Thursday, August 12, 2010

What Gives You the Authority?

(This post is second in a series called SIMPLIFY. Some of the ideas I’m sharing in this series came from a message called “Packing Light for the Journey of Life” by Pastor David Dykes in Texas.).
BullToday’s post starts with a BULL story: A government surveyor asked a farmer for permission to go into one of his fields and take some readings. The farmer objected, fearing that the survey would ultimately result in some highway being built through his land. "I will not give you permission to go into my fields," said the farmer.
The surveyor produced an official government document which authorized him to do the survey. "I have the AUTHORITY," he declared, "to enter any field in the entire country to take the necessary readings."
The farmer shrugged, open the gate, and allowed the surveyor to enter the field. He then promptly marched to the far end of the field, and opened another gate-- which allowed his fiercest bull to charge forward into the field!
Seeing the bull, the surveyor dropped his equipment and began to run for his life. He could hear the farmer shouting after him, "SHOW HIM YOUR PAPERS! SHOW HIM YOUR PAPERS!"
A Simple Authority for Our Mission
The question of authority is an important one. Why do we do what we do as Christians and as churches? To whom do we look for authority and direction? I am afraid that many Christians and many churches today are looking in all the wrong places. Our Christian world today is overflowing with models of ministry, experts of ecclesiology, and gurus for growing churches. And of course not all these models and “experts” are bad or wrong. Most of them are doing good things in their cultural context for the Kingdom of God. That is why they are viewed as authorities on the subject.
But my point is that too many of us take these as our authorities and our models rather than simply looking to the Lord Jesus Christ as our authority for our mission.  In Luke 9 Jesus calls His disciples together and gives them some simple instructions as He sends them out to do ministry.
Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases.  He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9:1-2).
Jesus sends them out with “power and authority.” Jesus Christ himself is our authority and power for our mission. In Matthew 28 Jesus says, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." 
Jesus claimed to have all authority in heaven and on earth. This was the basis for sending His believers out on mission. There is only one reason, one authority, for our mission: Jesus Christ. We are not here on our own agenda or for our own purposes. We are to be about His mission and His purpose.
I am not to look to any other person as my authority. Our authority is not Rick Warren nor Bill Hybels, not John Piper nor Mark Driscoll, not the Southern Baptist Convention nor the Roman Catholic Church. Jesus Christ is the authority. He is the reason, the purpose, the motivation, the power, the right.
I am privileged to live in a country where we enjoy a measure of religious freedom. But our authority for our ministry and our mission does not come from the Constitution of the United States. If there were no first amendment I would still openly preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. My authority comes from Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is the same power and authority that all believers enjoy, no matter what earthly governments under which they live.
When we get the question of authority settled, then we are ready for the instructions of our Lord about a simple approach to ministry. That will be the topic for my next post.
Have you seen Christians and Churches too preoccupied with lesser authorities?


  1. No man or woman here on earth is going to tell me what I can or cannot say from the preachin' platform or anywhere else for that matter.

    I don't preach to make people feel good or to even entertain. I try to use my mouth for the sole purpose of speadin' the Good News, repentance, and followin' Jesus.

    For a while now I have been caught up in the "what if someone doesn't like what I say" emotion. I am trying to get away from that because if I am saying what Jesus wants said, that's all that matters to me.

  2. My concern is that we are taking our cues for how to do church and how to be a Christian from others rather than from Jesus Christ through God’s Word in the scriptures. Rather than reading and studying it for ourselves we simply regurgitate what others are saying, teaching, and doing. Our models for ministry are these “successful” churches and pastors rather than the simple model of Jesus himself.

    Too many times I have spent more time reading the latest from the church consultant than I have reading the Bible. God is bringing me back to the simplicity of His Word.


  3. I don't mean to be contrary....or maybe I do I'm not sure, but the flip side is that there are lesser authorities who have earthly success based on careful application of biblical principles. If that person shares it in a book or a magazine article, I'm not sure that's a bad thing. I mean the whole purpose of the printing press, like the internet, is for the sharing of knowledge so that people aren't stuck starting at square one all by their lonesome.

    We should certainly ground ourselves in the word and recognize that we operate out of the Spirit of the Father, not the spirit of another person's testimony or success. I think what I'm actually trying to say here is that while we may have been pre-occupied with earthly experts, we shouldn't swing hard in the opposite direction and completely ignore them either. Prov 15:22 talks about the great value of earthly counsel after all.

  4. Seiji, Good point there. I have learned a lot from others, from their experiences and writings. I am reading two books right now about ministry. I suppose I was partially confessing my own mistake of leaning on others more than really seeking the Lord and depending on His authority and power. I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not the only one.

    God has not called me or my church to replicate the model of other ministries--just to model what Jesus has done. And I am learning that modeling Jesus may look a lot different in my church and community context than it does in others. And I think that's the way it's supposed to be.

    Thanks the way you encourage and challenge me.

  5. Richard, you are not the only one. I find myself in the same situation sometimes. Having spent hours reading from other material to the neglect of God's word. We certainly need to have a growing familiarity with what God says versus what others say about what God says.

    I agree that we need to read material from others as well. It is valuable to be challenged by the insight of others, but we should not do this to the neglect of reading God's word.

  6. Larry, I learn so much from what other godly men and women write. There are some great teachers and writers out there. The have a lot of good ideas.

    The real problem comes when we start to depend on the other sources more than we depend on our love relationship with the living Lord. He really does speak to us through His Word if we will take the time to prayerfully read it and practice it.



Thank you for commenting. I appreciate your thoughts and opinions on this post.