The idea of pastoral authority can seem abstract—until it's challenged. Suddenly its presence or absence is unmistakable. That's why we sought out a diverse group of pastors to tell us about how they responded to being undermined. We wanted to see how authority is exercised in the most crucial circumstance: when it's under fire.
Firm and Balanced
In 35 years of ministry, I've witnessed the extremes of pastoral authority.
On one end of the spectrum is the pastor who has no authority. This pastor functions as a "hired gun" installed by a board that micromanages his message and methodology, leaving him feeling weak and unable to pursue his calling with passion.
The other extreme is the pastor whose authority borders on "monarchial." This kind of pastor controls every detail of his congregants' lives, even what they wear. His control goes far beyond that which is biblical.
What we need is pastoral authority that is biblical and balanced. This type of authority accomplishes what God has called us to do and nothing more. We don't need a vision for all of our parishioners' careers and relationships; they do. We need a vision for the work of God and enough authority to protect that work from derailment.
I have had my authority challenged on occasion. When necessary I have been quite forceful with those seeking to damage what God has entrusted to me.
One time I asked one of our young ministers to decline a preaching invitation elsewhere when I needed him to serve at our home church. The young man responded belligerently, "I don't have time to serve this vision. In two years, I will be where you are."
I confiscated his keys, and we parted ways.
In the ten years since, that impetuous young pastor has not reached the lofty heights he envisioned. ...