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?