So Yes, I Do Want Authority

There’s a lot of talk about authority in Christian circles these days – who has it, who does not, who should, who should not. It has become a dividing line between truth and error, solid ground and slippery slope, particularly when it comes to who holds authority in the church and in the home. 

Presuming what Jesus, Peter, and Paul really meant when it comes to men and women and womanhood and manhood, authority has become a line in the sand, the rails that tell us who grew up on the right side of the tracks and who still hangs out on the wrong, who is in and who is out, who deserves admiration and respect, who is worthy of heartfelt love, and who deserves nothing but scorn. 

More than anything, conceptions of authority govern who speaks and who is silent, who leads and who follows, who decides and who agrees. In extreme cases, authority grants one Christian the right to tell another she must not leave her violent husband. In more run-of-the-mill scenarios, authority justifies affixing “unbiblical” to a union where the husband listens to his wife as much as she listens to him, where responsibility, decision-making, and initiative are shared, where the hopes and dreams of both are equally cherished. 

On both sides of the deck beliefs about who has authority, how authority functions, and who may sit in official positions of authority define the limits of the pool.

I doubt that Jesus is happy about this. We are so often at odds, divided, devouring one another in our quarrel over authority. It must grieve his heart. 

Sometimes I simply want to bow out of the fight. 

Yet now, unexpectedly, I can’t. I’ve been launched into a position of authority so, like it or not, the battle has invaded my peace. 

My role is a supporting one.[1] Still, it entails a title, a platform, and includes leading, directing, teaching, and preaching. There is value in this positional authority, in the authority granted by a community of believers to those entrusted with oversight. We need structure. We need to know where to turn, whom to ask, what to follow. Someone, or some ones, need to bring focus, clarity, protection. 

I do see that.

But what I want to tell you is that the authority established by humans, the authority associated with a role, a position, or a title, is not important to me. It’s not been something I have looked for, desired, or run after. 

The authority I care about is the authority Jesus grants, the authority he demonstrated on a daily basis, the authority that sets people free. I want the authority that comes through humility, service, faith, love, pure-heartedness, and compassion, the authority that comes from walking with Jesus.

Jesus healed the sick, set demoniacs free, raised the dead, and forgave sinners. The crowds were amazed because Jesus spoke with authority – unlike the elite, those teachers of the law who whipped up so much batter about their positions of authority while their words fell flat as pancakes.

One day Jesus encountered two wildly violent demon-possessed men and set them free with a word. The demons jumped into a herd of pigs, cascaded them off a cliff, and the townspeople asked Jesus to hit the road.

Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region. (Matt. 8:34)

Jesus’s authority was way too much for the town, too dangerous, too uncontrollable.

The religious leaders were infuriated with Jesus, asking by what authority he went around doing so much good. Who did Jesus think he was, restoring a man’s hand on the Sabbath? Who did he think he was, forgiving sins, driving out demons, raising a girl from the dead? Who gave this interloper from the wrong side of the tracks the right, the authority, to do any of this?

Yet all their scurrying about, their flying accusations and whispered conspiracies could not stop Jesus. Their claims to power, their fantasies of control, could never hinder Jesus from doing what he was put on this earth to do. 

And that’s just it. You can’t control real authority, the authority backed by the power of God, no matter how hard you try. You can say it’s unauthorized and refuse to permit it in your circles, but you can’t control it.

When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. …After this the Lord appointed seventy-two and sent them two by two…. (Luke 9:1-2; 10:1)

I have no interest in the authority that can do no better than spend ten years working with a guy yet at the end all the poor man can do is barely manage his addiction. I couldn’t care less about the authority that has nothing more to offer the brokenhearted than a pat on the back and a tuna casserole, a hug and a don’t-give-up.

I will pass on the authority that holds onto its money and convinces itself it deserves this perk or that, this special treatment or that indulgence. I’m not interested in the authority that leads to arrogance and selfishness, to the quenching of every good and perfect gift. I recoil at the authority that twists the tangible work of Christ into warrant for abuse. I can live without the accolades, the deference, the respect, if Jesus will but work through me to set captives free.

Which I’ve seen a few times. 

I’ve seen a daughter, pushing seventy yet still traumatized by childhood suffering, by the abuse of a wicked father. I’ve seen her set free in a moment, in a prayer. 

I’ve seen a father sick, helpless, and virtually bedridden for three years, yet choose to worship God anyway. I’ve seen him touched and healed and restored to purpose and destiny.

I’ve seen a son, bound by pornography and all its destructive effects, helpless to help himself. I’ve seen him walk clean and clear, mind and heart free and alive.

I’ve seen a mother, overwhelmed by the death of her twelve-year-old daughter eight years running, released to move forward, to start living life again.

I’ve seen a husband, born with a broken body, bullied incessantly and struggling with despair and thoughts of ending it all, encounter the love of God in a real and tangible way, finally knowing that he is a true son worthy of love and respect and hope and destiny.

I’ve seen eyesight restored, demons cast out, hearts set free. 

So yes, I do want authority. 

Because I want to see more. I want to see more spirits and hearts and minds and bodies restored. I want to see purpose and destiny and healing released, freedom and joy experienced, life and love expressed. Sometimes it’s a process; sometimes it occurs instantly. 

Either way, I’m all in.

If you hold a position, the title of pastor or leader or elder, and Jesus has imbued your ministry with true authority, with the power that sets people free, I rejoice with you. The reason you have been given this platform, this role, is so you can do the work Jesus did, the work of rescuing, saving, delivering, setting free.

Never forget that.

If I speak and people listen, pray and demons flee, touch and hearts fly free, these are not from me; they are from Christ. On my own I can do nothing, I control nothing, I have authority over nothing.

Nothing, nothing, nothing.

And I’m absolutely fine with that. 

He must increase, but I must decrease. He must become greater; I must become less. (John 3:30; NASB and NIV)


[1] Executive pastor. To understand why I believe women can be pastors, please reference my articles on 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2:12.

Can a Woman Be a Pastor’s Right-Hand Man?

Just to clarify, I’m not talking about the pastor’s Girl Friday, who pens the letter in his name, buys the coffee at Costco, and types the announcements into the bulletin. Neither am I referring to the pastor’s Yes Man, the one who is uniformly loyal, gets behind every plan, and takes the pastor’s side in every disagreement. 

What I’m thinking of is that person who can be fiercely loyal yet also possess the courage to speak the truth, who is overwhelmingly supportive yet can correct or admonish when necessary, and who does so only out of a pure and undefiled love of God. It’s the one who hears from God and can speak for God not just out of their own wisdom, however valuable that may be.

I’m talking about the person God uses as a prophetic voice in the life of the pastor.

And since, in most cases, the senior pastor is a man, I’m going to focus on whether God might ever call a female leader to serve as a male lead pastor’s right-hand, truth-speaking, prophetically-gifted “man.”

The prophet Nathan, in his relationship with King David, might be the closest biblical example of this role. We only have record of a few of his interactions with the king, but those we do shed light on how God uses someone in this position.

We encounter Nathan for the first time in 2 Samuel 7. David is at rest from his enemies and settled in his palace when he turns to Nathan, apparently one of David’s regular palace companions, and states that he would like to build a permanent home for the ark of God. 

Nathan, speaking out of his wisdom, loyalty, and knowledge that God’s favor rested upon the king, encourages David to do “whatever you have in mind” (v.3). However, that night the word of the Lord comes to Nathan declaring that David is not the man for the job. Nathan has to eat humble pie and reverse himself, delivering an unhappy and unsettling message to his friend. 

Yet that is exactly what is required of Nathan as a prophet of the Lord.

The next time we see Nathan he is confronting David for taking Bathsheba and having her husband Uriah killed in battle (2 Sam. 12). If you think telling David he was not the guy to build the Lord’s house was rough, imagine confronting the most powerful monarch in the ancient Near East about abuse of power, adultery, and murder. And then imagine that insanely powerful man’s response to your challenge.

What comes to mind is a Mark Driscoll screaming at the top of his lungs, Who the **** do you think you are??[1]

Yet David wasn’t that man and didn’t respond to Nathan’s rebuke like that at all. 

Sure, Nathan was savvy, presenting David’s sin to him in the form of a parable about a poor man and a rich man. The poor man had only one little lamb while the rich man had many, yet, in unconscionable selfishness, the rich man took the poor man’s lamb and served it to his guest.

Initially David responds with outrage at the heinous deed, declaring that the man who did this ought to die. But when Nathan confronts David with the words, “You are the man!” (v. 7), David is immediately repentant, admitting, “I have sinned” (v. 13).

What do we learn from Nathan? What does this right-hand man role consist of? 

At its core it is not something that can be conjured up, that results from our own wisdom and insight and knowledge. It is truly God who appoints, authorizes, validates, and verifies this ministry. 

Most of the time we speak out of our understanding, which of course is valid and necessary. Yet sometimes in our understanding we are at complete loggerheads, we are blind to our sins and failings, or we have simply missed God somewhere along the way. 

It is in these moments that we need an intervention, a supernatural intervention. The point is, even if we permit God to speak, which does not always happen, we don’t get to choose the vessel. We might think it should be this person or that person and not this one or that one, but it’s not up to us. We can listen all we like to the wisdom of the saints, but if God has not chosen to speak through them in a specific instance, there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.

Yes, discernment must be activated and whatever is said must be weighed according to the scriptures and the witness of the Holy Spirit within the broader community. No doubt there are false “words” and false messengers. 

But there are also true words and faithful messengers.

All of this brings us back to our initial question: 

Would God position a woman as a male pastor’s right-hand man?

How do we answer this question? By proof-texting one verse? Or do we consider how God himself used the voice of women in Scripture?

You can probably guess what I think.

The New Testament is very clear that God will speak prophetically through both men and women. Peter, quoting Joel 2, declares:

In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. (Acts 2:17-18)

In the church age, no longer would God speak prophetically through a few “professional” prophets. Now this anointing would spread wide, without the limits we are so accustomed to placing on God regarding who he may or may not use to speak his truth. Young and old, male and female, Jew and Gentile, slave and free all received the Spirit, and all could be used by God according to his will and his purposes (Gal. 3:28).

Paul agrees with Peter, assuming as an established practice that both women and men will prophesy in the worship service:

Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head – it is the same as having her head shaved. (1 Cor. 11:4-5)

Yes, men and women were to abide by culturally determined dress codes, but their freedom to prophesy publicly was not restricted according to sex.

So what, precisely, do we think these women in the early church prophesied about? (Just pondering here for a moment.) Who was going to win Sunday’s chili cook-off? Or who should have kitchen duty that week? Or perhaps which babies would sleep through the church service and which would fuss for an hour?

Or do you think these first-century churchwomen prophesied like Elizabeth and Mary and Anna, who were among the first to speak forth the identity and work of the Messiah (Luke 1:42-43; 46-55; 2:38)? Or Abigail, who prophesied David’s future kingship yet warned him, very personally and very directly, not to jeopardize all that in the heat of the moment (1 Sam. 25:28-31)? Or perhaps Huldah, who interpreted Scripture, speaking the word of the Lord to the king and the nation, giving them God’s bad-news-good-news report of the day (2 Kings 22:15-20)? And then there’s Deborah prophesying to Barak, directly and personally instructing Israel’s top military commander on his role and responsibility in God’s plan for the nation (Judg. 4:6-9).

Well, how do you think God used women in the early church, and how do you think God might choose to use them today?

It’s been a few years now, but I’ve seen God use women in this role. In most cases it wasn’t planned and was never officially acknowledged; it just happened. No one was more surprised than the senior pastor himself, for it was a God-move, a God-anointing, a God-position.

So perhaps, when God moves into our pre-planned and prearranged and perfectly-ordered systems, we should simply get out of the way.


Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

[1] “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” podcast series by Christianity Today contains this audio. If I remember correctly, the quote airs on every episode and is discussed in its context on one of the later episodes.

My First Article Published by Fathom

This week my first article for Fathom Magazine came out. It’s more personal (and shorter) than most of what I write here. So if you’ve been wondering what in my story has made me so passionate about women and their identity as image-bearers of God, take a look! It’s very strange to me now that I did not see anything wrong with the concepts of male priority I was taught when I was young. I was just a teenager though, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. Continue reading “My First Article Published by Fathom”

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