Authority v. Authoritative (Love Anyway Blog)

So I crowdsourced my blog topic today and this is what I was given…

Authority

vs.

Authoritative

I will admit that is something that I was not ready for, nor realized it was an issue that needed to be discussed in the context of Christianity and the churches in the world today.

So I did a little reading. Looked at a few other blogs.

And you know what I found?

This really IS an issue. Especially in smaller evangelical churches here in the US.

Authority is a noun. In the context of the church or a community, authority is given. The elders of a church are given authority to make decisions about the congregation, the building, the land, etc. They are given the authority to do those things either by other elders that came before, by the preacher or priest (who was likewise given authority), or in some cases by a vote of the congregation.

(I know that’s not how all churches are ‘done’ – congregations like the Catholic church have a different leadership structure, but the same idea applies – the one(s) in charge are given the authority from another person or persons).

“Authoritative” is an adjective. And it can mean a couple of different things. In the context of the church, we might say the Bible is the Authoritative source of how we should guide ourselves as a church or as individuals. Or in a negative sense, we might say someone is acting ‘authoritative’ when they don’t have cause or ‘right’ to be.

And that brings us to the problem.

I will cite a personal experience in my own church a long while ago.

The way our small evangelical church ‘worked’ was that we had a body of elders. Being a small church, sometimes it was 2, but we tried to always have 3. Sometimes we also had deacons, but for a long while we didn’t, and they didn’t have a ‘vote’ in what happened, but they did advise the elders since 2 or 3 individuals can’t always know everything going on in a body that sometimes ran about 200 people.

But we also had other ‘offices’. Trustees. And a treasurer. I am not fully certain of what the trustees did. But the treasurer was a trusted individual that acted under the elders to be a ‘third party’ to handle the money, deposit the offerings, keep the bank balance, and inform the elders as to how much was available after the bills were paid for special projects and so on.

Well, in the case of my church, this individual wasn’t content to just handle the money.

Under the noses of the elders, mostly without their knowledge, this individual was acting very authoritative.

And it took a long while to realize what was going on.

Our church went through a long list of preachers. They’d come, stay for about a year, and then they’d leave. No one could understand why we couldn’t keep a preacher on staff.

Well, it turned out this individual, acting authoritative, but without actual authority, was basically crushing the preachers.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, this person also kept written records of what he was doing.

The elders, who had the actual authority, were bound by their authority, to discipline this individual.


And that’s the problem in many small churches. And even in many large churches. There’s the authority, be that the elders or the priest or the preacher or minister or whatever title they are given, and there are those acting authoritatively, who weren’t given authority but believe they have the right to act so because they have been a member for a long time or they give a lot of money or they lead a particular ministry or they are the child of an elder or the priest/minister, and so on.

The worst part is when those that actually HAVE authority ignore or give in to those acting authoritatively. The ‘blind eye’.

This has caused more damage to people in the church than anything else. (Ok, not really, but follow me.)

When abuse happens, when individuals or even entire families are used or damaged, and those in authority do nothing to heal the hurt, because those acting authoritatively are damaging people, that is what makes people leave the church, maybe even leave Christianity, leave a community they thought was loving and turn to something else.

 

So I bring a challenge. If you are in authority in a church, a preacher/priest/minister/elder or maybe even a deacon, and you are aware of someone that is acting as an authority when they have none, because of their family name or their money or other influence, I challenge you to call it out.

I challenge you to take a step and do something about it.

If you are aware of abuse in any form in your church because of this situation, and it’s serious enough, I challenge you to bring it to the LEGAL authorities.

Too many families, too many children, too many women, too many people are being hurt and harmed because of the ‘blind eye’ approach.

Let’s take steps to end it and actually USE our authority to protect them.

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