Church authority can be a touchy subject nowadays with the “Me” centric society in which we live. We grudgingly or willfully place ourselves under authority everyday. We obey laws, we pay our taxes, and we obey our employers, even if we disagree with them. Why? We do so because of the negative consequences of our disobedience.
However, when it comes to church authority too many Christians act like church trout swimming from one church to another until they find the “perfect” church. WARNING! If you do find a perfect church whatever you do, don’t walk in! You’ll make it imperfect.
Most conversations I have with people who leave churches usually come down to one or/and two things: 1) Their “needs” aren’t being met; 2) The pastor made them mad. We’ve well covered the first in the past so we’ll skip that for today.
Let’s look at the second: the pastor made you mad. Perhaps you actually have a good reason to be mad at the pastor. Has you employer ever made you mad? Has a family member ever made you mad? Has the law ever made you mad? The answer to all three questions is yes and yet you don’t quit your job, you’re still a member of your family, and you’re still placing yourself under the authority of the law.
As a Christian, I must place myself under the authority of my pastor, even if at times I disagree with him because he is my shepherd and I am under his pastoral care. Is he going to make mistakes sometimes? If your pastor is human then yes he will. But please understand the biblically important role of a pastor:
“For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me. For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church. Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?” (1 Corinthians 4:15-20)
I have never got mad at a church and left it so I do not assume to know all that goes through a brother or sister’s mind in such an instance, but in my discussions on this subject it usually comes down to rebelling against authority. I do not mean rebellion in an open and sinful manner, but in a more subtler and dangerous way. Your flesh or Satan whisper in your ear that you have rights and the pastor has violated those rights. How much damage to our nation has that attitude wrought? What we must understand is that pastors are placed in positions of authority by the heavenly calling on their lives. Too often we look at things on the surface instead of looking into the spiritual aspects of a situation:
“Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ’s, let him again consider this in himself, that just as he is Christ’s, even so we are Christ’s. For even if I should boast somewhat more about our authority, which the Lord gave us for edification and not for your destruction, I shall not be ashamed—lest I seem to terrify you by letters. ‘For his letters,’ they say, ‘are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.’ Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when we are absent, such we will also be in deed when we are present.” (2 Corinthians 10:7-11)
Sometimes the age of a pastor presents an issue for a Christian, particularly with men. A young minister who is the youth pastor may run afoul with a parent over an issue with their child and it’s off to “I’m offended” land. Again, this pastor has authority over us and the Apostle Paul has made it clear that we are not to despise such ministers, be they young or new to the ministry:
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.” (Titus 2:11-15)
My counsel to a fellow Christian when they have issues with their pastor is to go and speak with the pastor. However, once the pastor has made his decision, unless the pastor is violating Biblical principle, I strongly urge that person to remain in that church as an act of faith, humility, and obedience. If we humble ourselves we can show that we are trusting God that our pastor is His man called to the pulpit. The greatest display of our faith and humility is through our obedience; placing ourselves under our pastor’s authority.
Understand again the vital role the pastor plays in our spiritual life. Commenting on our passage from 1 Corinthians 4, Matthew Henry writes:
“Though the apostle spoke with authority as a parent, he would rather beseech them in love. And as ministers are to set an example, others must follow them, as far as they follow Christ in faith and practice. Christians may mistake and differ in their views, but Christ and Christian truth are the same yesterday, today, and forever. Whenever the gospel is effectual, it comes not in word only, but also in power, by the Holy Spirit, quickening dead sinners, delivering persons from the slavery of sin and Satan, renewing them both inwardly and outwardly, and comforting, strengthening, and establishing the saints, which cannot be done by the persuasive language of men, but by the power of God. And it is a very happy temper, to have the spirit of love and meekness bear the rule, yet to maintain just authority.”
It grieves me to know that people have left churches because they could not humble themselves and let go of their stubborn pride. It is a victory for the devil when this happens because a piece of the body of Christ has been torn away, and a family member has left the fold. This undoubtedly has affected many a pastors to the point they no longer deliver the gospel effectually, instead it is powerless and void of the Holy Spirit.
The departed church member in part bears responsibility for this outcome.
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Copyright © 2013 David Jeffers