The Myth of Christian Authority

In his seminal book that serves as an accurate guide for those who want to understand how to navigate their work life, Robert Ringer focused on the three kinds of people there are in the business world: The person who is after your chips, and lets you know it; the person who is after your chips, but tells you he's not; and the person who is after your chips but honestly doesn't believe that he is. In "Winning Through Intimidation", Ringer describes the third type of person as the most dangerous of all. (As an aside, if that title bothers you, I strongly recommend you read the book! A revised version is entitled, "To Be or Not To Be Intimidated.") Ironically, I have discovered over the past few years that many Christian pastors and leaders are of this third type: they honestly believe they aren't after your "chips," but experience will prove that they are. Your "chips" may be any combination of your time, talent, and treasure, but they are the essence of what you bring to your service.

These are those men – and less often women – who will assure you that they have your best interest at heart. And, to be explicit, they actually believe they do. But, they don't. Over time and when viewed objectively, it becomes clear that what they interpret as your interest they see through their own interests. They want to be right, they want to be loved and accepted, they want to believe they belong in the role in which they find themselves, and, most unfortunate of all, they want you to fit the mold they have shaped for those they can be proud to call their own. All of these concerns of theirs form their truth and make it impossible for them to actually hold your interest ahead of theirs.

This is further complicated by the misrepresentation and misinterpretation of Christian scripture over the past hundred and more years. Many Christian leaders believe that they are "in authority over" those who attend their churches. However, scripture makes it clear that this is not so. On the contrary, the role of a "Christian leader" is twofold: on the one hand to be a "servant of all," and on the other hand to "equip the saints for the work of the ministry." That's it! Nothing in there about telling the sheep what to do!

In fact, sheep are notoriously difficult to herd! …and shepherds know better than to try to teach them any tricks. Sheep just don't do what you want them to do. So, smart shepherds focus on guiding them to fresh grass and clean water, allowing them to wander within relatively safe confines, and do what sheep do.

Unfortunately, many Christian "shepherds" aren't so wise. They use guilt and manipulation to coerce their flock into what they believe the sheep should and should not do. They exercise their "authority" over their flock, making demands of the sheep, and using the tools at their disposal to get the behavior they deem "holy". Ironically, this violates the core of the Christian gospel!

If you are a Christian leader, my hope is that you can honestly examine yourself and adjust your expectations and behavior as necessary (it might help to review Romans 12:3 and the verses following it. There's work to do in the church!). Serve the body, equip them, allow them to do what they do, to fail and to succeed, to eclipse your status, and even to make a mess.

On the other hand, if any Christian leader you know places behavioral expectations on you or other members of the church, run away! You must protect yourself! You have found a pastor who is not mature enough to step into the full truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for the gospel is grace. And grace, at its most basic, is this: there is nothing you can do to make God love you any more... or any less. There is nothing you can avoid doing to make God love you any less ...or any more. He loves you infinitely right now at this moment regardless of anything you do or do not do. It is impossible for you to diminish his love for you. It is also impossible for you to increase his love for you. It is out of your hands. It is grace, and only grace.

Thank God!

The Amazing Good News

The truth about God and the Gospel is foolish to men. Unfortunately, many of those men are in churches. The church for decades--and perhaps centuries--has just flat missed the point. In the always-tempting pursuit of right and wrong, good and evil, and believing that they are wise, those governing the church have lost the Gospel. The Gospel is both too simple and too extraordinary to make any sense at all to the human mind.

The Gospel is this:

You are capable of being more than you can imagine and living a life beyond your dreams. God knows this and believes in you far more than you believe in yourself.

It doesn't change God's opinion of you when you fail to be perfect, when you fail to avoid what's not best for you, or even when you choose to speak poorly of Him, ignore Him, or otherwise mistreat Him or His reputation.

He loves you anyway.

...this drives the religious people mad!

...and it demonstrates just how different they are from God.

...it also explains why the Church is so far out of favor in the world and has become increasingly irrelevant.

Who are the most judgmental people you know? Probably the religious people you know. And this is a sad commentary on the perversion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ over the years. For the most part, the Gospel is lost, overwhelmed by the drive to sign up people to agree with those in the church. The Gospel is very simple:

"God loves you and there's nothing you can do to change that."

...the corollary to that is: You can't change anything you do or say or think to make God love you more. You can't change anything you do or say or think to make Him love you any less, either. He loves you as much as He possibly can right this instant. He always has and He always will. Simple as that.

...although what He means by "love" will probably surprise you!

He loves you. You can be sure of that!

Pause and let that sink in. Like a proud papa, God favors you. He brags on you. He thinks you're a great kid. He couldn't possibly care for you more, pull for you more, or think more highly of you.

...and that's Good News!