Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. (Romans 13:1)
God’s will is never in conflict with itself, period. God’s will is never in conflict with His word, period. This presents us with a number of perceived difficulties, and a major perceived difficulty when it comes to authority. The questions always come up “What about Hitler?” Of course we come up with the pat answer (which is true) and say something like... “When a governing authority commands you to contradict a higher authority (God), then you must obey the higher authority.” I think there is some debate that could occur here, but that is not the point of this post.
The primary reason for this post is to speak on authority in your church. Often times when the leadership of a local congregation appears to be going the wrong direction, or something occurs that appears to be in opposition to the will of God, people within that congregation will believe that somehow they are no longer under the authority of the leadership of that congregation. It is as if the authority of the church leaders is established based on their obedience as opposed to God’s placing them in authority. Even in the case of the unconverted church elder, converted or not, they have been given authority and as a congregation member, you are under it. Remember, “There is NO authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” This includes within the church. When you agree to membership within a church, you are recognizing the authority structure within that church to be over you, and are agreeing to fall in line with that authority. Now I want to get to my main point, the power of God upon you to change the direction of your congregation, your work place, your school, etc... will be most manifest when you operate within the established authority. This is really important. Too often people think they need to climb the authority ladder to have impact, or even worse, bypass the authority structure altogether. My work is primarily with youth, and this is a huge struggle for converted youth. God so often will light a fire in a youth, and immediately the flesh will fight back and lead the youth to believe they are now in a position of authority because they have more zeal than the people above them, it seems adults do the same thing. God will not work powerfully in you and produce anything of eternal worth through you unless you function within the authority structure which you exist. Look at the reformation, Luther functioned within and under the authority of the Catholic Church. He went to the Diet of Worms, he functioned as a minister within the church, he submitted to the authorities of the time regardless of his disdain for them. Even his act of defiance with the 95 theses was not so much a blatant disobedience to authority but a proclamation of what he saw to be true. God fired the reformation from within the existing authority structure. Wesley operated under the authority of the Anglican Church until he was removed from it. Over and over again you see this. The fly by night guys that are trying to reform your congregation by gathering people behind leader’s backs, or trying to overpower the existing authorities will never succeed because though they may have grand intentions they have neglected the God ordained authority structure.
I know this all seems passive, and maybe as a reader of this post you disagree and feel that you are called to reform your church or challenge the authority that exists, I would only tell you to tread lightly and carefully. Even Jesus who has all authority subjected Himself to the powers that be, yea even the Pharisees. God will empower your efforts for reform if you trust Him to use you right where you are.
Finally, in the last post I spoke a little on the next great awakening, and I do believe it is begun and happening across this country and world, at the same time I think that the one thing that will stall it, and is stalling it is a lack of submission to, and comprehension of, authority. People from about 30 downward (speaking generally knowing this is not true 100% of the time) have little or no concept of biblical authority. Unfortunately a number of people who could contribute greatly to this awakening will not be given the power of God to do so because they are in ‘hostile takeover’ mode as opposed to humble submission mode. Again it is not a position of power we need, we need the power of God upon our current position.