6. When followed, results in fruitful
ministry. God places the gifts
of people into the church for the upbuilding of the church; therefore, it seems
likely that when people respond to these graces of God, the result will be
fruitful ministry (Eph. 4; Jn. 15:16; Heb. 13:17). Why is this? Because of
7. Builds up the church. Spiritual authority is for blessing
and upbuilding, not for tearing down or usurping (2 Cor. 5:16; 10:7). This is
not about quantity. This is about quality and health of ministry. Legitimate
spiritual authority builds up. It adds to, not subtracts from.
8. Sees people as they truly are (from God’s perspective). This leader
sees what people can be in Christ. He sees what they can be as they are
being transformed by God. He does not see anyone as hopeless (though he may not
see how God will ever get
through to the person). That is why people who are under this type of oversight
flourish. They know they are accepted and begin to imitate the same faith in
the power of God to remake human beings that their leader displays (2 Cor.
10:8; 12:19; 13:10).
9. Is faithful. This leader has suffered through years of barrenness and has
persevered. This leader realizes that he who is given a trust must prove
faithful (1 Cor. 4:2). The fruitful years did not precede years of testing. For
the leader’s character must be able to withstand successful ministry. Perhaps
it would be worth researching if there exists a correlation: the greater the assignment, the longer the
10. Reminds us of
God’s Word. This leader is not
interested in airing his
opinions on every matter under the sun, but rather he points us to the Word of
God. This includes God’s word heard in the prayer-closet. Thus he shares the
whole counsel of God with those under his care.
This leader shows the way for us to follow. He is already walking on that way.
In daily life, we see the “outcome of their [the leaders’] way of life.” As a
result, we see Jesus in them and are encouraged to follow and imitate their
faith (Heb. 13:7).
11. Demonstrates a life of God’s power made
perfect in weakness. This leader’s
strength comes from the sure knowledge that the only real strength comes from
yielding to God’s power and strength at work in him/her (1 Cor. 4:20 cf.
2:1–16). For this leader, God is his portion (Psalm 73:23–28). This leader is
publicly and privately forthright and honest about shortcomings and faults.
12. Is sensitive to God’s communication.
Revelation is central to spiritual authority. We cannot lead in the church if
we do not follow the lead of the Holy Spirit and of Christ, the head of the
church. We receive revelation both from
the Word of God and from Christ himself through the agency of the Holy Spirit
(John 10:4–5; 26–27; Rev. 3:20, 22). Look at what Jesus said to the religious
leaders who would listen to the Scriptures, yet did not listen to Him (John
5:37–40). This topic is so important that it cannot be adequately treated here
in one point among many.
13. Recognizes the callings and gifts of
others. Legitimate spiritual authority is cooperative. It recognizes the
unity of the Holy Spirit. It wisely distrusts the authoritative, go-it-alone
dictator trap. The leader who knows the authority of love is a team-player.
are all leaders at some time and in some sphere of our lives. Whether you lead
in your church, your home, your school, or on the job, you have a need to
understand not only how to recognize legitimate godly authority but also the
character and foundation of that leadership authority.
All of us should be modeling this kind of
followership and leadership in whatever sphere God has assigned us as his sons
and daughters. We are the leaders of those who are in the dark. We know how to
lead them to the light. We are given the responsibility to walk in such a way
that people see our lives and want what we have. But that can only come through
first living as followers.
If we so live as to make the
characteristics of true spiritual authority a part of our lives, then we may
impact the world around us. That world is in deep trouble and needs to see the
beauty of God’s royal reign.
[This is an excerpt from We’re the "sons of God" . . . So What?, p. 62-63. These characteristics are not meant to be exhaustive, merely as starting point. What would you ADD? Comment below.]
from "Featured Books", We’re the ‘sons of God’ . . . So What?,
to authority. All those who are legitimate godly
leaders in the church have learned to submit to authority. They first submit to
God’s authority. They obey God.
They also submit to those whom God places over them to bless their lives. We
see this in Jesus’ submission to the Father (Heb.5.8; Jn. 5.19, 30; 6.38; 8.28;
14.28, 31; 1Cor.11.3; 15.24, 27–8; Phil.2.5–8) and in his submission to the
authorities in his life.
leaders who have difficulty submitting. Beware of leaders who themselves have
no accountability to authority. They are in a dangerous place and so are their
followers. They give the impression that the church no longer needs human
leaders and that all we need is to gather in our houses and let the Holy Spirit
be our leader. That is a half-truth. The half that’s true is that the Holy
Spirit must be our leader, but he uses people. No one in his right mind would
ever suggest that governments should not have any human leaders— let the Holy
Spirit lead. No one who has read a Bible would suggest that the family should
not have any leaders either—do away with mom and dad, let the Holy Spirit lead.
Ridiculous! God set up authority structures for the family, for the government,
and for his church. To ignore them is to ignore his plan, his
On the other hand, simply because a person
is “ordained” does not mean that he or she has been called of God. Nor does it
guarantee that the person has legitimate spiritual authority. Often ordination
committees ask a series of questions requiring theological or denominational
compliance. Or they require a certain educational credential with a willingness
to serve in certain ministry roles. For too many churches, a sense of God’s
calling on the life many not enter the process and seldom do they look at the
The church has too many self-appointed,
self-proclaimed leaders who have never been good followers or led the way in
holiness and submission to godly leadership. And the church has too many
broken-winged people ready to follow their abusive authority.
people who have been abused or wounded by someone in authority find it painful
to submit or allow God to lead through others (3 Jn. 9). This is a sad result
of the hurt and wounding in their lives, but this is not an excuse to dump
authority or to lead others astray by claiming that human leaders are no longer
necessary in the church (Tit. 2.15). Understandably, wounded people who decry
church leadership are usually responding to abusive or unbiblical leadership.
If they are willing to be honest, often and regrettably they have a leadership
horror-story or two in their pasts. Biblical leadership is both necessary and a
great blessing whether in a family or a church (Heb. 13.7, 17, 24) when its
fountain of authority is the love of God.
Is grounded in love.
At the head of the universe is a
heart. God the Father rules from a heart of love
(Deut. 7:12 ).
God loves people intensely.
(John 3:16; 1 John 3:16–19; Lk. 6:35)
God has delegated all authority
in heaven and earth to Jesus, who has demonstrated the ultimate love toward his
Father and for people by his death for us on the cross. Jesus, the Head of the
church, proved worthy to lead by the authority of sacrificial love (John 12:49;
Matt. 28:18; Col. 1:15ff; Heb. 3:3–6; Rev. 1:5).
Jesus first commands his
followers to love, and then he delegates his authority
to his designated leaders in the church for his kingdom work in the world. As
we operate in his delegated authority, we become his human instruments to
demolish all authority that is not of God, especially abusive, anti-Christ
authority that binds and harms people (John 15:12; Eph. 2:6; 4:10ff; 5:1; Lk
An example: Scripture insists that no man
is an elder who cannot model Christ’s love to his family first. He must be
“devoted to his wife,” “manage his own family well, and see that his children
obey him with proper respect” (1 Tim. 3:2b; 4). These qualifications cannot be
met without love. Eph. 5:25–28 teaches that a husband must love his wife as
Christ loves the church. Eph. 6:4 says a father must not exasperate his
children; he cannot fulfill the qualification to see that his children obey him
with proper respect and not exasperate them, unless he demonstrates love at
home. The real test of “elder character” then is sacrificial love. And
sacrificial love is the ultimate source of an elder’s leadership influence.
This insures non-abusive leaders will maintain oversight in the congregations
of the Lord.
Leaders who love have authority. Those who
don’t love may have position but their authority is illegitimate, not godly. In
fact, the one who does not love, does not even know God (1 John 4:7–8).
Godly leadership does not demand but
appeals on the basis of love (Philem. 8–9; 2 Cor. 6:13). Paul could easily have
commanded that his will be carried out because his words were the words of God
(1 Cor. 14: 37–8). But he did not lord it over the church; he allowed for a
response based on love. He preferred to urge compliance rather than to command
it. Notice also the gentle, parental nature of godly leadership (1 Thess.
2:7–8, 11; 2 Tim. 2:24; 1 Cor. 4:14). Godly leaders are more like good fathers
and mothers than drill sergeants. The love they have for their “children” is
the basis for their authority.
3. Serves and receives service. Jesus makes this clear in Matthew
20:25–28 cf. Jn. 13:8. The one who would serve others must allow himself to
first be served. Christ must
wash him/her and must minister healing, love, and fellowship through his people
to this would-be leader. Only then can there be true authority and authentic
leadership. The one who allows no one to get close, the leader who will not be
known, is not authentic, and this lack of authenticity eliminates true
spiritual authority. Usually this person will resort to power or authority based
on academic achievements (knowledge), role (ordination), charisma (of
personality), expertise, or otherness (being different or strange).[i]
When all that fails, out comes manipulation and finally coercion.
The servant leader’s style of leadership, on the other hand, makes people feel
good about following. They see a leader who has received a touch from God and
is also not threatened to receive love and ministry from the people he serves.
Therefore, he serves from humility and gratitude. The people see that their welfare is his ultimate
concern. He serves them with all the gifts and talents that God has given. This
does not mean that he is the church’s slave and does all the work. He is empowered
to rule, serving Christ. He is concerned with spending energy, prayer, and time
to see the body functioning as it should in its ministry to the world. One
writer says that the task of the true spiritual authority “is to serve the
church, in order that every member may be an apostle who serves the world” (1
Cor. 3:18; 4:16).[ii]
I would adjust that statement to say that a person with true spiritual
authority first is served by Christ to serve God, and then he or she can really
serve the church in order that every member may be an apostle who serves the
we have seen, authentic church authorities are appointed by God. We recognize
their right to lead as we see their examples of love—blessing and building up
those under their authority.
4. Is willing to suffer. Every true
spiritual authority has learned that suffering is part and parcel of leadership
in the church. This leader receives more suffering at the hands of the church
often times than at the hands of the unsaved (1 Cor. 4:10–13; 2 Cor. 6:4–10;
11:23–8). Perhaps this is something of what Paul meant when he spoke of knowing
the “fellowship of His (Christ’s) suffering” (Phil. 3:10). That Christ suffered
physically is undeniable; however, one must wonder how much more he suffered
knowing that one of his own betrayed him to death and the rest of his disciples
5. Lives a life characteristic of Christ’s
(Phil. 2:5–11; 2 Cor. 6:6; 1 Jn. 2:6). No one who says, “I know Him,” but does
not walk like he walked can have authority in the church. The life of Christ
must be reflected in the one who would stand in the authority of a calling.
That life was a life of obedience, submission, and compassion.
In the Preface I listed three reasons for writing the
book. I wrote out of two desires and an act of obedience. The following is the
second desire . . .
The second desire is to see my
Father’s will realized in the church. His longing is that the body of Christ—the
true, spiritual church—be transformed by the renewing of our minds, and that we
stop thinking and looking at things from a worldly, carnal perspective. We
were formerly beggars in need of
bread. But for the regenerate, born-from- above, child of God, unbiblical
metaphors have no place in his or her thinking or life. We have fed on the
bread of life and have been forever transformed from what we were (2 Cor.
5.14-21). We could be called ambassadors, but not beggars. We could be called
pilgrims, but not vagrants. Mine is a desire to honor my Father and his will in
our lives. Therefore, we need his understanding of who we are in order to fulfill
his purpose for us—our high calling.
When the British royal family
prepared their sons and daughters to reign on the throne of England, they did
not teach them to believe that they were tramps, worms, sinners, or other such
wretches. Royal mentors and advisors may have taught them to understand
poverty, the plight of the lower class, the disenfranchised, their own
humanness, but royal sons and daughters themselves were princes and princesses—royalty
by blood. And they were formed and schooled to think and act as such. Not in
pride, but in true understanding of their royal line, heritage, and
responsibilities. This should produce a gratefulness and humility that makes
for benevolent, compassionate oversight. You can see where I’m headed with
this. You are such a royal son or daughter if you know
Christ and are his.