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Authority: Where I’m Coming From (Understanding Power Pt. 2)

They say that ‘postmoderns’ don’t like authority. I think that I’m a prime example of that ideal. I felt this way before I even knew what the word postmodernity meant, or if it wasn’t even a real word. It’s kind of funny actually, I’m typing right now and postmodernity isn’t recognized as a word in Microsoft Word. I think I stopped liking authority as soon as I felt like authority was restricting what God called me to do. After a few instances of being told what not to do, I quickly shut down and didn’t like any sort of authoritative figure in my life.

I tried to run retreats for some youth in my hometown and I was told I was undermining other ministries by doing so. Myself along with the young adults started doing bible studies about inerrancy and biblical doctrines and I was told that I needed to stop because I am hurting people’s faith. I used to play music in bars with a few friends and I got looks and comments about how I should be in church instead. I didn’t encourage people to speak in tongues, in fact I had questions about it, and I was deemed not Pentecostal enough and anti-Spirit. It was amazing of some of the things that people in authority labelled me with. It wasn’t long before I simply couldn’t work along side of certain people anymore. Leaving for university was a good idea. It gave me space to think out the way I was heading and get away from people that did not encourage me to go further but only limited things I could do.

My experience with authority was great until it got uncomfortable for them. As soon as I started working outside of the confines of a certain church label I was brushed off. You would be surprised how many people care about their own church growth more than they do the kingdom. They will pull out phrases like ‘God gave me these people to shepherd and protect and save from leaving the flock’ to ‘you are undermining the ministry that God gave me and I don’t like it.’ The authority that I came under was more concerned with their own egos than they were the overall picture of God’s kingdom, and as soon as I stopped petting their ego I was useless to them. I have had to relearn how to come under authority. I could be a free-for-all forever and I needed to come under authority of people that were going to keep me in check for God’s Kingdom not theirs.

My experience with authority, and I’m speaking spiritual authority all throughout this post in my case, has greatly blurred the way I see authoritative structures. In some ways I think it helps me stay clear of those that are dangerous but it also sometimes causes me to miss some structure of authority in my own life. I’m beginning to understand it better, and its become easier and easier to come under authority of some people who I love and trust very much and I hope God continues to soften my heart and shape me to any authority he puts me under.

I share this, because I think a story like this is important for understanding power structures and the place they have in our life and my own. With this as a foundation it will help me understand better what lies ahead.

2 Comments

  • I think that authority and the godly use of it is rooted in the fact that the church, society and the world are in fact more important than individuals are. Let me give you an example: a pastor ought to actually tell people what to do and people ought to obey him. This is because God has placed the oversight of the church in the hands of the pastor/minister together with the elders. It’s reasonable, in my mind, to tell people what to do/what not to do IF what’s being done/not being done is actually harmful to the community.

    “But Tom” someone chimes in, “but God told me to do __________.” I don’t deny that God “speaks” to people. But that being said why would God want someone to do something that harms the church? Why would God want anyone to teach something that’s going to harm people? Why would God want people to claim his authority to do something outside of the church wherein his authority resides?

    But there are unscrupulous people that will try to use their “authority” to abuse you. This is where, as you mentioned, love and trust come in. Myself, I’ve found leaders who I love and trust implicitly and I know that they feel the same way about me. Sometimes I have strange ideas about how things ought to be done and when these leaders explain to me why my thoughts and suggestions are potentially harmful I know that they’re not trying to be manipulative.

    Because of all this, I’m happy that you’re thinking af alligning yourself with an established group of churches (FMC?). If you can trust the people there then their insight will only be a blessing.

  • I think that authority and the godly use of it is rooted in the fact that the church, society and the world are in fact more important than individuals are. Let me give you an example: a pastor ought to actually tell people what to do and people ought to obey him. This is because God has placed the oversight of the church in the hands of the pastor/minister together with the elders. It’s reasonable, in my mind, to tell people what to do/what not to do IF what’s being done/not being done is actually harmful to the community.

    “But Tom” someone chimes in, “but God told me to do __________.” I don’t deny that God “speaks” to people. But that being said why would God want someone to do something that harms the church? Why would God want anyone to teach something that’s going to harm people? Why would God want people to claim his authority to do something outside of the church wherein his authority resides?

    But there are unscrupulous people that will try to use their “authority” to abuse you. This is where, as you mentioned, love and trust come in. Myself, I’ve found leaders who I love and trust implicitly and I know that they feel the same way about me. Sometimes I have strange ideas about how things ought to be done and when these leaders explain to me why my thoughts and suggestions are potentially harmful I know that they’re not trying to be manipulative.

    Because of all this, I’m happy that you’re thinking af alligning yourself with an established group of churches (FMC?). If you can trust the people there then their insight will only be a blessing.

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