. In other words, you listen to God for us and we will listen to you. Moses may have had the people’s best interests at heart, but power does tend to corrupt motives.

  10. ded says:

    Carey, The grace to accept people exactly where they are is inherent in your statement. Surely one aspect of gaining maturity in Christ is to walk in unconditional love for all, professors of Christ and those who do not speak such, as well. So in day to day interaction with Christians in particular, not judging another’s beliefs is an important and life-giving attribute for us to learn and practice. Yet, in a larger scheme of analysis concerning what will enable the most folks to reach the highest level of maturity, the issue of the nature and function of authority among brethren will not go away. For me, the bottom line is that folks who believe they must have authority on earth in the form of another human are free to choose such an approach. However, I would fail loving the Father, if I did not voice clearly that the internal authority of the living, in-dwelling Spirit of Jesus is sufficient for everyone and anyone. Rodney, it’s been great to hear from you on the blog here. Terry, thanks for your friendship and the grace you extend to me!

  11. Terry Henry says:

    DED: I am glad that in our struggle to understand, we have reached a point where we are bearing one another’s burdens. Also that what could have been the end, is really just the beginning. There are very few people who can challenge me the way you do and get me to reach deep for the passion that once was so clear in my mind. Like “apples of gold in settings of silver”.TH

  12. ded says:

    Maybe it’s the message and not the messenger that stirs you so.ded

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