POWER AND AUTHORITY ... GOD'S WAY
Click here to listen to this sermon.
What do you expect from your elders? What do you want them to do?
What do we expect of our shepherds? What do we expect of overseers? A simple answer might be leadership. But leadership is a general term. Leadership has common traits, but it functions differently in business than it does in government. It functions differently in a family than it does in a committee.
For our purposes, lets ask the following: Who is being led? What are we being led to? What sort of authority do leaders have? Is it legal, is it official, what is it?
Mark 10:35-45 - Observations:
- What do James and John expect? James and John have nothing but respect for Jesus authority. They have all faith that Jesus has authority, but they also expect that that authority will benefit them.
- For James and John, authority grants favors and hands out power and title. James and John want Jesus to respond to their interests. They have defined the authority to suit their ambitions and goals.
- Jesus says that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over their people. Ultimate authority and autocratic power was the norm in many of the pagan cultures. Rome had a military, positional power structure. The emperor was given the title of first-citizen and magnificent.
- Jesus says Not so with you. Notice this! Jesus departs from the ways of the world. He sets aside aspirations and expectations of other power structures. Executive, positional, even representational power structures are not appropriate. In Gods family there is a different type of power and authority.
- The first and greatest is the servant of all.
- This is the model of power and authority that the Son of Man modeled. He did not come to be served, but to serve. And it is a sacrificial service, not just PR.
- Read Mark 10:46-52. Notice that Jesus asks Bartimaeus the same question he asked James and John. What do you want me to do for you? The Sons of Thunder asked Jesus to Lord it Over them and to help them Lord It Over others. Bartimaeus asks for mercy. He wants to see. He seeks the Son of Man who serves others.
Do You Understand What Jesus Is Teaching Us?
- We can make the same mistake that James and John did; we will if we default to the worldly models about power and authority. Our problem is not that we Lord it over one another, sometimes we want others to Lord it over us. That doesnt mean we want to do what they say, it's just easier to regard the elders and supreme authorities so that we can justify rebellion or discontent. When those ideas about power and authority get into our thinking listen to Jesus saying, Not so with you!
- This may explain why it is possible to make leadership a burden rather the sort of joy it can be (1 Peter 5 and Hebrews 13:17). Over the years I have spoken to burned out elders. What burned them out was the unreasonable demands of sheep who refused to grow. What sort of concept of power and authority did they have?
- What we expect of our elders depends on what sort of sheep we want to be. If we are independent sheep then we need a shepherd who sits on a board of trustees. A group that we can influence to give us positions on the right or the left. With that sort of thinking we may even try to balance the eldership so that we have an equal set of liberals and conservatives. We may want to control to the number who serve so that we do not upset the balance of power. Can you hear Jesus The rulers of the land Lord it over one another, and the people Lord it over them, NOT SO WITH YOU!
- What do you expect of your leaders? What do you want for your shepherds?
A few years ago the elders asked What do you expect us? I can recall an answer that one of you gave: I want you to come pray for me like you did with John Carson.
When we say that this is what we want our elders to do, then we are looking for spiritual leaders not trustees of an institution. Shepherds who care for the flock, overseers who are stewards of Gods household the spiritual household, not the bricks and beams.
What happens next ...
Our elders are talking to men that you have named. Those men are counting the cost and seeking wisdom. This is a special process of growth. In time the names of those men will be submitted to you for your support. That is a humbling thing. They will be putting themselves before us and asking from feedback. What a challenging and delicate thing that is.
Our current elders are leading us through this. They are relying on Gods wisdom and Spirit.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 31 January 2010
Link to next sermon
Link to other sermons of Chris Benjamin