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By whose authority do you do these things?

I was jogging with a disciple recently. We were talking about some people he’s discipling who were going to plant a church in a new city. Jesus sent his disciples under authority when they went to new places, so I asked, “Are you sending them out or are they going out on their own? Are they st…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

I was jogging with a disciple recently. We were talking about some people he’s discipling who were going to plant a church in a new city.

Jesus sent his disciples under authority when they went to new places, so I asked, “Are you sending them out or are they going out on their own? Are they still under your authority?”

“Not really. They pretty much informed me they were going to do this.”

“Do they have a plan?”

“Well, they’re going to find a place to live and go from there.”

“So, you’ve been discipling some of them for a year and now they’re launching out on their own.”

“Yeah, that’s pretty much it.”

“I don’t know. I have a bad feeling about this. Jesus’ model was to invest deeply for three years, sending his disciples out to experiment with faith like they did in Luke 10, but always under his delegated authority.”

“That’s true, but I don’t know what else I can do.”

“I’ve seen so many young people try to shortcut the process. They don’t want to be in something that looks like a program, but they’re not ready to do what Jesus did on their own. Then they run into hard times and become bitter at the lack of support they get when it was they who didn’t seek the support in the first place.” 
We ended the conversation without resolution.
Jesus’ adversaries, the Pharisees, thought hierarchically. They were very concerned about authority. Hoping to trap Jesus, they questioned him sharply, “By whose authority do you do these things?” They got something that we struggle to get in our oh-so-democratic society. Spiritual authority is important. You can’t fake it. Jesus had it and the demons fled before him. He gave it to us, but many of us struggle to embrace it.
I’ve continued to think about this issue of authority and those who can’t wield it because they struggle to trust those in authority over them. I’m still mulling it over. I’m coming to the conclusion that our democratic sensibility in America works well as a political system, but doesn’t help us understand spiritual reality.
What do you think?

Comments (17)

  • Matt 8:8-10 says: But the centurion said, Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the Word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; I say to this one ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.
    When Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those following “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Isreal.”
    The centurion not only recognized Jesus as one under authority-(I only do what I see My Father doing), but the centurion recognized that he himself had authority because he was under authority. Seems like the Lord was impressed by one who understood this revelation…

  • this is really good. i particularly struggle with the shortcut part. you know me haha. prayer has been big lately. making a point to do it.

    thanks for this one Seth.

  • **mArC** The Schifano Tribe

    “I’ve seen so many young people try to shortcut the process. They don’t want to be in something that looks like a program, but they’re not ready to do what Jesus did on their own. Then they run into hard times and become bitter at the lack of support they get when it was they who didn’t seek the support in the first place.”

    This is so right on. I want the results without the work mentality. It’s like instant maturity, or jumbo shrimp. ha. Love this, thanks Seth.

  • I hear what you’re saying. My first reaction, as a 44 year old, is that I have seen authority in a church mis-used.
    SO, I have developed a jaded sense of authority, because I’ve seen it used inappropriately. So, this is where I got stuck in your writing. I know that what you say is biblical…I’m just saying……

  • Perhaps, Seth, you could do another blog addressing this subject. “Authority” is the button that, when pushed, causes the flesh to rise in our culture. I love what you’ve written, but I think you have more to say that would lay a foundation for the necessity of this in discipleship. Also, how do you address this subject in an age of a faulty church structure and for those who are called out of it?

  • Is this a can of worms? I’m thinking of the two young Chinese teenagers who came to Christ and then traveled, on their own, and on foot, hundreds of miles to other villages to share the gospel. They weren’t under someone else’s authority, they were simply obeying the commands of Jesus.

    Who sends us? A human over us? Or Jesus himself?

  • Seth, Spiritual abuse in the church has wounded many and led many to despise or run from God’s authority. The trouble is we think authority is to be over people. There are many leaders who are raising up the body of Christ from places of wounded hearts of the past… where authority physically, sexually and emotionally abused them. Leaders in the church who don’t go through inner healing of heart issues will only repeat the patterns of their life upon those they are raising up. My husband and I just left our church where we attended for 10 years….with 7 years on leadership. In the end we were having leadership meetings only twice a year….for 1 hour. Our greatest desire to connect in relationship with them became our greatest failure. It’s very painful. So..where do we go from here? God’s authority is always to give life…even in the discipline of His love…its so we choose life. We need leaders who represent His true authority of life to raise up others who carry His true authority. The Kingdom is about reproducing. Father’s and Mother’s reproduce. Right now we are working through this wound of neglect. Maybe those who are raising up the body of Christ…should be addressing authority issues from…What is true authority? And How do we heal so we can connect in relationship and accountability with our leaders. We are all “Sent Ones”…disciples of Christ…His disciples were raised up and sent from that place of relationship and accountability to Him. I still believe that God sends people from the place where we are connected in an relationship of accountability. I just hope my husband and I will find that place.

  • I am a little confused by this. Are you saying that authority is based on a hierarchy? While I can’t point to anything specific right now in scripture, I don’t believe that position is supported by scripture. I believe that Jesus has given us his authority and we don’t need any authority from man or leadership. Jesus is the head, not a man or a group of leaders. We all need to be subject to the authority of Jesus. Just my thoughts.

  • To quote an older friend (72yr old)of mine “you have authority to the degree you have relationship”. Something God told him re: being a Dad to his children. Structural authority/Title driven authority does not naturally produce loyalty or whole heartedness in following that authorities lead. Relational authority is “I no longer call you servants but instead I call you friends.” Being ‘sent out’ should naturally come out of a cross-generational friendship where the older has the father’s heart of blessing/releasing vs. controlling/hoarding.

    I recently heard a church from the pulpit say to a younger audience, the pastoral staff is nothing more than big brothers who have failed and learned a few things along the way. They just want to share in those lessons learned with you so you don’t have to make same mistakes or go through hard times along as we also have known hard times.

    The crux of the matter is trust. Cross-generational trusting relationships are not built overnight but it is exactly the Malachi thing God is wanting to do.
    And usually involves mutual vunerablity and honesty. Which always cost the older more than the ‘screwed up’ younger. But reaps the beautiful fruit of Godly, multiplying relationships that will help others down the line.

    In my humble opionion, most younger generations have a broken history of ‘nobody really gives a anyway, so why should I wait or head or listen. When I have hard times my ‘title’ driven leaders won’t really care and if I really screw up they will probably just throw me under the bus anyway to save their reputations.’

    Again it is an issue of trust/distrust in the relationship. You have authority to the degree you have relationship.

  • I haven’t been able to get this verse out of my head since I read it three months ago:

    2 Chronicles 11:23
    He acted wisely, dispersing some of his sons throughout the districts of Judah and Benjamin, and to all the fortified cities.

  • Thanks for the feedback so far, people. I agree with most of what’s been said or questioned. Troy said it well – authority works based on relationship and trust.

    I’m most interested in how spiritual authority works. The Centurion understood worldly authority, so he was able to bridge to spiritual authority. We often confuse the two. Thus the broken models most of us have experienced that have nothing to do with spiritual authority at all, rather they have to do with broken people using control to manage their brokenness.

    Let’s all agree together that we’re tired of authority figures bringing their brokenness into our lives and wounding us in the same way they were wounded. Let’s all agree to not do that.

    But that’s just a spiritual overlay on a worldly model of authority. True spiritual authority is predicated on discernment and is exercised in another person’s life by invitation, not by position.

  • Guess I’m johnny come lately to the discussion.

    I think there are about 5-7 examples in the book of Acts where the the individual went, but the church sent them. Acts 8, 11, 13, 15, 17, 18. Maybe a few more but these are what I know.

    We can grouse about being burned by authority & use that as an excuse to rebel, but it doesn’t change the fact that we need it.

    The church is being built by Jesus. We need to go out under the authority of Christ and His church. It provides accountability, prayer/finacial support and encouragement.

    As I study the giants of ministry and missions from the past, I believe ALL were sent by their “home” church. They were commissioned/annointed for ministry and they went.

    In my lifetime I have seen several “lone rangers” go out to do great things, only to fold w/in 5 years bitter b/c no one else “got it.”

    Those who last in ministry are the ones who have gone out, having been sent under the authority of Jesus and His church.


  • I want to preface this by saying that I am completely open to the possability that my perception is off on this, so I invite whatever feedback you have for me.

    I have stuggled with this concept of being under authority, but sort of in the opposite way.

    I feel like I’m always looking for someone to come unde, someone to guide and direct, and I get turned away.

    The pastor of my old church said he supported me, but never followed through. He said many times that he thought the church should support me as one of their missionaries and promised to talk to them, but never followed through.

    I spent three years with AIM, believing that AIM was going to be my “tribe”. I wanted to be under that guidance and authority. I had a deep respect for you, and still do. I can honestly say that you personally have stood by me and continued to encourage me when others seemed to give up. But last year when I was looking for direction, I was turned away. I was sent off on my own, and that hurt.

    I’m not saying this to blame anybody or to criticize, but it’s a pattern that I don’t understand.

    Now the famaly that I have been working with is moving to Africa in a few weeks. I’m excited that they are going, but it feels a little bit like abandonment again. Not because they are leaving, but because I want to go with them and they want me to come too, but God has not made that direction clear to me so again I feel like I am on my own to figure it out.

    Is it wrong to want somebody to help me figure out what direction to go? Am I trying to make spiritual covering/authority into something it is not supposed to be? Is there an unhealthy dependece there that I don’t understand?

    God has always been faithful, and He always works things out for me. I have no doubt that He has a plan for me and will work it out even when I am feeling uncertain of my direction. But I’m tired of feeling like a lone ranger.

  • Kim, I’ll write to you here since you asked questions in a public forum. I’m guessing others may identify with your situation, and I’m hoping this will help them too. If you’d like more of an off-line conversation, as always, I’m available.

    Thanks for the honesty. As I say in the follow-up blog (10/21) – no easy answers.

    You’re looking for your tribe. I have a few thoughts: There are two ways to connect with a tribe – connecting with the people in it or the projects they do.

    Don’t look to leaders to create connection for you. They can’t. They can help cover you insofar as you’ve committed to a project and they can provide a context in which it’s possible for you to connect to people. But it’s up to you to dive into people’s lives. If you don’t feel the connection, you may want to as some friends why it hasn’t happened. But don’t look for leaders to do more than they can do.

    You are a steady person – one who is going to be there for the long haul. You’re looking for stability, but hanging out with people who blow and go. It’s unrealistic to look for stability there.

    That said, if you felt connected to the couple that went to S. Africa and they invited you, I’d follow them there. The default setting should be “go.”

  • I fortunately have experienced a lot of the pain of problems in authority that God for whatever reason placed me under as I myself was raised up in a leadership role so I can identify with so many of the comments read. I say fortunately because I embrace all that God allowed me to learn through those years though I regret the incredible pain I saw others suffer through the abuse under man. Many have not recovered but I believe it is because they choose not to. To say otherwise would declare that God was not there for them in their suffering.
    We have an unrealistic expectation to think that even if we see God’s perfect plan in His word that we should presume fallen man will walk it out perfectly or even relatively well yet God’s plan was not thwarted. The examples that I read in the prophets as God used them to rebuke those leading His people error helped me considerably to identify erroneous directives of those in the church leadership at large. Will they see ‘Fruit”…sometimes but overall he or she is not rewarded unless they submit to His design?
    Now it is our job to see the Truth, recognize the errors and by God’s grace run the race well, not discard the God’s plan because we can point to man messing it up.
    2 Tim 2:5 And if a man also competes as an athlete, yet is he not crowned, unless he strives lawfully

  • Rosella dela Paz Gord

    Being a woman entrepreneur and CEO, I am confident that GOD has given me extra-ordinary leadership qualities.
    I now look back at how my son is exhibiting some inherent leadership qualities as well as a boy unlike my two girls.
    Having been born and raised in a MATRIARCHAL society and CULTURE where HONOR and RESPECT for women has not only been ROMANTICIZED but produced two WOMAN presidents, I struggled with the verse on SILENCE of the WOMEN at church. As well as Paul’s opposition to women having authority over men.
    But not after I have read the BIBLE 5 times from GENESIS to REVELATION on one year bible schedule.
    Gender aside, I have always believed, even as a FILIPINA CATHOLIC in the LEADERSHIP POWER of men over women. Most importantly, that because our GOD is FATHER,SON and HOLY SPIRIT (I used to think the HOLY SPIRIT was a WOMAN until last year, when my HORIZON SCHOOL of EVANGELISM director pointed to the “HE” reference of the HOLY SPIRIT in the BIBLE)that somehow, MEN are designed by GOD to be more emotionally stable than us, women who are designed with a 28-day cycle.
    Having grown up in a Philippine province where there is a USNAVY military facility, I also have found a sense of SECURITY in knowing highly and strictly adhered ORGANIZATIONAL structures. In the US MILITARY, in politics, in the corporate world, in the ACADEMES, and in all public and private organizations.
    In my private business practice, it had always been important to organize according to the legal practices of the country where I do it. Having an organizational structure with all the people involved was very vital for me.
    I was really SURPRISED to have SEEN the LACK of PROFESSIONALISM along this line in the AMERICAN CHRISTIAN CHURCHES.
    I had a couple friend who wanted to serve in AFGHANISTAN and I asked them if they had a sending church, or what is equivalent to a BUSINESS PLAN. (I don’t know what you call it but it is something you present to the mission board/sending church to inform them of your vision…your plan..your mission/ministry specific and general plan/vision/goal)They said they were going to make one. I don’t think they ever did. Their church didn’t send them.
    They are now in Afghanistan with their two young kids.
    I know GOD knows their PASSION and ZEAL for the SERVICE of the LORD. But I am really worried at the LACK of DIRECTION and VISION with which they are there, supposedly, to WIN SOULS to the LORD. Although both husband and wife graduated in Bible colleges, I am worried at how they are representing CHRIST first as a COUPLE, second as parents, third and most important of all, as EVANGELISTS. As teachers of the WORD of GOD.
    Frankly, I love them and their passion for the TEACHING of the WORD of GOD and as like-minded brethren in CHRIST. I am certain though, that if they were the first CHRISTIANS I ever met, I wouldn’t have wanted to be one. The wife was my employee and has already exhibited REBELLION against AUTHORITY. It explained to me why their church did not SEND them.
    When GOD said the AUTHORITIES in our LIVES are DESIGNED by HIM, those of us who feel CALLED and who are GIFTED with LEADERSHIP qualities either as HIS SHEPHERDS, HIS teachers, HIS representative in the political, corporate, educational social institutions better HEED by HIS BIBLICAL TESTING, MEASUREMENT & EVALUATIONS standards.
    This adherence to GOD’s LEADERSHIP standards even start in the NUCLEUS of GOD’s FAMILY. Our biological or marital family.
    I have always FELT it a PRESSING need for the WISE MEN and WOMEN of GOD whoM HE has BLESSED in position of AUTHORITY in HIS CHURCH and in all other social and political institutions to come together to organize an OMBUDSMAN of sort for the TRUTH and GOSPEL of CHRIST. This will be PIVOTED on the FRAMEWORK of our CHRISTIAN faith.
    This will be an organization that would REGULATE all NON-PROFIT organizations being formed or professing to be either legally or illegally as a MINISTRY for CHRIST. Or for the BENEFIT of MANKIND if not claiming to be a RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION.
    I seriously BELIEVE, these kind of people are NOT chosen and ANNOINTED by CHRIST our GOD, SAVIOR & SHEPHERD.
    So help them and us, Oh FATHER and HOLY SPIRIT of GOD, Amen.

  • Great post Seth,

    I have to admit I have shortcut the system several times. I have to say I am still torn between the concept of authority and who’s authority we are under as we venture into Kingdom Ministry. It is clear in the Great Commission that Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and earth and then sends our his disciples. My struggle I guess is that I have failed to see many people in my life represent the authority of Jesus well, rather I see agendas of self interest. But I also know that I am young and need spiritual authorities to teach me how to invest in my spiritual inheritance. What are we supposed to do if we do not find ourselves under a human spiritual authority at all, or one we do not trust? I would love to walk under the spiritual authority mentorship of another but have not found that to be the situation.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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