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 do share the Gospel and make disciples because they love God and love people, not to please their church leaders. People should 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 in 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.
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?

The Steering the Church Toward Discipleship Leadership Guide, about leaders and the Great Commission, includes this content as well as some thoughts about what authority leaders do have and some questions to guide you in reflecting on how Jesus viewed His own authority while on earth.

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