The Pope, Pastors and TV Preachers

I have often thought that there is not much difference between the Pope, Pastors and TV Preachers - many seem to believe that they are accountable ONLY to God Himself and that those in their charge are required to submit to them in spiritual matters. Often these leaders are vexed when people revolt against their authority by either becoming vocal or leaving their church. You know that this is not a new phenomena … religious leaders from the beginning of time have had difficulty with people submitting to them and their authority. This is not to say that rebellion is either good or bad ... it just seems to be.

Jesus faced these religious authorities head-on when he roamed the hills of Judea. These leaders would often come to him trying to trip him up or find fault in His message. On one such occasion they came to him asking for His credentials. Matthew's gospel tells it this way:

"Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”

In hindsight it is clear that two authorities are present - spiritual authorities. The chief priests and elders certainly had the weight of tradition, position and even possibly scripture on their side. Jesus on the other hand was at odds with them and seemed a bit out of step with the Judaism of that day … he seemed to have a different kind of authority.

Even today there seems to be two different kinds of authority in church circles. There is certainly still the type of authority that the religious leaders of Jesus' day exhibited. This type of authority doesn't like to be challenged. It is heavy handed and has it's base in carnal power or position. We see this type of authority exercised in many of our corporations. Many husbands and fathers are most comfortable with this paradigm of authority. This authority depends on people who for one reason or another are afraid to disobey the authority. The authority that Jesus exerted was quite different. It is written in Mark's gospel account:

"Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 'What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are--the Holy One of God!' 'Be quiet!' said Jesus sternly. 'Come out of him!' The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, 'What is this? A new teaching--and with authority!'"

Jesus certainly had a rare type of authority. I submit to you that His authority was a blend of spiritual power, wisdom and love. The power was displayed in miracles and demonic exorcism. Wisdom emanated from his teachings. Love was His foundation. It is often written of Jesus that He was moved by compassion when He healed or performed a miracle. I submit that His authority had a basis in love.

Today we would be well advised to evaluate the type of authority we place ourselves under. We are wise when we submit to those who love us with no ulterior motives - and we are wise when we love those in like manner to whom we have authority over. You know, authority is really about influence and the best way to influence anyone is to love them unconditionally. May God take all of your bad past authority problems, redeem them and make you one who is wiser.


  1. How we love our neighbor is often a reflection of how we love God (1John 4:8). It is imperative that true, Christlike, authority be rooted and grounded in love for God and in love for each other.

    Pharisaic authority always claims to be rooted in love of God but distances itself from relational love and mercy. Jesus asked the spritual leaders of His day to find out what it means when God says he desires mercy not sacrifice. Good question for those today who want to have the authority of fleshly power/position but not have the influence that only comes through loving relationships.

    Just imagine if God wanted to have authority in our lives but didn't want to have a relationship with us - God doesn't do it that way so why do we think that he wants us to have authority/influence in peoples lives and not have a relationship with them?

  2. KB, Thanks for your comment on my blog and referring me to this post of yours. I truly believe what you said when you said

    "You know, authority is really about influence and the best way to influence anyone is to love them unconditionally."

    John Maxwell in his book "Becoming a Person of Influence" stressed the same thing as well. I wholehearted subscribe to that philosophy! :)

  3. "I have often thought that there is not much difference between the Pope, Pastors and TV Preachers - many seem to believe that they are accountable ONLY to God Himself and that those in their charge are required to submit to them in spiritual matters."

    So, do you have anybody in mind? I can't think of any orthodox Christian who thinks they are subject ONLY to God Himself, unless they are folks who reject the idea that God worked authoritatively through humans in the post-apostolic era. I find the two descriptors you came up with to be mutually exclusive in practice. Nobody that I know of who actually believes that some people must be obedient to them in spiritual matters also thinks that they are subject only to God.


  4. Thanks for stopping by MB.

    Not sure where you live but here in Kansas there are not too many senior pastors that are ever challenged.. most of their leadership boards are comprised of their friends and folks that want to be their friends. They may ascribe to submission in theology but in practice they do not.

    Maybe things are different where you live.. ever been on a church leadership board and seen the interaction up close and personal?

    There are many stories of spiritual abuse out there. The purpose of this post was to simply to say that one needs to be careful when it comes to this whole idea of authority and submission.

  5. Hello Bob. I came here via Amy's post on "Doctrine Police." Really liked this post. I can relate. Part of your comments to Amy really resonated with me:

    "If I have learned anything in my walk with the Lord it is the idea that I am responsible for who I allow to influence my life. Unfortunately, it took a long time for me to come to that.. much of my life I have been led by my head and rationalized away preachers bad behavior with the word 'submission'.

    To me we should only submit to folks that truly care for us.. no one else should have any authority in our lives.. if they do then they become impersonal police."

    It took ME a long time to figure this out as well. Some years ago, my sister tried to tell me that I should submit to her husband simply because he was an ordained Minister (though living in another town and not "my" Pastor). I think this is the type of thinking that keeps us from growing in the Lord.

    I recently came out of organized church, and the biggest revelation that I had was that I did NOT have to submit to my elders, but could instead obey what I knew God was clearly telling me to do, even though they scolded me and sternly warned me that I ought to be "in church". One of them has since said that I could "come back anytime, and it would be as though nothing had happened." Gee, thanks but no thanks. Wonder what they think DID happen?

  6. Thanks Maureen. When I know that someone loves unconditionally I am drawn to really hear what they have to say.. anyone else.. not so much.

  7. Good posts on leadership.

    A leader stops leading when he leaves the spirit to rule in the flesh. You can drive in the flesh, but not lead. Leading must be in union with the Holy Spirit. And it is not easy to lead in the spirit when someone is going off half caulked. And it's hard to lead when you leave humility and love to focus on yourself.


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