the weblog of Alan Knox

Authority?

Posted by on Apr 13, 2008 in blog links, elders, office | 5 comments

Did you catch this quote on Dave Black’s blog (Friday, April 11, 2008 at 12:52 pm)?

“The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.” – John Stuart Mill

Why do you think leaders want to exercise authority over others, especially since Scripture never gives them authority over others? Perhaps its because leadership by example is so much harder and relational?


5 Comments

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  1. 4-13-2008

    It’s very tempting to try to psychoanalyze why leaders in the church do what they do. Believe me, I’ve tried! ;)

    But I think that it’s a rather basic issue of a natural human tendency to seek power. I think this is exactly why Jesus bothered to tell us NOT to. So much of what Jesus taught runs counter to our natural (read: sin-infected) human tendencies. It is only life in Christ that allows us to go against those tendencies and think of others before ourselves, mutually submit to one another, not seek to control, etc.

    I think also, on a very pragmatic level, that “controlling” people is probably the much easier way, not just to “lead”, but to grow larger numbers of “followers”.

    I am not convinced that most of us are supposed to be “leading” 1,000’s of people. Jesus basically led 12 and then they, in turn, led others.

    The irony is that I think larger numbers of people can be dramatically affected by the Kingdom of God if we focus on those smaller numbers of deep relationships. We may not see it in our lifetime, but I think that it has longer-lasting impact.

    Example, one man “leads” a church of 1,000. When he is gone, they simply look for another “leader”. But if I truly disciple 3 people in my lifetime, and they in turn disciple 3, and they in turn disciple 3…..it quickly becomes exponential — maybe in as short as two or three generations.

    I know at one point, I crunched some numbers that showed it would be mathematically possible to reach an entire town of our size in a decade. It started with one person building solid, Christ-centered relationships with just four other people for a year, at which point, they would then seek four relationships of their own to build for the next year. Within 7-10 years, the entire town of Boone where we live (pop. 30,000 if you include the University population) would be in deep, Christ-centered relationships. That blew my mind!

    The difference from the traditional mindset, however, is that no one person would be able to claim those numbers for themselves. And that’s where the human craving for “significance” and “power” takes over.

    And I see vocational pastors here in town clamoring for the biggest numbers, the greatest status, the claim to fame that says “We reached our city in a way no one else could.”

    Makes me want to cry.

  2. 4-14-2008

    Alan. You seem to be implying (over and over) that leadership in the church should not be in a hierarchical mode, but one of example and servanthood. This seems to imply criticism of the ways of leadership that are often promoted and practiced in the established church. Am I reading you rightly?

    If so, I have a question. What about christians in worldly positions where they are expected to use power and force over others (government, police officer, soldier, maybe even bosses). Do you think that this is problematic to, or do some other standard than Jesus servanthood example apply to christians in those positions?
    /Jonas Lundström
    http://blog.bahnhof.se/wb938188

  3. 4-14-2008

    Too often we are drawn to concern ourselves with hypothetical questions about how we ought best to conduct ourselves in a given situation. The reason it is so difficult and divisive to attempt to answer such questions is that our focus is in the wrong place–on US.

    We ought rather to trust in the Lord with all our hearts and not lean on our own understanding. We ought rather to acknowledge Him in all our ways. We ought rather to seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness. When we do this, He directs our paths, makes them straight, and adds “all these things” to us.

    When we are paying attention to improving our relationship with HIM, we become more conformed to the image of His Son. When we become more conformed to the image of His Son, we want what He wants, think like He thinks, and do like He does; without any fleshly effort on our part whatsoever.

    I John 3:2 (NIV) says, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

    Notice what it is that causes us to be like Him.

  4. 4-14-2008

    Alan,

    Steve has nailed it well! That is what Ephesians 4:11ff is telling us, being leaders being a trainer of disciple makers, who have been trained by disciple makers.

    That’s why it’s more important to train a disciple maker than to make a disciple.

    Careful! I DID NOT say that it is not important to make a disciple!

    The end result of making a disciple, as Jesus did, is that the disciple (as opposed to a statistical “convert”) becomes a disciple maker who, in turn, becomes a disciple maker!

  5. 4-14-2008

    Steve,

    Great comment! I think that there is a mistaken assumption that teaching / preaching to 1000 people is the same as discipling 1000 people.

    Jonas,

    No, I do not believe that leadership in the church should be hierarchical or authoritarian. You’ve asked some good question about Christians participating in government and business. Since I have focused on the relationship between believers (the church), I have not given much thought to how believers should react toward other people when participating in government and business.

    Larry,

    Thanks for the great comment. I agree that as we focus on Jesus and following him, everything else in life will fall into place – regardless of our circumstances or situations.

    Aussie John,

    I agree completely with what you said! The danger to organizations is that if you teach people to be disciple makers, then they may find out that they no longer need the organization. But, organizations need to hold on to people in order to perpetuate and grow the organization.

    I think we need to focus on making disciples who make disciples – in effect, showing people that they don’t need us. Then we can rejoice when our disciples no longer need us!

    -Alan