He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
Rest in the Lord,
For evildoers shall be cut off;
Major leadership conflicts often revolve around questions of misunderstood authority… unclear boundaries of authority, overstepping boundaries, under-stepping boundaries, misunderstanding boundaries (see Monday’s: Authority Check-Up: are you properly using God-given authority?).
In order to recognize God’s Presence in making leadership decisions, we need to properly recognize authority that comes from His presence.
The essence of genuine authority is Truth itself.
If it’s true, it has authority. If it’s false, it doesn’t have authority.
In order to understand authority, we must first understand the essence of Truth.
The Father gives three ways by which we know what is true (and thereby what things have authority):
This presents a problem to post-moderns. The core of postmodernism comes from the understanding that there is no truth outside of human language. Since we can’t think anything without using language, the closest we can come to “knowing” a truth is how well we can put together words that accurately express that truth. But there are numerous languages, each having its own emphasis that varies and mutates according to its unique culture. Cultures themselves change (dramatically), which means the “truth” their languages express also changes, and so its not really “truth.” According to post-moderns, then, it’s impossible for a stable truth to exist, because anything language can express will be unstable.
Post-moderns are correct in their assessment of human language. Since the Tower of Babel, culture and language have been mutating dramatically. Where they err is assuming that truth doesn’t exist outside of language. Just because the human mind can’t quite (ever) fully understand truth (because it’s eternally infinite), doesn’t mean there’s not a truth that transcends language. By faith we can know and experience TRUTH.
That’s why the Bible is “holy,” rather than just another book, even though it’s also written with human language. The words by themselves could never fully explain the God who created language to begin with. He is far beyond what human words could express. BUT, since scripture’s words were inspired by the Holy Spirit (II Tim 3:16), they are “Spirit and they are life…” because “it is the Spirit who gives life…” (John 6:63). When we read those words, the Holy Spirit continues to inspire and give life that grows within us and flows out of our bellies a fountain of life! (John 4:13-14).
We know from scriptural example that humans can use the Bible apart from the Holy Spirit, to invent rules with interpretations and traditions that are not taught in the whole context of Scripture (John 5:39) and do not align with Christ’s character, the essence of TRUTH.
What does all this have to do with authority? We each need to regularly evaluate whether our leadership authority is established by boundaries of truth:
Ask yourself these 2 questions:
We’ll explain more practical details about spiritual authority in Keith’s book — some you could also read in other blog posts (listed at the end).
All true authority comes from God, but we have the choice whether or not to use it wisely.
The overseer says, “We’re late. Step on it.”
You obey. Soon the blue lights appear in the mirror. You pull over and a police officer confronts you with the truth of your speeding violation.
“But Officer,” you say, “this man next to me is my overseer. I was just following his orders.”
You already know where this is headed. Of course you would still get the consequences for speeding. Why? While your overseer may have authority within the organization, he does not have authority over the speed limit. He overstepped the authority of the government.
Now imagine you’re a married woman employed by the same organization. Your husband arrives with some files and asks you to quickly format them for him. But your overseer gave you another project to finish. What should you do?
It’s true that the husband is the head of the wife, and she needs to respect him. But it’s also true that you’re on company time, and don’t have permission to do personal things on paid time.
In this situation, the husband is overstepping the boundaries of his authority. Later on at home you and your husband could discuss together the implications of your employment and what would be best for your family. You could go to your manager and ask for permission to work on your husband’s requests during paid time (good luck!), but while on paid time, you need to respect the authority in place.
“Authority” is a sticky concept, meaning different things in different circles.
Keith Yoder helps to bring scriptural perspective: The Father gave ALL authority to Christ, and so, all true authority comes from God (John 17:2). Paul admonished us to submit to governmental authority. Since they were appointed by God, submitting to them is submitting to God’s authority (unless, of course, they demand we disobey God). We submit to them by trusting Christ that He will ultimately handle every situation with His sovereign Lordship for His good purpose.
Though God ordered positions of authority, people who hold those positions have a choice to lead in a godly way, or to abuse their authority.
Godly authority, using Christ as the ultimate example, gives you the responsibility to provide:
Two ways authority can be abused:
What are the godly boundaries for my position of authority? (In other words, in what matters do I have responsibility to make decisions, and in what matters do I not have that responsibility?)
What behaviors can I change in order to more fully generate the four responsibilities of my authority: cohesiveness, protection, freedom, and stability?
Are there any areas where I may be domineering or usurping authority? If so, how do I repent and what behaviors should I change?
Keith Yoder outlines the basic scriptural understanding of authority in his audio, Authority, Legacy Leadership, and the godly procedure for respectfully confronting those in authority who may be walking in error: Approaching Those Over Us. Also see: What are the Limits of a Leader’s Authority?
Matthew 8:8-10; 20:25-28; 28:18; John 17: Acts 5:29; Romans 13:1-7
- Patricia Tillman reviewing Keith Yoder’s materials
Barry accepted a position as a small group leader in his congregation. His take on leading? “Everyone in the group is a leader just as much as I am, so we’ll all follow the Spirit together as equal friends…” After several sessions, however, people became frustrated with the confusing, sometimes chaotic meetings. The discussions tended to go in circles or followed rabbit trails. One person in particular stepped into the leadership vacuum and dominated most of the conversation. Attendance dwindled.
Take a moment to consider how you would counsel Barry.
Maria also accepted a position as a small group leader. She had Bible College under her belt, and was excited for the opportunity to share her knowledge. She usually covered so much information she left very little time, if any, for group discussion or prayer and ministry. Maria grew frustrated that very few people fully committed to the group, promising to come but not showing up.
How would you counsel Maria?
Barry and Maria illustrate the unbalanced patterns of two poles on the “Leadership Identity” track: attachment and detachment.
Before defining the poles, let’s define a healthy balance between the two: Just as Christ found His identity in His Father, healthy leaders also have established their identity in the Father. They know who God designed them to be, and what He gave them to do in their sphere of leadership. With an identity centered in Christ, they lead with humble confidence as “the leader.” They show godly care and affection for people, while also “flying like an eagle” above the group to see things from an objective perspective.
In other words, healthy leaders have found the balance between attachment and detachment.
In Barry’s case, he had an unhealthy pattern of “affection” that was not balanced by “detachment.” He needs to develop a clear sense of his own identity as a leader so he can lead the group without being controlled or losing direction.
In Maria’s case, she had an unhealthy pattern of “detachment.” Without grounding her identity in Christ, she was wrapped up in proving her own identity. She needs to develop a sense of God’s deep love for her, and how Christ designed her to function as a leader that provides relevant service to His body.
Now for self-assessment. Take time in prayer to reflect on the following question. For more thorough understanding of healthy identity, get Keith’s audio (MP3 or CD), Healthy Leadership: Identity and Direction.
Lord, show me any areas where my identity is not firmly established in You–where I either have to “prove” myself, or where I find it hard to confidently lead in my leadership position.