Jump directly to the Content

Authority Deficit Disorder

Why having to earn your authority is a good thing.

My family has given me two T-shirts. One says, "It's good to be queen." The other reads, "Lifestyles of the broke and obscure."

For me these two humorous messages capture a serious point about the paradox of pastoral authority. On one hand, we pastors occupy a place of privilege atop a church's power structure. We cast vision, lead, teach, and even discipline. Yet we're also servants. We strive to emulate the leadership style of Jesus, who humbled himself and refused to grasp for earthly power.

Perhaps this tension is best understood by looking at two kinds of pastoral authority: positional and earned. Positional authority is given by virtue of your title, your credentials. It can even be bolstered (or undermined) in the eyes of others by virtue of factors such as your age, gender, or education level.

Earned authority is less tangible but every bit as important. It's something that you accumulate over time as you demonstrate your spiritual substance and leadership abilities in serving a congregation. ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe to Christianity Today magazine. Subscribers have full digital access to CT Pastors articles.

Homepage Subscription Panel

Read These Next

Related
DEALING WITH THE OVERDEPENDENT
DEALING WITH THE OVERDEPENDENT
How can you help chronically needy people without them draining all your time, money, and energy?
From the Magazine
What the Heavens Declared to a Young Astronomer
What the Heavens Declared to a Young Astronomer
How I learned that the same God who numbered the stars knew and loved me personally.
Editor's Pick
Read Your Bible Through a Kaleidoscope
Read Your Bible Through a Kaleidoscope
Multicolored scholarship expands biblical interpretation beyond traditional Eurocentric perspectives.
close