Power, Authority and Ministry

I’m taking the class Mission of Jesus in Mark in a couple of weeks at seminary, and I have been reading The Mission of God by Christopher J. H. Wright for the class.  The book is very interesting- while a little heavy.  Something the author said about God and authority made me think about leadership within the church.

When people start talking about power and authority- it can sometimes lead to a negative conversation.  In fact, Andy Stanley spoke about power- and called it a four letter word (yes, it’s five letters)…Stanley asks the question- “what happens when you look around the room and realize that you have the more power?”  (Check out the video below to see a funny take on this from funnymen Tripp and Tyler)  There must be a balance for a pastor or leader when exercising power and authority- but we cannot deny that we likely have power and authority because of our position.  Sometimes- power and authority is granted to us because of our title.  Other times it is earnred.  Power and authority can also be lost.

When I was a 10th grader in high school, I was on the varsity basketball team.  We had a coach who believed in the cuss and yell at your team method of spurring us on to victory.  This coach believed that he had the power and authority to belittle and yell at his players.  When leaders are granted power and authority- it is not a free pass to become little Napoleon’s or to become a tyrant. 

Wright, in his book writes, “Authority is not just a list of positive commands; authority includes legitimating permission.  Authority authorizes; it grants freedom to act within boundaries.  As Christians, as we pursue the missio dei, God authorizes us (even empowers us) to bring about the kingdom of God.  We have been given boundaries and are free to act within those boundaries.

As Christian leaders- we too must use authority in liberating ways.  Being granted power should not mean that we become micro-managers (or worse- tyrants), but means that we establish boundaries and empower other leaders to work vibrantly, creatively, and freely within those boundaries.  This is a real use of authority.

In what ways are you using authority to liberate and empower other leaders to use their gifts, talents and abilities to the fullest?  How do you go about establishing the boundaries in which ministry takes place?  What are some authority fails that you’ve experienced?

About Steve LaMotte

Husband of Andrea and father of four amazing children. Pastor at Avenue United Methodist Church in Milford, Delaware.
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