You don’t have to look very hard in society to find examples of people in authority abusing their authority. Unfortunately in the church where you’d expect things to be different it seems like it rarely is. In a recent conversation with a church leader they asked me if they really had to be a jerk to get things done and be a successful leader in a church? I don’t think they do and I don’t think you do either. It’s possible to lead with authority without abusing authority.
1. Positional Authority
We follow people who have positional authority in our lives because we have to. They’re in a position of authority in our lives such as a parent, teacher, boss or ranking officer. We follow these people because if we don’t there are unpleasant consequences that we’re forced to deal with.
2. Expert Authority
We follow people with expert authority because of the wealth of experience or knowledge that they have. These people have something that we don’t and are recognized as experts in their field, which naturally places them in an authority role. We listen to them because they have something that we want.
3. Moral Authority
We follow people with moral authority because we want to. These people don’t ask anyone to do anything that they’re not willing to do themselves. They know it’s not wise for them to do every job in the organization, while understanding that no job in the organization is beneath them. They serve the organization instead of having the organization serve them. They lead out of who they are and allow people close enough to them to see that they are who they are all the time and in every setting.
Jesus could have led with positional authority; after all He is God in the flesh. But He didn’t. Jesus could have led with expert authority; after all He created everything that exists and is pretty much the expert on…well everything. But He didn’t. Instead Jesus led with moral authority. He submitted to His Father in the garden saying, “Not my will but yours be done.” He said, “If you want to be first you have to be last,” and He put our needs in front of His own. He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me,” and He went to the cross first.