Understanding Authority and Power within Relationship.

There are many things that could shape our understanding of scripture and relationship? Without a doubt, culture, upbringing, environment, religious persuasion, all influence our ideas about relationships, leadership and “church”. These shape-ers reflect what we believe in life. Dependent on the degree of rigidity with which we hold onto what we believe, will determine our acceptability to change when that which we have believed does not line up with the totality of truth on the issue.

There is nothing more defining or impacting on our relationship with God and with people than our perception and understanding of our relationship with God. It is vital to understand within the myriad of “church expressions” that assail us, a proper understanding of power and authority among the body of Christ is essential.

An hindrance to our understanding any issue is the degree of rigidity we hold unto what we  have already understood to be truth. We must understand that what we believe to be truth may not be the whole truth on the subject. Therefore, it behooves us to be flexible to where we remain teachable because rigidity causes us to be unteachable, not only from the standpoint of human teachers, but also by the Holy Spirit, who is able to teach us all things.

A problem I have observed which leads me to believe that the hierarchy power structure of religion is inaccurate, is because it creates a trajectory that ultimately puts us where we did not intend to be. We find ourselves realizing that the results obtained are not what the Bible projects. To add to the problem of being flexible thus, being teachable on a subject is the rigidity to which we hold unto the trajectory of centuries of traditional history of church government hierarchy that is deemed to be God’s design.

I want to assure you that I am not an authority on leadership, I do not presume to have all the answers, but I do see some values that create the foundation of how we view leadership roles and authority within the Body of Christ. While there are many aspects of our life together that are simply a matter of preference, proper understanding of how we are to relate to each another is essential. Religious organizations, of whatever flavor should reflect this RELATIONAL understanding.

The issue of misunderstanding the nature of roles and relationships within the Church goes beyond the issue of doctrine or belief. If we live out wrong beliefs it hinders our relational relationships. Then, in an attempt to fulfill roles that we were not intended to be in, we miss out on the kind of relationships we were intended to have.

The hierarchy structure that is predominate in modern churches is damaging to relational relationships because it removes the aspect of mutual submission and others-serving which God intends for our relationships. To participate in Church relationships through mutuality rather than by governmental hierarchy would make a huge impact on our understanding of body life within a united community of believers.

The hierarchy method of church government, whether we realize it or not, imposes a power structure on relationships that were intended to be mutual. With mutuality, we have the freedom to give love and respect, and to freely submit to one another in authentic relationship. On the other hand, manipulation through power and control removes that freedom by demanding submission by the mere essence of hierarchy. Requirement replaces love and relationship.

The practice of headship and spiritual authority create the role of “mediator” that replaces the “MEDIATOR”. For each member of the Body, there is one King and Lord. He is our source of Life. No one else should presume to take that role in another believer’s spiritual life.

We see this dysfunction in our corporate lives when there is an underlying belief that responsibility for the care of the body rests on the pastor. It is common that we not only passively allow this dynamic, but many demand that this individual meet all of their expectations. By doing so, we functionally neglect caring for one another and miss the opportunity to learn what living in a one-anothering community would be like in its fullest expression.

The teaching of the New Testament is heavy with the proclamation of a new era of unobstructed access to the Father. The veil is rent in-twain, we are no longer dependent on priests. All systems of mediation have been removed, and we are now encouraged to approach God as sons and daughters. Not only that, but Jesus was very clear in His command that believers not rule over one another.

For those whose giftings create influence, there is a responsibility to steward their influence. The purpose of God given gifts and leadership within the body is to serve and equip. Those who are mature and gifted have the responsibility to empower and release others without demanding subservience. As the body of Christ, we are supposed to learn to function in this way together.

Living in mutually submissive relationships isn’t always the easiest or most expedient because it requires that our actions and decisions be based in authentic and actual relationships with one another. However it is beneficial that we pursue and work toward this relational atmosphere in order that the work of the Holy Spirit can be reflected in the unity and relationships that occur as we submit to Jesus as the Head and to one another.

As believers, there are a series of methodology which we interpret Scripture through. These methodologies inevitably determine the expression of our faith.

Some believers have the same belief that they were taught from the beginning of their faith walk. In their eyes, their belief is normal, true, and right. Other believers, for various reasons, have had their beliefs challenged. They have had to go through the process of questioning their beliefs, I am not talking about the essentials of Christian dogma, but doctrine and other aspects of church life.

In rejecting the understanding we have traditionally known, there is a process of coming to terms with a belief that makes sense, that fits our understanding of Scripture and the nature of God instead of a denomination. This is not a case of throwing babies out with bathwater, but rather a process of sifting through the things that we’ve assumed and reconciling them with what we are learning.

The authority structure that I grew up with and thought was normal for the Church was patterned after the world system, which basically involved a leader and a board of elders who were “called” by God to govern the people of that assembly. Being in the pentecostal/charismatic stream there was also a covering of 5-fold ministers to whom the church leaders were submitted. The leaders take very seriously their presumed responsibility to rule and govern the people, and the people take very seriously their submission to these authorities.

After much observation, I have come to the conclusion that this system of hierarchy is damaging both to the people and to the leaders because it causes people to attempt to fulfill roles they were never called to and to miss out on the kind of relationships that God intended.

When we attempt to live in a role of rulership over our brother, we have put ourselves in a position that God never intended. While we may be sincere in doing so, it is ultimately damaging to ourselves and the other person. We presume an authority in their lives that is not ours. This system also causes the followers to sometimes abdicate areas of responsibility and become passive recipients, making unfair demands of the leader.

Not only that, hierarchy is damaging to relationships because it removes the beauty of mutual submission and service which God intends for our relationships. To define our church relationships through the lens of mutuality rather than by government and hierarchy would make a huge impact in our understanding of body life and community. What if we learned to image the nature of the trinity in our relationships with one another?

Instead we have imitated the world’s structures of positional power and actually claimed that they are God’s way. Whether we refer to the Israelites desire for a king or the formation of clergy and papacy in church governments, we see throughout history the establishment of mediators between God and men. While the Father has allowed this mediation, He has not required it. His intention was to have fellowship with man unhindered by mediators.

The world loves its hierarchies and power structures, but it isn’t supposed to be that way among us. The kingdom is to be a radical overthrowing of the hierarchical structures that have been instituted to mediate relationships. Now, there is to be one head of the church, and that head is Jesus. Our relationship with the Father should no longer be hindered by mediation. Our relationships with one another are to be relationships of mutual submission, serving, and preferring one another. This underlying message seems obvious in the New Testament.


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