"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Church Authority: What It Is And What It Is Not


Last January my father, Paul Burleson, wrote a very thought provoking blog post on 'authority' in the local church. Due to a few statements on 'authority' in the comment stream of my last post, I felt his article on authority, reproduced below in full, was beneficial to the conversation.

"Authority in a local church is a much debated and, as I've discovered of late, a much misunderstood concept I want to make several personal observations about the biblical understanding of authority in a local fellowship as I see it.

A. There is only one head of the Church/churches and all authority has been given to Him. If anyone ever assumes authority because of their person or position they are usurping the authority of the Head. [Eph. 4:5,15]

B. The Head of the Body has given an authoritative Word to the members of the Body [universal or local]. The Old and New Testaments are that inspired Word with New Covenant people inparticularly bound to the New Testament writings. [Heb. 1:2, Acts 18:28]

C. All believers are responsible to the Head individually and have a responsibility to each other. [Rom. 14:4, Eph. 5:21]

D. All believers are priests and are gifted. Therefore all must take their place among the body members to minister for the good of all. [1 Corinth. 12-14]

E. There are certain ones [both men and women] who are gifted as all members are, but, then become a gift to the body in a unique way. The purpose of these people/gifts is to equip all for ministry. [Eph. 4:11-12]

F. There is no emphasis in the New Testament on "authority" that is derived from an "office." The King James version translates the word "office" in Rom. 11:13, 12:4, and 1Tim 3:1. But in Rom. 11:13 it is the word "diakonia" or "service." In 12:4 it is "praxis" or "action/function." While in 1 Tim. 3:1 "office" is not in the text at all. The verse simply says in the original "if anyone aspires to oversight[episkope]"

Authority is to be experienced in the assembly because of the gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit obvious through people. In one sense, the entire body shares authority. [Eph. 5:21, 1Peter 5:5] This means we recognize one another's gifts, knowledge, or experience in the Lord and we choose to serve/submit because the Holy Spirit has placed some as gifts and has annointed the ministries of those gifts. That is the key to understanding Pastors/Elders and their function. No one has authority BECAUSE they have a stronger personality, knows more Bible, or they hold an office. That is foreign to the New Testament. Paul the Apostle had to defend his Apostleship by virtue of it being the work of the Spirit setting him aside for it. 1 Tim. 5:17 speaks of those Elders that "give oversight well"...."are worthy of double honor." It is that "give oversight well" that is the source of authority. They defined it as Holy Spirit annointing. In other words, the annointing of the Spirit makes clear the authority that rests on a ministry done well, not the office holder.


(1). I think we can conclude in all of this that a "one man show" is foreign to the New Testament.

2). Further, submission to authority is to be given to those who "serve" the body well, whatever area of "service" that might be and regardless of "gender." Some people believe that the Spirit will never place a woman in the ministry of Pastor/Elder and the BF@M concurs with that. But whether that is true or not, and I have my own views about it, "authority" and "submission" are not "gender based" in the New covenant but "Holy Spirit ministry" based. No one is to be a leader by saying "I'm the Pastor/Elder" or "I have a Seminary degree" or "I'm a man."

(3). Servanthood is the "badge" of christian living and is to be the overriding characterstic of body-life. If God's people are to ever reflect the biblical relationship of Body/local body to Head and members to members servanthood is essential.

(4). Finally, the rule of church life is really to be the Headship of Christ, the priesthood of all believers, and each member contributing with giftedness and edifying each other in the process. Set up any system, any format, any procedure to carry out business, but function under the annointing of the Spirit. and serve one another. This must not be theory but practice if we are to reflect the reality of Christ to a lost world in need of the gospel. Check any leadership by this standard if you want to be biblical in church life."


davidbmclaughlin.com said...

Outstanding post! Your dad rocks.

David Mc
Day 4 without power

Lin said...

What a great synopsis of the truth.

Chuck Andrews said...


In response to Paul’s post I posted the Authority, Leadership, & Relationships on April 17, 2007. In it I try to give a historical account of how we got to the place of emphasizing authority in the local church. Nothing profound but may be helpful to someone.


Wade Burleson said...


I had not seen your post.


irreverend fox said...

your dad does rock! great post!

G. Alford said...


And what Authority does the Local Association, State Convention, National Convention, IMB, NAMB, or Seminary have?

Wade Burleson said...

The authority that arises out of service to the cooperative efforts of local churches.

Not from the office of a denominational leader.

Paul Burleson said...


I appreciate the offering of my thoughts in that post of awhile back, but, I must say, the post referenced in Chuck Andrews comment [#3] is ABSOLUTE GOLD.

Anonymous said...

Well Paul does Tell Timothy that if any "man" desires to be an overseer or elder then that is good. Jesus chose men as apostles, not women. The issue of men as overseers is fundamental in the NT.
I agree that authority has to be earned not given because of a seminary education. Yet Timothy is told to correct and rebuke by Paul, He was given clear lines of authority and leadership.
I personally hate it when leaders do not understand how to use their God given authority...Yet we also cannot say that the Bible tells gifted men not to take authority. I would have liked to see more scripture to back up Pauls views, especially from a counterpoint perspective.
I am not Southern Baptist but am a pastor and am interested in what is going on here. God bless you!

Paul Burleson said...


I think I hear your heart here and I believe I hear you desiring to be the Pastor/leader God has gifted you to be and that IS commendable.

My problem with what you say is your statement...

"Yet we also cannot say that the Bible tells gifted men not to take authority." [What scripture is seen for this?

This is PRECISELY what we must say if we are truly biblical in leadership. The Bible DOES tell gifted men/women NOT to TAKE authority.

Matt. 20:25-28/Mark 10:42-45/Luke 22:25-27 all reference this.

Were we speaking of normal culture we would talk of those who take authority over people like the princes and Gentiles did when they are said to "excercise [synonomous with 'take'] dominion [synonomous with authority] over them and they that are great excercise authority [there it is again] upon them."

But for us..[verse 26 of Matt 20] "it shall not be so among you."

It is summed up when we are told to not "lord it over."

In Kingdom living whosoever is the greatest among us is to be the greatest servant and as he/she serves and is seen as a servant, authority is to be/will be granted by Spirit-filled believers who recognize that authority.

Someone says "but it doesn't work that way with human nature the way it is." RIGHT. But we're to function on the basis of the Divine Nature within us guided by biblical principles based on serving.

It DOES take ONE greater than any one of us. But He is our Head and WILL supply the power/life for His Body to function. Thus, we are forced back on trusting the Holy Spirit's work in us all.

If this doesn't happen..we have religion..and one is as good as another..in a manner of speaking. :)

Anonymous said...

Dear Paul,
Once again I come in peace and I appreciatte the tone of your reply. I am a pastor at a 10,000 plus church in SoCal and I host a national radio program here on 100 stations, taking Bible questions.
One reference would be:
Titus 2:15 Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.
1Ti 2:2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
We are also told to not despise authority in Peters epistle.
Authority comes with leadership and leadership is clearly one of the gifts and offices as mentioned in Romans 12 and 1 Cor 12.
To me the issue is not authority but how to wield authority. As you rightly said we cannot be in authority in the church if we are lording it over people as the gentiles do. Jesus is the authority and he makes us overseers and we must take it seriously...that means we deal with heretics and sin and church order but we do it humbly and in love (unlike the gentiles).
This is an interesting blog, I appreciatte your point of view.

Anonymous said...

One more thing Paul, you are an older man and I hope that you are taking my posts as one who is appealing to you like a father! Not a rebuke!
I am not savvy to what is taking place in the SBC so I would not like it if my post was being taken as political in nature. I have no axe to grind...I am very interested in what you believe as a baptist as I am affiliated with Calvary Chapel. Blessings to you.

Paul Burleson said...


That you're not a Baptist means little to me since our brotherhood is established in the Person of Christ. I am Baptist. But the Kingdom is larger than Baptist.

We can be different in a lot of things, serve in different places in the Body, share the gospel with those without hope, even call ourselves by some religious handle like Baptist or Charismatic, and enjoy the journey together at points like this along the way.

By the way, I've been to Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa and enjoyed meeting the staff there. The Maranatha singers were an early tool God used to teach me real praise and worship.

But so as not to rob Wade of his blog permit me to simply encourage you to keep reading his blog often. He articulates the uniqueness of that part of the Bride we call Baptist as well as any one I know. By the way, I'm not prejudiced..I just know good teaching/sharing when I see it. :)

So as to NOT rob time/space I'll simply share a thoughtful approach to understanding Titus 2:15. [Not mine}

"In the phrase, “with all authority,” “authority” is the Greek epitage, “command, order, injunction.” The idea is with all impressiveness because behind what is said by way of teaching, exhortation, or rebuke is the authority of God’s holy Word—assuming, of course, that the communication of the teacher is based on Scripture and not his own opinions or ideas. This is not a call to act in a domineering way as dictator (3 John 1:9) or as one who seeks to lord it over the flock (1 Pet. 5:3), but as servant leaders who, acting under the authority of God’s authoritative Word, seek to impress upon the hearers that these things are not optional like a cafeteria where we pick and choose what we want."

Good word for all of us. It doesn't violate the servant roll at all to my way of thinking. Thanks for the dialogue.

Darby Livingston said...

On the one hand the writer of Hebrews tells the church to obey and submit to their leaders because to not obey would be of no advantage to them. The writer is speaking directly to the congregation, so I take that to mean the church should GIVE submission to the elders; the elders shouldn't have to take it. On the other hand, Paul tells Timothy to let no one disregard him. I wonder if there is a subtlety here that we just aren't putting our fingers on?

Chris Johnson said...


Thanks for the post, ….you are very persuasive.

I like the comments in the conclusion, point #2 that reinforce how the Spirit has seen fit to appoint men to leadership in the assembly of the New Covenant believers. Even though you state that your opinion may be different than the BF&M, you have effectively stated that the Spirit does as He pleases. It pleased Him to give us servant leaders in the form of men to lead the His church.

Are you stating that the Holy Spirit has assigned women to be leading the New Testament church? If so, where do you see this addressed?


Anonymous said...

Thanks Paul,
I enjoy the spirit of the men here who are posting. I am at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa as the mens pastor and host of Pastors Perspective.
I wholeheartedly agree with the servant leadership style that you are espousing. I wholeheartedly disagree with a dictatorial style of leadership which we see in various Word Faith style churches. Yet I do not want abuses in the church to stop me from using the authority that God has given us to lead and teach His Word. Enough said on that subject.
Bless you Paul and all others posting on this site.
Merry Christmas! Ken Sutton

shadrach said...

I'm glad I read Bro. Chuck's article before commenting. I agree with him completely and from Wade and Paul's comments, I assume they do as well. Chuck was very appropriately articulate about what leaders are and what they should do, but he does not question that God has designated certain figures to be in authority in the church.

In response to denominational authority, the system is a little too political to be pure. As someone said in a comment thread a while back, 'when did we get leaders instead of servants?'

Here is my question: when is it the shepherd's job to act without the permission of the flock?

Darby Livingston said...

"Here is my question: when is it the shepherd's job to act without the permission of the flock?"

There are times when a shepherd must serve the flock out of faithfulness to God, even when the flock is absolutely against the actions of the shepherd. I think the above question turns the concept of authority on its head. In other words, when is it the parent's job to act without the permission of the children? When is it the emperor's job to act without the permission of the citizen? When is it the Father's job to act without the permission of the Son? No matter how much we naturally fear legalism and tyrants, God is a God of authority, and he didn't leave the church in the hands of mob rule. I've seen good pastors raked over the coals by their congregations so they would be kept in a beggarly state, ill-equipped to confront the rampant idolatry of the congregation.

Paul Burleson said...


These are my personal observations only and are given with a desire to challenge all of us to a greater servant's heart as pastors.

"When is it the parent's job to act without the permission of the children?"

My answer..Often. But a Pastor/Elder is not a parent and a church member is not a child.

'Emperor's job to act without permission of the citizen?'

My answer..Often, if a King chooses to. But the Pastor is not a King/Emperor and the church member is not a citizen of the King's [Pastor's] kingdom.

'The Father's job to act without permission of the Son?'

My answer..Never. When Jesus said He could call legions of angels and the whole thing would stop..He could have and the Father would NOT have demanded otherwise or Jesus words were not truthful. But the Pastor is not God and the church is not the Pastor's Divine Son.

Darby, you are correct, God did not leave the church in the hands of mob rule, but He did leave the church in the hands of the Holy Spirit, Pastors/Elders included.

So if, in obedience to the Spirit's leadership, I had to, as Pastor, go a different direction than the church I pastored chose to, I suffered whatever consequences the church chose to give which, in one case for me, was termination.

But I NEVER assumed my thoughts were the Holy Spirit's desires on issues other than those clearly stated in the Scriptures and even then I checked mine with someone I trusted deeply. [This is the value of a multiplicity of Elders.] If it was a convictional issue, though not over a clear theological point, out of conscience, I chose the consequences. Sound familiar?

But I must say, I have found that most of what pastors/churches get crosswise about has little to do with clear scripture but personal opinions about issues that are NOT talked about in scripture.

With repect, I must say that my fifty years of ministry, the last ten of which have been in traveling across the country/convention in local churches, has shown me that the trouble in churches has as much to do with strong-willed, opinionated ministers as it does with strong-willed opinionated members. Both are an anathema to the leadership of the Holy Spirit and both wind up with religious organizations rather than a genuine Kingdom kind of relationship.

In fact, I believe our churches MAY only be reflecting the state of our homes where a lack of respect/servanthood is absent to a degree that is unsettling to me personally.

I'm not discounting the role we have in prophetic preaching. We MUST, with a prophetic voice, sometimes address the idols men create, our own as well as others. But we would do well to do so with tears as did Jeremiah.

But when the issue degenerates into "whose the boss?" I'm afraid we are living out a curseful way of life anyway as evidenced by the situation in Genesis after the fall. [Gen 3:16]

A graceful way of life is revealed in Ephesians where the question is not "whose the boss?" but rather "how can I minister to you in a Spirit-filled relationship?" [Eph.5] I don't think we're asking that question enough in marriage or ministry.

Darby Livingston said...


Thanks for your response. I agree with your points. I understand the difference between church and children, pastors and parents. My point was simply that authority structures cannot be turned upside down. I definitely agree with your point about strong-willed pastors. It is the pastor's responsibility to bear the marks of his service on himself. I agree that we don't see that kind of love shown by many "professional" pastors across our land. Our church is led by a plurality of elders, of which I am only one. So please don't think I'm for "my way or the highway" pastors. :)

Paul Burleson said...


I don't. Merry Christmas and happy New Year to you and your family.

By the way, I served two churches with Elders, one as the Senior teaching Elder and one as one among equals as I've traveled. You are blessed with the multiple minds/hearts/gifts available to you as is your congregation.

This is all predicated on you guys walking in the Spirit of course. When Elders don't you have as much trouble as you have with congregations that don't. I'll bet you agree. :)

Darby Livingston said...

Absolutely right. Our congregation appoints elders (from within, if possible) based on service, gifting and calling. It is something we take seriously because we don't move ahead with anything without unanimous consent of the elders. We have been graced with a spirit of harmony and love that I only hope other churches have. I pray we never see the day when the whole system is hindered by a carnal elder. Merry Christmas to you as well. I value your input, as well as that of Wade.

traveller said...

Paul, I appreciate your comments here. The thrust of them is very God-like. My experience is far too many people (lay and clergy) like to agree with your words but then live a different way when it comes to difficult choices or people disagree with their view. A true sign of maturity in the Spirit is the very points you are making. Thank you.

Chuck Andrews said...

Shadrach and Darby

I say this not as instruction but as a co-laborer thinking out loud. The word pictures, of the language used, says it all. I was raised in ranch land where you rounded up the cattle and you drove them where you wanted them to go. It is called “herding” and the ones doing the herding are called “herders.” Because there was a cattle industry in Israel Jesus could have used the language of cattle and herding to describe the church.

Instead, he used the language of the sheep industry. The management of this industry is called “husbandry.” Shepherds didn’t herd and drive the sheep. They led the sheep. And if the sheep knew the shepherds and they trusted their voice they followed. Because sheep are animals for prey they have an incredible instinct for knowing and following the shepherd that has cared for, protected, walked with, and has served them well. Within the flock itself there are group dynamics and organizational systems of dominance and leadership. The identity of the dominant leader may change depending on the circumstance.

In this word picture Jesus is called “the good Shepherd” (Jn 10:11); the great Shepherd (Heb 13:20); “the Chief Shepherd” (1 PT 5:4). In the church a pastor is told to do the work of a shepherd but a pastor is never called THE shepherd of the flock. The only time the noun is used in describing our present day pastor is in Eph 4:11. Pastors themselves are just sheep and, like all the other sheep, a part of the flock. The authority of leadership grows out of the dynamic of the flock. Pastors should lead the sheep to follow the Shepherd and only follow the dominant leader sheep as they follow the Shepherd. That’s what the apostles did and, because I’ve been under his leadership and also his pastor, that’s what Paul Burleson does, too.

Serving in leadership is not less authority than authoritarian leadership. But it sure is a different posture. It’s not antiauthority, antinomianism, or anarchy but it isn’t manipulation, despotism or absolutism either. I’m not sure it’s that easy to define yet, I’m thinking it looks a lot like 1 Cor 13 4:7.


Anonymous said...

So the CEO pastor model isn't scriptural?

Paul Burleson said...


Scriptural? No. Helpful? Only if you want an organization to function instead of an Organism to grow.

Anonymous said...

We have two anons in here right now...I definitely do not agree with the ceo as pastor model...Good stuff in here.
Blessings, Ken

Lin said...

Chuck and Paul, Wow. What a breath of fresh air you guys are. The servanthood you all are speaking of actually helps disciple people to be mature Christians and not 'children' under an authority waiting to know what to think or believe when an Apollos or even a Diotrephes tells them.

It is strange how people can read the scriptures and come away with such different perspectives on 'authority'. It is strange how we will take the scriptures that speak to authority so literal yet ignore so many others that speak to us all on not lording it over, the first will be last, who is the greatest in the kingdom, etc.

One of my favorite books is Philemon. We see a glimpse of the authority issue here, I think. Paul asks the slave owner to treat his slave as a brother in Christ. Paul asks...does not command as je could..notice he says...in Christ but,He asks as a brother in Christ to another brother.

This is my favorite verse:

"17So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account."

Receiving a slave as an equal in that culture? Jesus really did turn authority it's head. Sometimes when I read what Jesus says to the Pharisees, I can almost hear the gasps from the crowds.

As my mom used to say, 'At the end of the day, it is just you and the Holy Spirit'.

shadrach said...


I agree with you. Niger is very similar to ancient Isreal in many ways and so I have gained a greater understanding of many of Jesus' illustrations by living here.

I chose the shepherd/sheep illustration because that tends to be the Bible's favorite in describing us. The pastor leads the sheep as one called out among the herd. He acts as a guide in following the true Shepherd. As such, I do not agree with all of the parallels drawn by Darby, but still beg the question: when is it the pastor's job to act without the permission of the congregation in guiding the church?

Chuck Andrews said...


IMHO, a congregation invests a certain amount of authority in their pastor when they chose him as their pastor. Yet, I’m not sure there is a obvious answer to your question. I guess I’m prone to say that, over time, there may be times when a pastor makes decisions without getting congregational permission. If there is a high trust-low fear factor in the pastoral leadership the congregation will probably follow. If there’s a low trust-high fear factor, the congregation will probably not follow. If the pastor is leading and the flock isn’t following, it may say more about the pastor’s leadership than the flock’s willingness to follow.

The plurality of leadership (which I think is the biblical pattern) can make the necessity of decision making less impulsive and more tolerable to the congregation. One person is not making decisions based on their individual perspective but a group of leaders is looking at it from multiple angles.

The problem, in my experience, has been that when a pastor makes one of those decisions and the other sheep don’t follow, then the pastor gets angry at them for not following. There is the attitude that the pastor is THE leader and has the right to make decisions for the congregation. With this attitude a pastor creates a low trust-high fear factor.

Instead, IMO, pastors need to have the attitude that they are A leader among equals (we’re all sheep) and very few times do crunch decisions have to be made. They are the exception and not the rule. In my experience, when a pastor has this attitude they will humbly create a high trust-low fear factor.

Thanks for helping me think through this. It helps to articulate what’s in my head and heart. Hope you have a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.


shadrach said...

Thanks Chuck. I am not a pastor, but am a spiritual leader. In our situation, most of our believers are very new in their faith and most cannot read God's Word for themselves. Thus, we are in a position of helping guide our believers through the message of the Bible and then teaching them to understand and apply what they hear.

I think many pastors could benefit from using that principle in their congregations, but the 'down' side is that you must set aside your presuppositions and go with what your people decide unless it is in clear opposition to scripture (at which point you show that scripture and start the process again).

Anonymous said...

In dealing with decision making as a pastor it is hard to know exactly where to draw the line. It is hard for me to imagine pastoring a church where I am limited on making decisions without using committees or having to run things by the church.

I do not see church membership or committees in the New Testament, just like I do not see dictator pastors. The only reference to "choosing" comes in the area of choosing some greek men to wait on tables ( highly spiritual me at that). I do see a plurality of elders in the NT and I believe that there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors but having to hear peoples opinions on the color of the carpet at a church meeting sounds like madness to me. I truly believe that this form of church government has created more gridlock in the American church than anything else. If a church can entrust a pastor with spiritual care and the authority to teach doctrine how can they watch him like a hawk on every other decision he makes?

I believe that the balance is in finding fearless men who teach the Bible as if it were inerrant. These men also have to lead as the Lord leads them (in prayer), they have to make decisions regardless of how popular they are (along with the elders). This is closer to what I see in the NT then having congregational meetings to tell the pastor what to do, which makes him nothing more than a hireling.

I think that I have to be careful in defining Biblical leadership because on one side we can become edited, scared men ( and very political at that) or on the other we become dictators ( and very political also). The balance is in the servant style leadership that Jesus exhibited. Jesus worked hard at praying, serving, teaching and leading. We must serve and love the church also and then like Jesus they will follow even when we make unpopular decisions or teach unpopular doctrine.

This may sound like anathema to some of you, but this is what I see in the NT. Some of you may think that this leaves the congregation out of the process...the only process they are left out of is leadership of the church. They have the opportunity to engage the culture with the gospel and serve within the local body in various capacities.

Mike Tea said...

I have been a Christian for twenty one years but was a Mormon for fourteen years before that. I have struggled somewhat to attain sfficient clarity in my understanding of authority. This article I feel has advanced my understanding, and indeed my conviction regarding authority more than anything I have seen for some time.

It is biblical, sensible, well reasoned and compelling. I aim to live it and thank you for it.

God Bless you

Mike Tea

Lin said...

"The balance is in the servant style leadership that Jesus exhibited. Jesus worked hard at praying, serving, teaching and leading. We must serve and love the church also and then like Jesus they will follow even when we make unpopular decisions or teach unpopular doctrine."

There is only one problem with this: Jesus Christ was perfect. You, like me, are a depraved human saved by grace.

One has to wonder what it would look like if a true body of believers sought the Holy Spirit in everything. Seeking to be of one mind in Christ. Isn't that were we should be headed?

K said...

Very true and yet Jesus is our example. We are to be men who get away to pray and seek the Father for His instruction, we are to pray for the sick, teach the Scriptures, feed the poor and lead people while we are at it.
I surely do now want to be contentious, Pauls post was excellent. I just don't want to see men diminish the role of pastor leader by saying that the proper role is to be lead by a congregation in all matters.

Lin said...

I just don't want to see men diminish the role of pastor leader by saying that the proper role is to be lead by a congregation in all matters.

17 December, 2007 11:22

I don't want to be contentious either but do want to point out that we cannot seem to get away from the word 'lead' as in authority over people.

One can lead by example as Jesus did. You are turning it around by saying you don't want the pastor to be 'lead' by the congregation.

My point is that the Jesus Christ is the 'leader' as in the authority of the Body.

We must start replacing the word 'lead' with 'serve'. We must replace 'ruler' with 'servant'.

I once did a study on all the words Paul used to describe himself in scripture. It is very eye opening.

Brandon Porter said...

Two questions here...

Does the Pastors/Elders of a local church have authority in the church?

If so, what does that look in various practical scenarios...leadership, vision, discipline?

Thanks for the post!

Brandon Porter said...

Sorry about the grammatical problems there. It's getting late!

Here are the questions restated...

Do the Pastors/Elders of the local church have authority in the church?

If so, what does that look like in a practical sense...leadership, vision, discipline?


Pastor Mark Mitchell said...

In Numbers 16 Korah held a similar view as is found in this post. In fact he said to moses:

" And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?"

God has always lead His people through His chosen leaders and never through the congregation as a whole. The word "Bishop" most certainly points to one in authority.

I see much mention of the "preisthood of the Believer" these days without any mention of the very passages of scripture that teach us about this doctrine. Exodus 19:6 begins this teaching and it is reiterated in 1 Peter 2:9T.this doctrine is all about responsibility and has nothing to do with freedom in Christ.

God chooses to lead the church through His pastor and not the congregation.

Cheryl Schatz said...

I find it astonishing to see this post connected to the sin of Korah. There is no connection at all.

In the church God leads through everyone who is operating in the gifting of the Holy Spirit. Those who desire to serve the body of Christ will humble themselves and lower themselves into a servant position. There is nothing in the scripture that says that a Pastor is "the leader" of the church. Jesus is the only true "head" of the church and he is the only one who is above anyone else.

In the context of the passage that Pastor Mark Mitchell brought out, Korah was claiming that he and the entire nation were holy in the same way as Moses and Aaron were holy. In this claim for holiness, Korah was wanting the Priesthood for himself.

Num 16:8 Then Moses said to Korah, "Hear now, you sons of Levi,
Num 16:9 is it not enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do the service of the tabernacle of the LORD, and to stand before the congregation to minister to them;
Num 16:10 and that He has brought you near, Korah, and all your brothers, sons of Levi, with you? And are you seeking for the priesthood also?
Num 16:11 "Therefore you and all your company are gathered together against the LORD; but as for Aaron, who is he that you grumble against him?"

God had promised the Priesthood to the entire nation of Israel if they would obey his commandments. God promised that both men and women and the slaves within their midst would be a kingdom of priests if they would follow God's ways.

Exo 19:5 'Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine;
Exo 19:6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel."

But Israel had not been obedient to God and had not yet received the universal priesthood. This was Korah's problem in that he grumbled against Moses and Aaron and he desired the priesthood for himself before it was given by God. God has given the church this universal priesthood but Israel has not yet obeyed God.

In contrast to Israel, God has already given the church to be a kingdom of priests. In this we are all equal as "brothers" in Christ. God's will is that we are to love one another and lift each other up in service to one another. We are not to lord it over the body of Christ but instead those who are the greatest are the servants of all.

Anonymous said...

Cheryl fails to understand what was happening in Numbers 16. First Moses was not a Priest. And the power grab was not about the preisthood. It was about who should lead the people of God.

Second it would serve her well to study the role and definition of a bishop.

K said...

Cheryl, when you say that the Bible doesn't say that a pastor is the leader, I get confused. A church where everyone is a priest is a great church but what you are espousing is nothing short of cacophony.
To be honest it is comments like yours which cause Paul to say that he does not permit a woman to teach or have "authority" over a man. What do you do with that verse in light of leadership? Does the woman have the same authority in the local church as a man when it comes to teaching doctrine?
I will give you one clear verse which speaks of pastors being leaders..This was a verse which I shared on another post. Titus 2:15 Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.

How can a pastor rebuke if he has no authority?

One thing that I have shared on this board is that we must be balanced in our approach to church servant leadership. We do not want to diminish Biblical leadership but we also do not want to create dictators with no accountability. God is using human beings here and He is the de-facto leader of His church but the idea that everyone does what they want whenever they choose is what is coming across here to me.
Take my response in love, I am interested in your opinion.

Cheryl Schatz said...

Dear “K”,

You said: “A church where everyone is a priest is a great church but what you are espousing is nothing short of cacophony.”

The church is a kingdom of priests because the Bible says it is so and Paul spoke about what that looks like in a church setting. It is not discordant words, but edification and full body ministry.

1 Corinthians 14:3 But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation.
1 Corinthians 14: 31 For you can *all* prophesy one by one, so that *all* may learn and all may be exhorted;

When all use their gifts, they are to use them for the edification of the body so that the entire body is built up and edified.

You said: “To be honest it is comments like yours which cause Paul to say that he does not permit a woman to teach or have "authority" over a man.”

My comments were biblical and corrective. The rebuke that was given to Wade was not biblical and was from a passage of scripture that had nothing to do with the topic at hand and someone needed to speak up. The original rebuke against Pastor Paul’s article on church authority that I was responding to was a rebuke from scripture taken out of context and your comment concerning 1 Timothy 2:12 is also out of context. I say this out of love, because I do care that you know the truth if I may be allowed to share. In proper context Paul is not stopping godly Christian women from teaching correct biblical doctrine to men. Paul did not say that he left Timothy behind to stop those who are teaching false doctrines AND to stop women from teaching. He said that he left Timothy behind to instruct certain people not to teach strange doctrines. The context of stopping a woman from teaching (1 Timothy 2:12) is in the context of the stopping of aberrant doctrines not the stopping of one teaching correct biblical doctrine. Nowhere in scripture is the teaching of correct biblical doctrine ever stopped and this interpretation is out of place in the context of 1 Timothy.

You also asked: “Does the woman have the same authority in the local church as a man when it comes to teaching doctrine?”

Scripture is clear about this. In 1 Peter 4:10, 11 NASB Peter says: “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. **Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God;** whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

The ESV says: “whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God”

Whoever has been given the gift of teaching is to speak with authority as giving the oracles of God. It is the Holy Spirit’s prerogative regarding whom he gifts and whomever he gifts is to speak with authority the very words of God. Biblical doctrine is to be taught by those gifted by God and the fact that they have been gifted, gives them authority to use their gift. Nowhere does the bible say that men have more authority to give out God’s word than women do. The authority is in the gift and that comes from God alone.

You said: “I will give you one clear verse which speaks of pastors being leaders..This was a verse which I shared on another post. Titus 2:15 Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you. How can a pastor rebuke if he has no authority?”

Paul is speaking to Titus in this verse, but it is not just applicable for pastors but for all of us that God has gifted according to 1 Peter 4:10, 11. We have been given gifts to use with God’s authority. The word for “exhort” in Titus 2:15 means to “aid, help, comfort, encourage” and the word for “rebuke” means “to convict, to prove one in the wrong”. We are all encouraged to do this. In fact 1 Peter 3:14 says that if we are suffering for doing what is right then we are to give a defense so that we might answer those who speak against our good behavior in Christ. For those who are accused of doing wrong (when they are really acting in a godly way), Peter continues to tell these persecuted ones what to do:

1 Peter 3:15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
1 Peter 3:16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.

So in answer to your question, a pastor has authority to rebuke just as another brother or sister in the flock has authority to correct error. We all have been given authority to use our gifts for the benefit of the entire flock. We have not been given authority to lord it over any one nor are we ever told to “take authority” over another brother or sister or the church as a whole. This type of leadership is foreign to scripture. Instead of lording it over others, Jesus said that those who want to be great in the body of Christ must be servant of all. This is a humble position of serving everyone, not taking authority over the sheep.

You also said: “God is using human beings here and He is the de-facto leader of His church but the idea that everyone does what they want whenever they choose is what is coming across here to me.”

I don’t know where you get the idea that “everyone does what they want”. What is encouraged here in this post is that the sheep are to use their God-given gifts for the benefit of the flock. We are to be Spirit-led and using our gifts in the assembly so that all may learn and all may be edified. This is a service to the sheep, not a selfish “doing whatever they choose”.

Lastly you said: “Take my response in love, I am interested in your opinion.” Thank you! I do take the response in love. The fact that you even desired to communicate with me is a loving act. My response has also been loving as I have gone to scripture to answer your questions and concerns. I hope I have given you the “reason for the hope” that is within me so that my good works/behavior in Christ may be seen and that Jesus may be glorified through me in some small way.

I am your servant as your sister in Christ,

K said...

Your post is well stated but I think that it helps prove my point and the apostle Pauls point better than any post I could have written.
If your systematic theology is counter to the Word of God, then it is useless. Paul says nothing about a woman teaching abhorrent doctrine to a man, where is that? It is clear in scripture that no one should be allowed to teach false doctrine, why would he single out women? He doesn't, because you are twisting scripture to your own means.
I believe that no leader should take authority as if it were lording it over people, you are implying something that I am not. Once again, the office of elder and deacon is clearly laid out in Pauls epistles to Timothy and he says, "if a man" to both offices of servant-hood, but especially to the one who would teach the entire congregation the Bible.
I have no problem with a woman sharing her gifts in the church, she has the right to do so...A woman is as gifted as man. She does not hold the same office as a man in the church though and teaching men is forbidden in the local church...which comes with the authority of being an elder, who has to be a man.
I think that your viewpoints are feminist and culturally popular but they are not backed up with Scripture. Let me ask you, if all have the same leadership rights to the church then why did Paul demarcate leadership? If someone is teaching false doctrine then who enforces church discipline? Everyone?

Cheryl Schatz said...


I really appreciate your response and the fact that you continue to dialog. This is a very helpful thing. I do find your posts confusing and illogical and here is why – where did I say that systematic theology is counter to the Word of God? I said no such thing, in fact my theology is based on the word of God considering the inspired words, the inspired grammar and the inspired context. I also take into consideration related passages and related concepts in scripture and I have not had any Pastors who have shown me any contradictions in my “systematic theology” so I have no idea why you would bring up such a thought.

You asked: “Paul says nothing about a woman teaching abhorrent doctrine to a man, where is that?”

Paul states that the reason he left Timothy behind was to stop the false teachers and the false teaching. This is the context that 1 Timothy 2:12 relates to. Paul did not state that he was creating a precedent that would limit women’s ability to teach a portion of the church and neither does he other letters give any credence to a new “law” that would suddenly after thousands of years of human history set up such a law that would now forbid women’s freedom to use their gift for the “common good”. 1 Corinthians 12:7 “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Is Paul now contradicting himself and now limiting women’s ability to use their teaching gift? That is not logical or biblical. Instead we need to look at the context to see what exactly Paul is prohibiting and why. 1 Timothy 1 must be considered as it sets up the reason for a prohibition.

You asked a great question, by saying “It is clear in scripture that no one should be allowed to teach false doctrine, why would he single out women?”

Paul wasn’t singling out “women” but “a woman”. The inspired grammar in verse 15 says “she” and “they”. For a verse by verse explanation of the passage, you can visit my blog at http://strivetoenter.com/wim/2007/09/30/the
-rest-of-the-story-1-timothy-211-15-and-matt-slick/ (you will need to put the two lines together to get the full link) or you can see the passage taught in full including teaching on 1 Timothy 2:13,14 which I did not include in my blog but is included with all the documentation in my DVD “Women in Ministry Silenced or Set Free?” I give this information out because I just do not have time to go through the exegesis thoroughly in this format. The most complete exegesis is on the DVD set and is about an hour’s worth of teaching. I would sincerely welcome your comments, questions or any challenge you have for me once you have viewed the material. Iron sharpens iron and I welcome anyone to sharpen me.

You also said “… you are twisting scripture to your own means.”

Scripture warns us not to make a hasty judgment on a matter. Proverbs 18:17 (ESV) The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.

When two sides have conflicting interpretations, those who wish to be Bereans should be willing to carefully consider all of the facts from both sides of the issue first in order to avoid making a hasty judgment. If after viewing the material, you see me as twisting the scriptures instead of seeing me carefully addressing each inspired word and each inspired verse in its proper context, I would appreciate it if you would instruct me on the error of my way. But in any event, it is a godly thing to get the full information before you judge. We are to be quick to hear and slow to speak and this so that we do not judge in an unrighteous way.

I have identified “lording it over” with “taking authority over” since scripture never once instructs a person to take authority over another in the body of Christ. If you believe that scripture does admonish such authority been taking over another individual, then it behooves you to give me the reference where this authority is commanded for one person to take over another.

You said: “Once again, the office of elder and deacon is clearly laid out in Pauls epistles to Timothy and he says, "if a man" to both offices of servant-hood, but especially to the one who would teach the entire congregation the Bible.”

I would be delighted to talk to you about this subject and you may come to my blog at strivetoenter.com/wim where I can discuss this at length. However for this discussion the topic is on authority and servanthood is not taking authority over another.

You said: “A woman is as gifted as man. She does not hold the same office as a man in the church though and teaching men is forbidden in the local church...which comes with the authority of being an elder, who has to be a man.”

You have misread scripture. Paul does not say that “a woman” is forbidden to teach “men” in the church. Paul says “a woman” is forbidden from teaching “a man”. No place is specified and a single man is included not a congregation. I reference you back to the exegesis of the passage that ties in 1Timothy 2:15 with Paul’s prohibition. It is my contention that verse 15 cannot be understood in the context of the passage when one considers “a woman” from verse 12 to be generic woman. In contrast with this view, Paul speaks of “she” and “they” and in verse 15, Paul gives his reason for the prohibition. I believe that the inspired grammar is so tightly constructed that it is impossible to get another meaning for “a woman” but a single deceived woman stopped from teaching in verse 12. I encourage you to reason this through with me and then reason back with me once you have full knowledge of the argument.

You said: “I think that your viewpoints are feminist and culturally popular but they are not backed up with Scripture.”

I have not argued from culture but from scripture alone. Since I do not bring culture in to the argument, it cannot be said that my view is “culturally popular”. I got my views from scripture alone with my nose to the inspired words, the inspired grammar and the inspired context. The exegesis certainly deserves to be answered from the inspired context and I humbly encourage you to do so.

You also asked: “Let me ask you, if all have the same leadership rights to the church then why did Paul demarcate leadership?”

Paul didn’t. Paul said “if anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a good thing”. The Greek is generic and the exact same grammar is used of salvation where “anyone” is to follow Christ.

You also asked: “If someone is teaching false doctrine then who enforces church discipline? Everyone?”

Someone who is sinning is to be disciplined by the entire church. When a man was living with his Father’s wife, Paul tells the church to discipline him and kick him out (1 Cor., 5:11)

1 Cor. 5:11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler--not even to eat with such a one.

Later Paul tells the congregation that they are to welcome back the repentant sinner. Now in the case of false doctrine, those who have the gift of teaching correct doctrine are to use their gift to expose false doctrine. The congregation is to be persuaded by the ones who have been gifted to protect the flock and they are to submit to their protection.

God has given me a gift of teaching correct Biblical doctrine especially to those who have been deceived. For 16 years I taught a support group for former Jehovah’s Witnesses who had left the Watchtower organization but who were still confused regarding their doctrines. I taught them about Jesus and the resurrection and correct biblical doctrine so that they were able to come to faith in Christ. I did not act in a prejudicial way towards men but I taught anyone who came to me. Am I in error or in sin for teaching correct biblical doctrine to men?

Thank you for all of your comments and I hope you will continue to pursue truth with love. All of us who have been gifted and equipped by the Holy Spirit should also be open to learn from others who also have been gifted for the edification of the church. Women who teach correct biblical doctrine to men are following scripture by using their gifts for the “common good” instead of using their gifts prejudicially.