November 9, 2022
Serving leaders respect the authority of those over them but they also accept the authority invested in them. They recognize and accept that every legitimate leadership role brings with it the authority to carry out the expectations of that role. Paul spoke clearly about his authority as an apostle.
So even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it (2 Corinthians 10:8, NIV).
Paul had a clear understanding of his authority and accepted it as a gift given to him by God to carry out the mission God had given to him. He helps serving leaders do the same.
Accepting authority acknowledges accountability.
“the authority the Lord gave us…” Paul recognized that his authority came from God and therefore he was accountable to God for how he used this authority. What comes from God is good and should be used for His purposes. Many leaders, especially those who have been wounded in the past with abuse of authority or those who lead others who have been hurt in this way run away from authority and shrink back from exercising their authority. They are so concerned about misuse of authority that they miss using authority for its intended good.
Other leaders find it difficult to accept their authority because it seems like they are seeking power for themselves. But serving leaders recognize that all legitimate authority comes from God, and they are accountable to Him for how they use it. They also recognize that they are accountable to Him if they fail to use it! Serving leaders accept authority because they recognize that they are under authority.
Accepting authority allows focus.
“the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down…” Paul was clear about the focus of his authority, it was to build others up, not to destroy them. The focus of authority is to benefit those who are being served by the one in authority. Many leaders have used authority to tear people down or to build their own kingdoms.
But Paul makes it clear that our authority is focused on others. Authority is intended by God to be a blessing to others. Serving leaders accept that and use authority as it was intended. They refuse to accept prevailing distrust of authority as an excuse to fail to use their authority. They are committed to do all within their power and authority to build others up. That is serving leadership.
Accepting authority activates confidence.
Paul accepted his authority, and it gave him confidence in his role. His confidence could be seen as pride to the extent that he boasted about it and said boldly, “I will not be ashamed of it.” He begins and ends this verse declaring his confidence in his authority. But the rest of his statements make it clear that he is not simply drawing attention to his significant role in the church. Paul’s confidence is based on his understanding of where authority comes from and the purpose for which it is given. When these issues are settled confidence is not pride or arrogance, it is simply an appropriate acceptance of what is. All leaders need confidence to lead. Their confidence inspires others to follow. Serving leaders accept their authority and have confidence as they use it for its intended purposes. They inspire others to follow as they accept that their role gives them authority to serve.
For further reflection and discussion:
- How have past experiences with authority shaped my own view of my role? In what ways does the example of Paul encourage me to recognize and accept Godly authority?
- Do I see my authority as operating under God’s ultimate authority? How is this expressed in my leadership?
- Does my leadership most often build others up or tear them down? What examples can I give of how this has been demonstrated in the past week?
- How confident am I as a leader? In what ways is this related to how I see my own authority? What do I need to change to have the confidence that Paul expressed?
Until next time, yours on the journey,
Jon Byler In the next issue, we’ll examine how serving leaders use authority.