Monday, October 23, 2006


Jesus appropriately exercised authority. His was not a democratic organization. When he told his disciples to prepare a boat to go across the Sea of Galilee, He did not call a committee meeting. When He decided to head for Jerusalem, He didn't ask for a show of hands. He exercised his authority.

One thing I try to encourage pastors not to do is to give up their authority. While it is customary in churches for decisions to be made by groups (i.e. The board) and carried out by individuals (i.e. The pastor), at CTK we prefer that decisions be made by individuals and carried out by groups. When the church is led by trustworthy, competent individuals, we tend to get better decisions, quicker.

Trying to get a group to come to consensus is a tedious process, that often "dumbs down" the decision to the least common denominator. The exact synonym for consensus is mediocrity. When you ask a group to come to consensus, you unwittingly empower the person in the group with the most fear, least insight, or weakest conscience. At CTK we prefer that the church be led by leaders.

In the church authority stems from a clear master and a clear mission. When you have a clear master and a clear mission, you do not need further mandate. You should not seek further permission. God already commissioned us to make more disciples of Jesus Christ in Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” A mandate of such clarity allows us to proceed aggressively in the work, with "more signal, less noise."

As a Christian leader your authority should be established by not just the call of God, but the character of Christ. The style of leadership that we exercise should always be "servant" leadership. At first glance, authority and servanthood would seem to be antonyms. But servanthood actually frees you to lead with more aggression than an autocratic style, as Peter Senge opines: "Paradoxically, the 'leader as commander' has less freedom and authority. Every commander is usually following directions from another commander; even Patton took his orders from Eisenhower. A servant leader, by contrast, has the authority to do what he or she thinks is right, and to be responsible for the consequences."

If God has called you to serve (He has)....then please serve. If God has called you to lead (He has)....then please lead. And do so with His authority.

In the CTK organization I like the phrase “Distributed Authority” better than “Delegated Authority.” Delegated authority sounds as if the authority resides at the top, and then is apportioned downward. Distributed Authority implies that we all share in the authority that we have been given. One of our values, after all, is empowerment. With empowerment as a value, the power should grow, not lessen, as you move out from the center of the organization. In truth, the person with the greatest freedom in our ministry is the small group leader. They love, lead, do and decide. They can meet when they want, when they want, with an agenda that they choose. They have the ultimate flexibility and control. And this is how we want it to be. In a good organization, as you go “up” in your responsibilities you go “down” in your freedoms.

Authority is authority, right? Not necessarily. Christian authority is always expressed with love and humility. One of my favorite G.K. Chesterton quotes is about the man who is “fit to lead.” I think this quote rounds out the spirit in which a Christian exercises authority.

Much vague and sentimental journalism has been poured out to the effect that Christianity is akin to democracy, and most of it is scarcely strong or clear enough to refute the fact that the two things have often quarreled. The real ground upon which Christianity and democracy are one is very much deeper. The one specially and peculiarly un-Christian idea is the idea of Carlyle – the idea that the man should rule who feels that he can rule. Whatever else is Christian, this is heathen. If our faith comments on government at all, it’s comment must be this – that the man should rule who does not think he can rule. Carlyle’s* hero may say, “I will be king”; but the Christian saint must say, “Nolo episcopari.”** If the great paradox of Christianity means anything, it means this – that we must take the crown in our hands, and go hunting in dry places and dark corners of the earth until we find the one man who feels himself unfit to wear it. Carlyle was quite wrong; we have not got to crown the exceptional man who knows he can rule. Rather we must crown the much more exceptional man who knows he can’t.

It can be a real bummer when someone goes on a power trip. The fear that someone will get “the big head” leads organizations to severely restrict authority. But I like Chesterton’s implied solution better: Just don’t give authority to anyone who thinks they deserve it. But then if you can find someone who will exercise authority humbly, they should be empowered enough to exercise it.

*Thomas Carlyle was a contemporary of Chesterton’s who was espousing a self-made-man approach to leadership.
**Nolo episcopari = I don’t want to be overseer.

Jesus not only exercised His authority, He also recognized the authority of His Father; "Yet not my will, but yours be done." For health and protection, everyone should find themselves under authority, even those who are in authority. At CTK the relationships between the church council, lead pastor, area pastor and local pastor provide a framework in which leaders can both lead and be led.

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