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Discerning Between Human and Godly Authority

One of the important factor in this chapter is learning to recognize spiritual authority when it is near your life. Humans create authority through power by hierarchies or degrees that put people above others, able to tell them what to do. Spiritual authority, however, is found in the power of someone’s character, the depth of their love, and the truthfulness of their insight. Real authority never demands submission because it isn’t about power, but transformation. Conversely, just becomes someone has authority within a religious system doesn’t mean they have authority from God.

Can you describe some characteristics that help you discern false authority from real authority? Think through the life of Jesus who had no earthly authority, and yet the people recognized that he spoke as one having great authority. What accounted for the difference between him and the Pharisees? How has this played out in your own life?

Real authority doesn’t seem to have the mob blindly following like false authority sometimes can. Real authority always points me back to the sufficiency of the work of Christ; always points me to His love and grace; and lifts shame off of me, freeing me to Life.


When we talk about authority in Gods family, we tend to think of it in terms of someone having the power to deal with problems in community. Working with one of Wayne’s agricultural models (which also fits the shepherding sheep imagery) of the work of ‘feeding watering and protecting’ a plant e.g. a vine; trusting God to produce the ‘growth strength and fruit’ – I am wondering if it’s not the whole body’s work to ‘feed water and protect’ the “by gifted favour through trust” New Testament paradigm and therefore we all have the same authority to deal with problems? If this were the case, perhaps the authority exercised by those recognised to function as shepherding elders in the body/community is simply an exercising of the same authority we all have - though perhaps given greater attention when we deal with problems due to their gift of insight into the inner workings of God’s salvation in and through Jesus and their subsequent ability to articulate these things to the body to better equip them in our common work of ‘feeding watering and protecting ‘?

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There are many times when those in small groups will speak something that just resonates…it seems ‘right.’ We are in the midst of a group of five couples, meeting every other week to strengthen our marriages. The community is the most honest, raw, open group of people I have had the privilege of being with. As we challenge each other and love each other, authority seems to be shared, as people share their own experiences and offer help and support. This group came about by the Spirit…there is really no other way to describe it. It is not something our church (IC) even knows about…it happened to meet needs. This kind of growth, love, compassion and shared responsibility has been a gift. But it is all hard to put into words.


Something I found in my last association with an IC came from the lead pastor who instead of doing things himself he surrounded himself with people that could do the work for him. In fact he had 12 others in his" leading pack," if I may use that language, I say that as I feel it is getting too close for it not to be gossip like so please forgive me, however I can’t see any better way to term the yuk!! :disappointed: . There always seemed to be the constant need for the "leading pack," to get others to comply to the vision he had. An example of the manipulation was cell groups, if you had a cell group you where a good leader if you hadn’t any of such group you were not. Now how good did those that didn’t feel? The guilt trip was large in my case, I felt inadequate and went out of my way to solve it…
Oh the well oiled machine of a hierarchical system…

It wasn’t too long and I discovered that top 12 group used to assign for those underneath them to have people that had come to the church and newly joined, they would get associated to a cell group. It was like an insiders group whom the leader liked.

Something I notice, people who have a real spiritual authority don’t surround themselves with people in an organised manner but allow it to happen naturally.
This that I have just spoken about here reminds me in a way, albeit with slight differences, to what we read in the chapter and quote,

We need look no further than the pharisees to find a group of leaders who took God’s words and twisted of them into a platform for their for their own prestige and power. As people learn to live in the reality of the new creation, however, any hierarchy seems to feel like a straitjacket. Jesus never intended for the life of the new creation to fit in the structures of the old. He didn’t start an organisation and install himself is the CEO. He said that the greatest in his Kingdom would find serving more vital than command. He didn’t tell people what to do but invited them into a kingdom in which love would negate the need for control.

That for me is so important in noticing who has spiritual authority and who has not…

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The pastor from the IC we left refers to himself in his bios etc…as the “primary vision caster.” And he gets his little underlings under his leading. Then almost weekly there is a guilt trip about submitting to authority. Don’t grumble or talk about the leaders God has placed above you. So you are left sitting in the pew not ever allowed to question or you will be labeled a trouble maker. He sounds similar to what you have described here Ian. I have heard him say, “Father forgive us for being distracted by grace.” So he could then go on to put law on us. I’ve heard the leadership preach on Jude and ask the congregation if they are one of the ‘Beloved’ or those who have “crept in…”…(terms used in Jude.) You are made to doubt your union with God and actually told that perhaps you need to not take from the communion cup this morning because you may be faking your relationship with God and you don’t want to take in an unworthy manner. Talk about putting anxiety on a person! Ugh!
Manipulation and shameful mind games and control. THAT is not Godly authority! It is hard not to be angry about it, but I tell myself that they are blinded in their understanding too. They are to be pitied. It was for freedom Christ set me free…run to the table! Run to his open arms as the beloved! Let God’s grace teach you to say no to ungodliness!


Oh my! Joan, that broke my Yuk meter.[quote=“Joan, post:6, topic:328”]
I have heard him say, “Father forgive us for being distracted by grace.”

And He knows what he’s up to.

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I wonder if it might be helpful here to list some of the dumber things people have said using their so-called authority to intimidate the sheep, and also some good examples of what someone with true authority has said to you. I’ll start.

BAD EXAMPLE: To someone who had shared with the pastor he felt God was asking him to leave the fellowship. “Don’t you think God would show me that before he would show you?”

GOOD EXAMPLE: “If that’s what you feel he’s saying to you you need to follow it and you’ll have my prayers and blessings as you do.”

BAD EXAMPLE: In a teaching: “The elders here know your heart better than you know your own. If an elder tells you something, believe it, even if it doesn’t sound right to you.”

GOOD EXAMPLE: When giving counsel, “If what I’m saying to you doesn’t confirm what the Spirit is already speaking to you, then feel free to ignore it.”

BAD EXAMPLE: “The pastor says we are not allowed to read THAT book.”

GOOD EXAMPLE: "All I want to know is how you’re walk with Jesus is doing, and if there’s anything I can encourage you there, please let me know.



Bad example: When questioning our pastor in the past over teaching that put guilt and shame on us; teachings that didn’t emphasize God’s grace or goodness, but instead taught us fear, we were told that we were being attacked by Satan. (Of course, if we disagree with the “authority” God has placed over us in the church then we must be wrong or we must be attacked by Satan right?!..who are we to question?..we haven’t been to seminary,…she said sarcastically…)

Good example: Someone who prays the prayers of Paul for me, or leads me more fully into the knowledge of God’s love for me without shoving anything down my throat or being defensive about how right they are and how wrong I am.

Years ago, I was a secretary for the local Baptist Association office. It was one of my first jobs professionally and I was really young, newly married girl. During morning prayer meeting, the head boss would chastise me and others in guise of prayer. _" oh Lord, please show Suzy the proper way to ______". Instead of coming personally and telling us what we did wrong - he’d hide being prayer as if having God on his side in helping was better. This was everyday and after a few weeks, I decided to go work for a hospital.

Good example - my sister-in-law was our women’s pastor and worship pastor. Since we had small church, she had to be the worship leader by default. She had a pretty voice, but knew nothing of music really. I sang and played keyboard so she would often defer to others in worship band for advice on what to do. She was very humble. She was also type who actually prayed for you right then if you’d let her instead of just saying “I’ll be praying for you.” She stood by your side.

The premise for Wayne’s juxtapositions, from my experience, draws me back to how in natural family (and friendships), quality in our relationships always holds priority, and tasking together, while often integral to the relationship is always secondary to our ‘trust and love’.
In a hierarchical group or organisation we accept that the reversed to be true – as we naturally accept that we have come together primarily to fulfil a task – usually defined by a ‘vision’ which defines our purpose, our means to fulfil our purpose, and our motives. Consequently, we accept that ruling controlling positions of power are needed to mediate that vision, motivate the group (usually ‘carrot and stick’ of approval/disapproval of God and group) and manage the group and its resources to best fulfil the vision.
Ironically, we then complain or lament when we find in practice that we are no longer holding the priority of ‘quality’ in relationships (i.e. our trust and love) over the ‘tasking’ as we would in natural families or friendships. Perhaps this is more the reason why we find the ‘expressions’ of authority and our experience of authority to be so different between a family and an organisation – where a natural family has the ‘form’ of a family and ‘functions’ as a family and despite utilising authority, organisation and rules, remains a family and maintain the relationship dynamics of a family – compared to an organisation, where we have the ‘form’ of an organisation and we ‘function’ as an organisation utilising authority, organisation and rules the same as any other organisation and experience the same relationship dynamics of an organisation?