What authority does a pastor have over a church?
The church belongs to Christ (Ephesians 5:23). He has given authority to elders or pastors to lead local congregations under His authority (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1). But how much authority should a pastor have in the church?
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First, it is clear that local church members should have involvement in selecting those who lead them. For example, in Acts 6 leaders were needed to oversee care of widows in the church. The apostles said, "Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty" (Acts 6:3). This same principle could apply when members of an existing church select its pastoral leaders.
Second, a pastor serves in authority with other leaders. In the early church, churches typically had multiple elders or pastors who worked together to lead the church. This helped to avoid problems in which a single leader assumed too much power or authority. Team leadership can help remove the problem of a pastor taking too much authority over church members.
Third, a pastor's authority comes from God's Word. Some matters may be a pastor's opinion, but other issues based on God's Word come with authority. For example, a church may work together to determine the kind of music they use or building in which they worship, but the pastor of a church can speak with authority against sexual immorality, pride, or other sinful areas.
Fourth, a pastor's authority is enhanced through personal example. When a pastor's life consists of integrity and love, it allows him a level of influence and authority with others that otherwise does not exist. This is leadership not based on position, but based on influence. The godly pastor can say, as Paul, "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Fifth, a pastor is called to protect the teachings of the church. This includes guarding its doctrines (Titus 1:9) and training other leaders who will support these teachings in the future (2 Timothy 2:2).
First Peter 5:2-3 offers a great example of what it means to lead with proper authority in the church: "shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock." The godly church leader knows God, loves people, and seeks to willingly lead the church as an example.
Should Christians obey their pastors?
Should Christians judge the teachings of their leaders?
Is the office of pastor taught in the Bible?
Does the Bible talk about church government?
What qualifications does the Bible give for elders and deacons?
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