Let’s continue to examine the topic of “Pastoral leadership – What should it look like?” In this article, I would like to focus on the topic of spiritual authority.
In some churches, we see leaders wear beautiful and expensive robes or other clothing that sets them apart. They also wear magnificent and imposing hats that signify their importance. They often wear expensive jewelry. They might even expect you to bow before them or kiss their ring. Is that biblical spiritual authority? Let’s look at a few Bible verses to find the answer.
In 1 Peter 5, Peter is addressing Elders and he tells them to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight … not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” Here we see that Elders are not to assert their will over people in an arrogant way; they are not to dominate them. Instead they are to be examples by their own conduct and life. Paul told Timothy (a church leader) to be an “example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
Let’s look at how Jesus modeled authority. What did he say? How did he act? In Mark 10:42-45, Jesus addressed two of his disciples who wanted honor and glory and he said to them “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus acted as a servant and told his followers to act as servants. In John 13, we read of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. That was the job of a servant! And Jesus told his disciples to do likewise.
Furthermore, a church leader should never think that he has the authority to become a mediator between God and men. The Bible is clear. There is “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). No man should take the place of God and His authority in the lives of church members.
In conclusion, an elder must have a right view of spiritual authority. Elders are given authority in the church in order to edify and build up, never to boss their fellow servants around. Elders are not to seek glory and power. Instead, they should seek to be servants.