Authority Given, not Imposed

On the blog Subversive Influence, Brother Maynard commented that “authority is given through relationship by those over whom it is held, not mandated from above by position.”   That succintly describes my own thoughts on authority and accountability, as I have been having random discussions about the topic with a pastor who questions the accountability and authority structures within the house church movement.  He said to me that when a proponent of the house church was challenged on these accountability and authority issues that he could not give a theologically sound response. 

My take on this is, having been a member of a house church for many years, I am still seeing accountability and authority work in practice because of the relationships that are formed within.  It really doesn’t matter what stream of Christianity you follow, you are under authority because you choose to be, and whether that authority comes from ‘above’ or not, there is an implicit relationship that is there between the one under authority and the one to whom authority is given – otherwise, there is abuse.  I choose to submit to the authority of my leaders and my peers, who have the permission to speak into my life because of my relationship with them.  If you are within a ‘traditional’ church structure, you are under the ‘covering’ (hate that religious term!) of your leaders, not by virtue of their being your leaders, but because you chose to come under that authority by joining the church.  However, by choosing that, you have chosen that relationship and have given authority to that leader. 

All in all, I agree with this quote.  I understand the pastor’s concerns, I think. He is trying to protect people from abuse – but in a healthy relationship of any kind, abuse is non-existent. He is speaking to me about protecting people from a ‘spirit of deception’ and his not accepting “things across the board … until he is satisfied there is sufficient biblical evidence.”  To me, he’s questioning it because it’s different from established norms, so it must be viewed with suspicion until it can be validated.  The thing is,  God doesn’t always work in ways that can be validated by human reasoning – even the Bible calls the cross ‘foolishness to the Gentiles’ (1 Corinthians 1:23

By the way: no sufficient Biblical evidence for the house church?  Every letter Paul wrote to he mentions something about the church that meets in this person’s house, or that person’s house…. I’m going to get one of my friends to help me with the biblical evidence that my pastor friend wants.  The fact that one person he tackled could not answer his questions does not invalidate the entire movement!


2 Responses

  1. I don’t know how I over looked this post, but it is awesome! I have spent much time thinking about these same things, as my heart is in both and sees both working for the Kingdom…however I do think the church should not shoot itself, not should it limit God in the work HE is doing. I am seeing the house church being very effective where the Building Church with religious politics is not. We really must be careful even with well thinking theologians (who also have a place in the Kingdom work), that we each make wise choices in the areas HE has sent us. God must be first and foremost in our decisions, and HE will take care of HIS sheep. Love you man!

  2. I have an idea for a new sort of biblical (and other religious text) hermeneutic: namely, identifying and extracting all of the passages that could involve the tinge of the writer’s or the religion’s self-interest. What sort of text would emerge? If you are interested, pls see my post at

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