#338 Serving with Authority: Use It

November 23, 2022

Serving leaders don’t avoid authority, they use it to serve! They welcome authority as a way to build others up, move the organization in the direction it needs to go, etc. Paul, as we saw in the last issue, used authority to build others up. Now, let’s reflect on a short statement he made which is packed with leadership insights about authority.  

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1, NIV).

Paul boldly and unapologetically calls the believers at Corinth to follow his example! He is using his authority to spur them on in the direction they need to go. He is serving by using authority and his statement provides several insights into how serving leaders use authority.  

Using authority involves modeling.

“Follow my example, as I follow….” Paul makes it very clear that he is not asking others to do something that he is now willing to do. He is calling them to do what they have seen him doing. He models to his followers what he asks them to do. He models being under authority before exercising authority. He is a follower before he is a leader. Some leaders give directions but don’t model what they ask others to do. Serving leaders first show the way and then call others to follow. This compels serving leaders to first examine their own lives before they call others to follow. They recognize that they need to model the values, mission and purpose of the organization they lead before they can boldly ask others to follow. Where they fall short, they acknowledge their failure and seek to improve. Then, they are not ashamed to tell others, “Live and work like I do!” Serving leaders model the way before using their authority to ask others to follow. They serve others by modeling the way.

Using authority implies direction.

Paul, in these few words was clearly using his authority to providing direction to those who followed him.  “Follow my example…” He is not ashamed to set the standards of what he expects from his followers. As he does this, he brings focus and clarity to the direction he is calling people to go. Some leaders are reluctant to point others in a clear direction. They feel that serving others means moving only when everyone agrees. Leaders who seek consensus from everyone often cannot move forward. Serving leaders understand that their authority is given to them for the purpose of setting direction. They gladly seek input and counsel from their team but they do not hesitate to clearly articulate the direction needed. They serve the mission of the organization by clearly pointing out the direction which is needed.   

Using authority inspires action.

Leadership involves getting things done, using authority to help people move in the desired direction.  Paul’s instruction here is a clear call to action for the believers in Corinth. He sets the example with his own life. He points out the direction that movement is needed. As he serves with these leadership actions he inspires action from the followers.

Paul’s instruction here can be lost in the context of his showing an example, but he says “Follow” as a command, an instruction. It is a call to action, to movement in a direction.

Some leaders use their position to call people to action. They use the power of a paycheck or other incentives to help people act. But serving leaders use their authority to inspire others to act. As serving leaders model the way and clarify direction, they inspire action! Those who follow understand what is expected of them and they are motivated to move forward. A serving leader is in charge to charge others up! They serve by inspiring action from others.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How well do I model the purpose, values and mission of the organization I lead? How does this impact my ability to serve my team? Can I say with confidence, “Follow my example”?
  • How effectively do I use my authority to provide direction to those that I serve? Am I more inclined to lead only when there is consensus or to lead without consulting others? What can I do to strengthen the clarity of direction needed in my organization?
  • How well does my leadership inspire others to act? Are there ways that I use my leadership authority to force others to act rather than inspire them to act?                     

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll look at how serving leaders release authority.

#337 Serving with Authority: Accept It

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.