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Authority: The Nazi Church

There is no doubt that authority has been abused throughout history. I can say the name Hitler and everyone cringes. Should this sort of authority be present in the church? Was it meant to be a dictatorship (even if it isn’t sinful)? Was the church meant to be lead by one man at the pulpit telling us what to do and think? Can a pastor just pull out verses from different places all throughout the bible to claim that we need to listen to him to stay within the will of God?

Most of us are familiar with verses in Romans 13, Hebrews 13 and 1 Peter 2 telling us to submit to the authorities over us. These verses are constantly used by pastors exhorting people in a congregation to submit to the authority of the pastoral leadership. I just finished reading a book called Undercover by John Bevere and he stated the same thing constantly all through the book. After reading the book I had the feeling that I just needed to listen to everyone that claimed authority over me, as long as it wasn’t counteractive to the Bible. Is this the way it should happen? Should the church be run as a dictatorship under the head pastor and work its way down to the members?

For a dictatorship to work, we need a dictator. I believe the church is meant to be a dictatorship. It is meant to have a king. This dictator’s name is Jesus Christ. Being part of the church is being part of a Kingdom, and a kingdom needs a king. This dictatorship was never meant to be run by a ‘pastor’ (a word that I think can be found once in the Bible if you’re lucky). The church is a dictatorship of one; Jesus Christ and no other.

I don’t believe a pastor has any right at all to claim authority over a member. Claiming authority seems to be elevating oneself above another. It gives the impression that someone else’s words are more important and more valuable than the person under authority’s words. The Pharisees thought they had this special authority over the Jewish people. Jesus certainly put them in their place. In talking to the people about the Pharisees he says this in Matthew 23:7-12:

They love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’ “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ.[b] The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Go through that verse again now and replace the word ‘rabbi’ with ‘pastor.’ I’ve seen pastors get mad because they weren’t respected and called ‘pastor so and so.’ Pastors and spiritual leaders are not meant to be the bosses of us by any means. They are meant to lead by example. They are meant to be the lowliest. They are not meant to lord over us but to lead by example (1 Pet 5:3, Hebrews 13:7, funny how these verses are in the same books and chapters as the verses that people that claim authority use). We don’t work our way up to being in a place of leadership, we work our way down.

Anyone who starts parading around with their title of ‘pastor’ or ‘spiritual leader’ and wants people to follow them under his authority has completely lost the image of the gospel. In fact, it’s the beginnings of a cult that shows power and authority in some other place rather than Christ alone. A true ‘pastor’ or ‘spiritual leader’ will have earned the respect from those under them. They will have descended (kingdom values) to a place of leadership because people love, trust and respect them. The people I would consider in leadership over me; I would probably die for them. For those that try to claim some sort of spiritual authority over me are usually busy wasting time trying to convince their congregations to live the right way. Leadership is extremely important and holds a very vital role in the church (which I will get to in upcoming posts). However, leadership is not meant to claim its authority over people, especially those that have been given equal rites in the Kingdom.

7 Comments

  • Our culture has no respect for authority. Just because it’s been abused in the past does not mean that it is always that way. Jesus has “all authority” in heaven and earth (Matt. 28). Read 2 Cor. where Paul argues for his apostolic authority. Jesus submits to John the Baptist even though Jesus’ ministry was very different than his. Too many these days are running around starting denominations. Our generation needs to learn respect and submission even if we disagree with the camel’s hair, locusts and wild honey of those in authority. That way we will fulfill all righteousness.

  • You’re onto something here, Nathan. If you look through the NT, not even one of the apostles set himself up as a single pastor over a church. In fact, the image we see in Acts 15, 1 Tim. 5, Titus 1, and 1 Peter 5 is of elders (plural) leading a congregation. I think God knew that human beings have a big dog complex, and wanted to let there be only one supreme leader of a church–Jesus Christ himself. You’ll find that kind of leadership, by the way, in Churches of Christ. Peace.

  • I have been struggling with the issue of leadership as well. I also read the book Under Cover recently and I found myself arguing with it. (Which is probably good because you learn more that way.) I strongly believe that God has/is/will set up his kingdom as he sees fit but today we seem to only recognize good leaders as those with the best track records and best credentials. Just because you went to school for 4 years doesnt make you a pastor and its annoying when pastors demand the title.

    Look at the bible, the great leaders of it were drunks, murders, cheaters, liars, wimps, etc.

    Your quite right Nathan, the book Under Cover pretty much says that you are to listen to the authority over you as long as it lines up to God? (Or can be backed up with some verses.) He also talks about how leaders are taken out of there position and how to deal with them. It kind of seems like he is saying if the leader does something wrong, God will take him out. But what happens if he doesnt? Does that make you wrong?

    What kills me is how people speak on Gods behalf and abuse him. When people say the lord has said this which means the creator of the Universe, the one and only has spoken a message to me and is for me to follow out and if you are against me, then you are against the one and only God. That really grills me. That is defiantly cult behavior.

    I dont think were to pretend were God and run around preaching absolutism, which is a political theory holding that all power should be vested in one ruler because we are surely not it.
    In the city of Sarnia you dont see it. There are like 90 plus churches in our little city and they arent under the authority of one church. Each church has its own leaders doing there own ministries with there own people.

    Denominations are a great way of showing us that there are so many different views and opinions on how to view God. I mean, if Gods word is only one way, then which denominations are heresy and which one is the true word of God? The way denominations act and represent themselves its almost as if they are saying well, were all playing the same sport, but were the best team.

    If I attend a church, do I have to agree with the pastor? Do I have to follow his every whim; I would like to think not. That would be a shame if that were the case, yet why if you dont think like your church or pastor why cant you be a leader or in some cases attend? Could it be that we have lost the point of attending church?

    I would like to believe that a church is a place that encourages you to think, move forward in the story you find yourself in, meet people who share your faith, disuse it, enjoy it, embrace it and then serve the community in which your church is located. I would have never of attended church if I thought it was about lining up with leadership.

    I just read this from Rob Bell. Hes a pastor in Michigan who does the Nooma videos.

    My goal isnt to just cram a bunch of stuff in your brain and say here do this. My goal is to have the first word on a discussion and to lay out some things, throw around some ideas, explain some passages so that you can take it and do something with it, wrestle with it, make it your own, work it out with people that are closest to you.

    I would say thats a pretty novel assumption of a pastors role.

  • The problem with saying that Jesus is a king is that a king implies a kingdom. And a kingdom implies delegated authority. That is the picture you will find in the Bible.

    There is structural authority within God himself in trinitarianism. The Son proceeds from the Father and the Spirit proceeds from Father and Son. All are equal in divinity but there is structural subordination.

    There is structural authority among angels. Some are archangels and some are lower order angels (though certainly not less important, just structurally subordinated).

    And there is structural authority among subjects in the king’s kingdom. Jesus delegates authority to Paul, for example. Paul, out of this apostolic authority, commissions Timothy to guard the good deposit that has been given to him (i.e. the people). 1 Corinthians 12 talks about some of the structural appointments that God has made, as well as Ephesians 4.

    Marriage is another picture of structural subordination. Both man and women are equal in value, but are given different structural roles based on function.

    God is a God of order. Because a house divided against itself cannot stand. Whatever you think of the Catholic church, its structural unity and delgation of authority has kept it alive and considerably less fragmented than protestantism despite some severe moral failures. How much more would a united and orderly structure benefit a church of people who love God with all their hearts and want nothing more than to help the hurting and distressed of the world.

    In truth, Jesus is not the king. He is the “King of kings.” This implies delegated leadership also. Unfortunately a King, and a Kingdom don’t fit well with our democratic mindsets. That’s something our culture lacks.

  • Good points Brent. What is also interseting is the qouting of the Bible as if it is some kind of an authority in the matter when you don’t quite regard it as such. Another point I would like to make here is we should be seeking God constantly and coming to church for the building up of one another. If we live in the word daily we really don’t need to be taught it, except one some issues that may be a little confusing to us. You go to church to build your faith not to dis the pastors (pastor is mentioned only twice in the Word, but no less important) or authorities of prophets, the word of knowledge, the gift of tongues, and interperation of those tongues, the gifts of the Spirit through the baptism of the Holy Ghost to be use in church but not exclusively, it’s to lead unbelievers into the Kingdom.

  • Another thought I had was, when you start your own church. Who’s going to be the pastor of that church.

    You can expect the see many Nathans there questioning Your every move and motive.
    And why you say what you say and what authority do YOU have to say those things.
    It will be a battle to try to stay true to what you believe in and about trying to run a church and have the people living the way the Bible says.
    Not fighting with you on every issue.

    Because there are standards in the Bible as to how and why we live the way we do, I mean if after we said our prayer to become a Christain, we still go out and contuine to do the things we have always done, then where is, as John the Baptist said works of repentance.
    The change, the transformation, the life set free from the bondages and the life that seeks after righteousness and holiness, for if we don’t walk toward these goals the Bible is very clear on where we will not go.
    Matthew says,
    “but seek ye first the kingdom of God AND His righteousness and all these things will be added onto you”.

    I do understand that there have been alot of people calling themselves pastors.
    But I truly believe if you are filled with the Spirit of God, you will see the truth and it will set you free. It may take time before the truth is seen.
    Another thought is would you want someone always watching you to see if you have made a mistake or, waiting for you to screw up?
    Because you will, I will, everyone will.

    But I believe we are not here to tare down one another but to build up one another in our most Holy Faith.

    From the smallest to greatest in the church,(faith wise)for lack of better words, because I don’t want to say from the no bodies to the some bodies, because we are all some bodies, it’s just peoples different points of view and most of the time, there wrong.

    Please don’t think that if someone is telling you the truth, about what we as Christains should be living like, from a pulit or a street corner, that they are superoir to you, I mean the truth is the truth weather from the lips of a sinner or a saint.
    If the Word says not to lie and we lie, we are a liar, right.
    Just the same as if we get stopped by the police, which most people don’t have a problem with as the authority of the law.
    They are there to protect us. Like Moses did. The spokesperson. You know the guy that should be going daily before the Lord and asking the Lord to give him a message for the people because the people aren’t really to interested in doing it themselves.

    The shepherd, not the Great Shepherd, Jesus, but a hireling.
    The one who started out with compassion for the lost and a true love for people to grow in unity and love for one another and to see a perfecting of the saints and obedient ones.
    Because it was the Lord is the one to put that burden on their hearts, and who are we to question what God wants to do in someones life.
    Get along side that person and help them fulfill their goals as a child of the King.
    And not act like a child when someone says something we don’t like or agree with, check it out with the Word the really authority.
    The Word as a whole not just a verse here or there.

    You see the Lord had the people gather together many times to worship Him and so that is one of the main reasons that I go to church. Its not to look for the mistakes made by the pastor or anyone else for that matter, cause I make enough of my own, that I need to ask Father to forgive me of.

    But it would be interesting to see the kind of church that your talking about. Is it the one where everyone does their own thing, who keeps order and has a plan, to unite the people and bring the gospel to the streets on a constructive and ongoing bases and once you lead them to salvation where do you tell them to go to grow in the faith cause faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God not of man and his thoughts.

    Again, I’m not here pointing the finger at anyone, cause when I look at it there is three fingers pointing back at me.

    So this is for everyone who is having these thoughts and problems. Get over it and move on in faith believing love for one another.
    Find a church or building to worship the Only Wise and Living God, and stop looking to correct what you think is wrong with the church system.

    Its NOT perfect and never will be. Because imperfect people go there.

    But I will point out here what the Word says about it. And that IT IS FOR THE PERFECTING OF THE SAINTS, that we gather together in one accord.

    Are you perfect? I know I’m not, but I do know this for sure and that this is beyond a shadow of doubt. I want to be an encouragement to my bothers and sisters, and not to tare down but to build up, BUT I want to be faithful to Father and tell the truth if asked, according to the Word which I read daily.

    And some people don’t like to be reminded of what the Bible says.

    We have to make up our minds, who are we going to follow man or God. Jesus did offend people it says so in the Word.

    But the differance is what they did, repent or rebel.

    Repent and go to heaven.
    Or rebel and go to hell.

    Its our decision.
    Peace to all.
    Brady

  • Hey Brady, thanks for the post.

    I’ll keep it brief. Who is going to be the pastor of the church plant? Well, the answer is no one. Why have a pastor
    (in the terminology today)? I think you were right on when you said

    ” Please don’t think that if someone is telling you the truth, about what we as Christians should be living like, from a pulpit or a street corner, that they are superior to you, I mean the truth is the truth weather from the lips of a sinner or a saint.”

    Amen. This is what I think a church should look like. Everyone having access to encourage everyone else, teach everyone else, correct everyone else, rebuke everyone else, strengthen everyone else and uplift everyone else. It is no like that in the church today, sure you could argue that different people pray from the pulpit, different people give announcements, different people give an encouragement or a testimony, different people teach Sunday school. But lets be honest. We think that the teaching is supposed to come from the pastor. We think that it is the pastor’s job to feed us.

    Why have we elevated the pastoral position to something about the Christian position. We are in the priesthood of ALL believers. Sometimes I think that I get the negative feedback on here not because I’m reminding them of what the bible says but because they think that I’m saying things it never says in the first place.

    When’s the last time your pastor was cutting your grass? Or took you out for lunch? Or hung out with the pals for wings? Or brought you over cookies? Or asked you to join him for coffee? Or invited you to go to a conference with him?
    When’s the last time you did that with him?

    I’m not ripping on your pastor by any means. In fact, I love your pastor and I know him personally and I think he’s doing wonderful things for the church and the community. All I’m trying to do is point out the status quo of almost all pastors in all churches all over Canada. It’s an elevated position when really it should be a lowered one. One to their knees where they are scrubbing the feet of their congregation and not just feeding them food.

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