Authority and the Great Commission

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples . . . (Matt. 28:18-20)
If leaders presume to be "the authority" due to position, then members could become too dependent on the leader to push and pull them to make disciples. People need to be able to function without the constant prodding and controls of the pastor or other ministry leader. They are ultimately accountable to the Lord. They can always depend on Him to be there, through His Spirit, to be their motivation, power, and confidence. People need to get to the point where they evangelize and make disciples because they love God and love people, not to please their church leaders. People must fulfill the Great Commission out of obedience to the Lord, not because their church leaders told them to do so.
When church leaders take on an authority that only belongs to the Lord, people under their influence could tend to do one of the following:
  • They might think they can get away with not fulfilling the Great Commission as long as their leader doesn't know. -- But, the One who does have full authority to command this action always sees what they are doing.
  • They might do it for the wrong motivations such as gaining favor or pleasure from you. -- But, Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command" (Jn. 14:15). Love for Him should be the primary motivation which will spill over into a love for people and wanting them to personally know and love Him too.
  • They might rebel against it, thinking it to be optional, if they don't buy into your leadership controls. -- But, they are in fact, disobeying God, not man.
While God might delegate some authority for a specific purpose (Rom. 13:1), there is nowhere we read in Scripture that "all" His authority has been passed on to us. We do not have absolute authority, no matter who we are or what our position might be. Anything we have has been delegated to us by God. We work in cooperation with, lining up with, and following His lead.
You can be authoritative in what you say and do if it is based on God's Word, but you are not "the authority." Any authority that seems to come with your position is given by God, is actually His authority, and is to be exercised under His full authority. In essence leaders are only a vehicle through which God works out His purposes.
You can be authoritative in that which is based on God's Word, but not an authoritarian. Jesus was clear that we are not to control, manipulate, or coerce one another. Jesus said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant" (Mk. 10:42-45).
If you, as a leader, are not "the authority," then what are you? Look at 1 Peter 5:1-3 and similar verses and you will have to see your role as more of a guide, shepherd, facilitator, example, a servant. You might have increased or weightier responsibilities than others in the Body but you are not "the authority." That role is already taken.
If you do not have the issue of authority straight in your heart, you could negatively affect people's fulfillment of the Great Commission. Is that a responsibility you want to shoulder?
To Do: Study the life of Jesus. People acknowledged Him as One who spoke with authority but He didn't see Himself as "The Authority."
What was the standard Jesus put Himself against in what He said and did? (Jn. 5:19, 30; 10:37; 14:10)
How did Jesus' position (God Himself) affect the way He viewed authority? (Phil. 2:5-8)
How far was Jesus willing to go in submitting to His source of authority? (Matt. 26:39)
How does this relate to your position of leadership and authority?
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