Do We Have That Authority?

I’ve been sitting on this one for several weeks now –  but I can’t sit still any longer. I’m hearing and reading increasingly of church leaders making decisions I’m not sure are under their jurisdiction.

As I understand it,  those of us who wear the title “pastor” have specific things we are to do in fulfilling our role.

Our responsibility, if we’re in a position listed in Ephesians 4:10  is to

  1. equip God’s people to do his work and
  2. build up the church, the body of Christ,
  3. until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be
    a) mature and full grown in the Lord,
    b) measuring up to the full stature of Christ.   Ephes. 4:11-13

We, as elders, overseers, pastor/teachers, shepherds,  are to:

  1. shepherd the flock of God…
  2. exercise oversight
    a) not under compulsion, but voluntarily,
    b) according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but
    c) with eagerness;
    d) not lording it over those allotted to our charge, but
    e) proving to be examples to the flock …
    f) clothe ourselves with humility toward one another, because God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
    g) humble ourselves, … that He may exalt you at the proper time …   (from 1 Peter 5:1-6)

If I read these, and other applicable passages correctly, it’s our responsibility to discover who we have in our congregations and find ways to  employ and deploy them in ministry.  As we  think about these people, pray for them and look for meaningful places to plug them into ministry we’re to be thankful for them, just as Paul was thankful for the people he wrote his  New Testament letters to.  We’re to learn who those people are and what skills God has entrusted to them (call them spiritual gifts if you’d rather). Then equip them (teach, train, encourage, challenge, etc.) and set them in places where they can serve – meaningfully.

Beyond that, we as pastors are responsible to  draw the best from the people entrusted to us. It’s diminutive stewardship in a way, because the conversation at the Bema Seat could go something like this:

“I gave you some talented people, Pastor, how did you help them invest their abilities for my honor?”

When that question is potentially asked, Heaven hopes the answer will recount excellence in shepherding, equipping and oversight.

If  my understanding is accurate, I expect to be asked about my investment of the people-resources God gave the churches I served, along with my family, and personal accountability.

That’s why it scares me a little when someone is asked to resign, as a colleague of mine was years ago, because he isn’t going to be who the church will need when it reaches its next growth plateau.  No sin, no moral crisis, only one leader’s perception of another’s potential.

That’s why I frowned when I learned a church has plans to eliminate their orchestra.  Not because they can’t afford it, not because they don’t have the players (it’s a thirty-piece ensemble). Not because they’re crowded and there simply isn’t room.  No, they may end the ministry of nearly thirty volunteers. Why?  Because someone has decided the orchestra distracts from the flow of worship in the morning service.   Are you kidding me?? The brass section at the dedication of Solomon’s temple had a120 trumpets!  When the trumpeters and singers were as one, the priests couldn’t continue, the cloud of God’s glory was so thick!  Distracting?  You’re not serious.

That’s why I wonder what people are thinking when I hear of church leaders telling older, but still vibrant church leaders “You’re too old”.   Tell that to Moses, a rookie at 80 years of age!  Tell that to Caleb who was about 85 when he said “Give me this mountain”!

Some may think they have the authority to tell someone “Your ministry here is over / You’re done” when there’s no apparent sin, no lapse in ability, no lack for funding.

I don’t.

For me to make those determinations would trigger a warning light on Heaven’s dashboard:  He’s taken things into his own hands, deciding something only God should decide.

That’s thin ice, if you ask me. I’d rather not go there.  Rather, I need to continually explore the skills and abilities resident within the congregation I serve, looking for ways to develop those skills and release them into effective ministry.  When God tells them “it’s time to step down”  I’ll accept their decision – reluctantly.  But until then, I welcome the challenge of deploying people into ambitious, enthusiastic ministry.

Thinking about these  things, I looked at the worship team we had on today. It was multi-generational.  Today’s instrumentalists, praise team and techs included grandparents / empty-nesters,  mid-range adults, college students and high school students, all working together to bring God glory.  People investing their skills at multiple maturity levels to point people’s attention God-ward. As far as I can tell, that is as it should be.

3 Replies to “Do We Have That Authority?”

  1. Clif Burritt

    Phil, I could not agree with you more. The job of the minister, in whatever role he finds himself in, is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, and to win the lost to Christ. We are to be the “talent scouts” of God, discerning not only the physical abilities that believers have, but also the spiritual gifts and the spirituality of the soul. Then, we are to strategize where we believe God would have them serve…. and they might have some ideas we can learn from them. Ultimately we will be accountable to Christ for how we have utilized the gifts He has given us for service, that we serve with the right spirit, with the right gifts, doing the right service for His glory.

  2. Colin Lundstrom

    Excellence, yet again.

    Of course, I’m not in the same boat in terms of age and experience, but I certainly know what’s it like in my situation (which we’ve discussed before) as the younger guy in the equation. I’ve always considered the crew you pull together on Sunday mornings is such a beautiful, accurate example of the edification of the body. So many members serving, so many members being served.

  3. Ann Kroeker

    I agree, Phil. Reminds me of a church I used to attend that took this approach. I don’t want to oversimplify, but I wonder if pastors and boards make decisions like that because they are following a business model for leadership instead of figuring out the biblical approach?

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