Authority is a word that seems to have many meanings in today’s language. As I was thinking about this I wondered what came first, the chicken or the egg. In other words, was authority the word concevied and then defined or was a concept of authority taken and given a word to describe it.
Authority seems to be best described as something given—as in Christ was given authority by the Father to give us eternal life. He then gave us authority to overcome the wiles of the enemy.
Authority is vested in a person—it is a power or right delegated or given. It is permission to “authorize” someone or something.
Authority is not neccessarliy synonymous with control but in common usage is often associated with a person controlling a situation or a group of people.
I guess the tendancy of human nature is that when some people are given a little authority, they want more. And as I said before, not always for the right reasons.
As it seems to be in kingdom terms, authority may have the opposite meaning than what it has come to represent in the secular sense. In the book of Mark, chapter 10 verse 42 Jesus says:
“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the
Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority
over them. 43/Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44/and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45/For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Several years ago, the church I was a part of began a process of changing its governmental style. We were to go from a “pastor centered” structure to a team of elders with a team leader setup. It really seemed more biblical. Yet even though we thought we took all the necessary relational steps to facilitate the change, the former pastor, now a team member, left and in his leaving a hole was created that would never be filled. Many members left, not to follow him per se, but because they now had a reason or at least an excuse to try something else.
I mention this only to try and relate how hard it is to make a change—even one that everyone agrees needs to be made. It’s an imperfect world, etc. But before the atom bomb of him leaving hit, I remember walking up to a deacon in the hallway of the church one day and letting him know just how excited I was that we were being given a chance (I thought) to make things right with our fellowship. It was now our job to help fashion a place where people would be valued and each part of the body would be rasied up to take their individual places in the furthering of the kingdom of God. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that he looked at me like I was crazy—maybe he knew something I didn’t about the inherent nature of people to not do what you think they will.
Actually, I remember looking past the fear and bewilderment in his eyes and as he walked away, not really answering or understanding what had just been offered to him, I thought that he would finally come around and see what he was being extended and the chance to have imput into something he had served by rote for so long.
That wasn’t to be the case—he and his wife left the group several months later—only to be followed by more down the road.
I said that to say this: what began in my mind as an opportunity to release the members of the body of believers into their own destinies with God, turned into us serving a system and being manipulated into serving something else entirely. As the authority became more centralized, it became our job to serve this rather than to be released and in turn release others. It is sort of like going into the woods for what at the time seems like a simple camping trip, only to find yourself hopelessly lost in the forest and taking months or years to finally find yourself back to the point where you began.
Not that you don’t learn a lot during your time in the forest—but basic survival skills can only fill your belly so much. Your stomach begins to cry out for a “real meal” after you have consumed so many roots and berries that you think there will never be another item on the menu.
I am not complaining mind you—just making some observations.
However, I have come to the point where I believe that the way we have done ministry has wounded a lot of people and sidetracked many more. I see people in leadership roles worn out and tired of the grind that has become all to common.
I certainly can’t say with certainty what this thing called church is supposed to look like—but I am beginning to realize what it shouldn’t resemble.
Lets hope our ride today brings us to a clearer understanding and a place of release.
Enjoy your ride and enjoy the rain.