How are we to use our Authority?

Many of us have been given a position of authority. What’s yours? Are you a pastor? Supervisor? Sunday School teacher? Politician? Parent? Etc… You’d be surprised how many of us have been given some amount of authority that we brush off, don’t think about, or don’t even realize we have. Some of us may feel qualified… others maybe not so much. So… what do we do with this authority? We recognize that without leaders and without authority the world around us would be in shambles and chaos, but there is harm if we use our authority incorrectly or for the wrong reasons as well.

I find it interesting that in 2 Corinthians 10 while Paul is both describing himself and defending his ministry he says what we find in verse 8:

Authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you.

Wow. As much as I have loved and read the letters of Paul this one verse never has stood out to me as much as it does in light of having been entrusted with some authority. Let’s take a second to evaluate… how often do we use our authority as a weapon to get things done the way we “want them” or to make things fit our preferences? Do we find it necessary to win every argument or to make our opinion or say known? Is it our way or the highway? Do we lord over people with our authority or do we use our authority to enable them, to build them up, and to create growth in other’s lives?

Let’s take a second to evaluate our authority and how we can use it for the building up of others and the success and growth of the Kingdom of God.

  • Have a humble spirit.

All of us have known a “know it all” and I would be willing to bet that all of us detested that very thought or attitude. How do we carry ourselves as leaders? Do we know it all or are we open to admitting that we don’t know all the answers and maybe there are other ways of accomplishing tasks other than our own?

Philippians 2:3-4 says,

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

I believe there is a difference between an authority figure and a leader. I also believe that we as believers should strive to be the latter of the two. A leader understands that they don’t possess all the answers and uses the people around them to collectively achieve success. A leader empowers and enables the people around them to help them reach their full potential in a task, position, or job. There is a whole lot more to leadership than simply providing the tools necessary to complete a job.

When asked what the qualifications for becoming a “leader” were John Quincy Adams said this,

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

  • Celebrate the successes of the team.

Have you ever worked for someone who only noticed when you fell short on a task or didn’t complete it in the way they had envisioned? They only noticed the negative when you are faithful and diligent one hundred percent of the time. It stinks.

A good leader uses their authority wisely by recognizing those around them for what they do for the “team.” In every application it is easy to feel “under-appreciated” or not needed, but when a leader “brings to the light” or raises awareness of what others are doing it in turn reminds every team member that they are an important.

We are well aware that 1 Corinthians 12:14-26 says,

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Using your authority for the benefit of those around you will go a long way to encouraging your team and achieving excellence, and when we do receive praise as the “leader” it is important to acknowledge the contributions of the team.

A solid leader needs no other praise than that of achieving, encouraging, enabling, and inspiring.

When Dwight D. Eisenhower was asked to define leadership he did so like this,

Leadership: the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.

  • Replicate yourself.

Proverbs 11:14 says,

Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.

Good leaders or authority figures aren’t afraid to train up replacements for themselves! That may seem crazy but a successful leader uses authority as an opportunity to help others gain insight and abilities.

If you aren’t replicating yourself by pouring into others around you then you need to evaluate what your motives behind leadership and authority are.

An effective leader doesn’t worry about team members around them surpassing them in knowledge, skill, or ability. Instead they recognize that the success and enablement of others is what creates overall success. If we aren’t working to build our kingdom, but rather the kingdom of God, then it shouldn’t be a concern anyways.

John Buchan said,

The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people, but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already.

So… we all have a choice to make. Will we use our authority to our advantage, or will we humble ourselves and use our experiences, intelligence, and position to encourage, enable, and build up those around us?

Will you use your authority to build others up or destroy them? The choice is yours.

Proverbs 29:2

When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, But when a wicked man rules, people groan.

What are your Intentions… Servant-hood or Stardom?

We live in an unusual day where anyone can be made famous for any peculiar thing. 20-30 years ago it took effort, it took a special gift, and a stroke of luck in many cases. Today it seems that anyone can be made into a sensation over night… from rags to riches, from shame to stardom. In the age of technology, reality TV, and YouTube popularity anything is possible I guess.

Just think about it, we have the Kardashian family who tend to always be in spotlight for seemingly no reason whatsoever, we also have reality TV stars who get recognized on a national level for merely living their “lives” on television. The world is full of large ego’s and people doing whatever they can to get their second of stardom… their moment in the spotlight.

So, how does this truth impact the church?

The “rockstar” or “celebrity” mentality has invaded the church like a plague and, for some reason, it has been embraced or accepted wholeheartedly. All around us there are celebrity pastors, authors, and worship leaders… people flock to their ministries, churches, or events just to hear them speak, to preach, or sing. Is this a bad thing? I would say not always. But, is this always a good thing? My answer to that would be definitely not.

With a large stage comes a large audience and a huge responsibility. How committed are we to stepping up to the plate on that task and delivering faithfully? We shouldn’t be scared of growth! It is a great thing! But we must be careful to keep our intentions in check. The truth is this: When it becomes more about advancing our desires, our goals, and our agendas than it does about advancing the Gospel then we know we have a MAJOR issue on our hands. When we are concerned more about the national spotlight than the community impact we have missed the mark somewhere along the way. Our “best seller” or multi-building church campus or complex is nothing but a statue to our accomplishments if our congregations are getting a watered down, “ear-pleasing,” form of the Gospel.

Here are a few things to keep in mind or ask yourself if you begin to become a “well-known” public figure… because we have said that it can happen to nearly anyone with almost no warning I today’s day and time.

  •  Respect or Idolatry?

Are we using our elevated platform to elevate ourselves… or Jesus? Are we demanding respect because of the things we are doing for Christ, or are we raising our own banner high to be worshipped? It’s a hard thing to distinguish. When we cause people to exalt us, or any other person, above God, we are leading them into idolatry. Stay humble. Keep your eyes on the prize. Worldly fame fades, but the Kingdom of the Lord stands forever.

  •  Who are we causing our congregations to follow?

People need leaders, and God has provided His church with leaders. How are we leading? Are we shepherding the flock and caring for the people within our community? Being a “celebrity” pastor will draw people in initially, but being a part of a community will keep them there. Are we causing people to follow us or are we pointing them to following Christ. Let’s face it, church isn’t about us, advancing our careers or goals, or even making a living for that fact. Sometimes the Lord blesses us with those things, but our focus must remain on Him through it all. We must ask ourselves… who are our congregations looking to? Who are they following? Us or Jesus?

  •  Sensation or Substance?

The Word of God isn’t popular. It doesn’t exactly cause or call people to be comfortable. Want to write a best-seller? Avoid deep theology and anything within it that hurts people’s feelings. Want to write a hit song? Keep it positive and upbeat, but don’t get deeper into the Gospel than surface level. I only say this to make this point: If we have to dumb down or sell out the Gospel to attain any level of success then that is a success that we shouldn’t want. Are we drawing people in because we sing or play so well? Are we bringing people in with our charisma and charming smile/personality? Or, is the Gospel so evident in our lives and words that people who desire substance want to be around us, to sit under our teachings, and to participate in our worship. We should never sell out substance and depth for experience or emotion. Let’s not cause people to succumb to our personalities, but rather let’s cause them to surrender to Jesus.

So… What have we learned? Is it wrong to have a desire to hear the words of a well-known “larger-than-life” pastor? Is it such a bad thing to worship along with the newest iTunes chart sensation? No! I would actually dare to see that we are wise to encourage people to seek out and learn from the best teachers, worship leaders, and theologians possible.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing to be well known for your ministry… if your intentions are correct. Just remember to ask yourself: what kingdom am I expanding? My kingdom? Or the Kingdom of God?