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.