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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. ...

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