Sunday, July 16, 2017
Preachers and spiritual leaders are vested with authority. It is an authority which comes from several sources. First, it comes from God. He is the One who starts the leadership process in an individual if that person is to truly be a spiritual leader. Without the reality and conviction of divine calling, the one who is regarded as a spiritual leader by the church may be the proverbial wolf in sheep clothing. While it may not be an intentional thing with the leader and while the leader may mean well, there is still something important missing if God is not the One who initiates the ministry and service. It is always possible for someone to serve the church for personal reasons instead of a mandate from God.
A second sources of authority for the preacher who is often the primary spiritual leader of the church is through ordination. As a United Methodist preacher I knelt before a Bishop of our church, had his hands placed upon me, and he spoke words giving me authority to preach the Word and to administer the Sacrament. Those words were not permission giving words, but words which gave direction to a life I had come seeking. Looking back it was like one of those "Woe is me!" moments reminding me that I dare not take this sacred authority for granted or abuse it.
And, the third source of authority comes from the people of the church being served. If the people of the church do not recognize their preacher or leader as one vested with spiritual authority, then only trouble is ahead. Ministry and service in such a place will be difficult, if not impossible. It has always seemed that the real key to having a congregation affirm and receive the authority of the spiritual leader has more to do with serving than preaching. If a spiritual leader is viewed as a servant who seeks only what God is seeking, the permission to serve is more easily granted. If the ego of the spiritual leader is directing instead of the Holy Spirit, this soon becomes obvious and permission to serve with authority is withheld.