Authority in the Church

Authority in the church is a touchy subject. I won’t even begin to touch the issue of papal authority but rather look to common views of authority within the wider world of evangelicalism. Those more Orthodox will take some issue with this since we owe biblical canon, a good deal of theology and certain liturgical practices to them. That being said, apostolic authority, biblical authority and pastoral authority will be under review.

‘Authority’ is often used by those in leadership to retain control, elicit fear and unwittingly usurp the authority of Christ as the head of the church. Such use of authority can lead to abuse of power. [See my previous post on Authority and abuse] Again, I will not touch the scandals in Roman Catholicism. The issue it seems is that earthly authority is being mistaken for Kingdom authority. Kingdom authority rests in the rule of God as seen in the life of Christ. If the authority in the church (as being within the Kingdom) does not reflect the life and ministry of Jesus, something is askew. I would say it is often our view of authority that is out of line.

With this issue of  authority causing confusion, what is the proper way of addressing the issue of authority and leadership within the Body of Christ? Likewise, how do we deal with apostolic, biblical and pastoral authority? What other areas of authority in the church do we need to address? Share your thoughts.

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2 responses to “Authority in the Church

  1. Whatever the authority in the church is, I think the Bible tells us we have to submit to it. It can be questioned in a Christian fashion, making use of the fruits of the spirit. The book “Firestorm: Preventing and Overcoming Church Conflicts” by Ron Susek shows the wrong way. No one has the right to come into a church and crash its culture. Interesting subject, but I think we’re pretty much stuck with church authority as we find it. It doesn’t mean we can’t influence it. But to expect you can change it is unbiblical, in my view (on the basis of Romans 13). The Holy Spirit must bring about the change and he can use you as an instrument, but you need to be submissive and humble, and make sure it is truly He who is doing the leading, and not the flesh. Take it from one who has made every mistake in the book in churches! We are currently church searching, and have no illusions about having to accept what we find or move on.

  2. Hi Glenn,
    Thanks for the comments. I have always been one to question (hence an MA in philosophy) and the questioning is for the sake of reform. I agree, no one should just barge in an demand changes but rather develop relationships that brings a certain influence and grace. I believe Christ has the authority in the church and leaders should reflect the character of Christ but this is often overlooked. I pray for the church to become who she is meant to be, the Bride and Body of Christ. This will only happen when we all submit to the head of the church, Christ. The alternative to church as traditionally viewed is to leave the institutional and embrace a constitutional view of the Body of Christ. This is usually a radical step and requires a radical commitment. Needless to say, I find myself torn between the institutional and constitutional ways of the church.

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