I have now been on the pastoral team of Pioneer Memorial Church for four and a half years. Since starting, I have learned countless lessons about leadership and pastoral ministry. I suppose that should be expected when you’re working with someone who has been in the same church for over thirty years. But one lesson, in particular, rises above them all.
It is this: the difference between moral and positional authority.
Positional authority is what you get when you are in a leadership role. You are given a title of manager, supervisor, teacher, or pastor, for example. Someone has to do what you say because they have to if they want to continue receiving a paycheck. There doesn’t have to be much heart involved, actually. You just do it. And you may not be happy about it, either.
Moral authority is quite different, though. Moral authority doesn’t actually require any position at all— think people like Gandhi, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jesus. They had very little in regards to positional authority, but were able to create huge movements because they had moral authority.
Here’s the reality:
Positional authority is premised upon duty—I have to.
Moral authority is premised upon trust—I want to.
So where does moral authority come from? For spiritual leaders, moral authority comes from spending time with God. It’s the idea that, because I know you are spending time with God, it deepens my ability to trust you.
I’m not advocating this as some kind of method so that people will follow you better. I’m simply explaining the results of what I’ve seen in my own life.
This is not something that can be faked. Don’t try to sound spiritual. Don’t throw out little spiritual quotes to try to impress those around you. I promise it will backfire. Whether we like it or not, we broadcast in all kinds of subtle ways whether or not we are spending time with God (Luke 6:45). You don’t have a choice in this. It just is.
And here’s what I’ve noticed has happened in me from working with someone who is consistently spending time with God. First, as mentioned above, it has created trust in my senior pastor. That doesn’t mean that I follow blindly or that I don’t share objections if I have them. It means that I am at peace when he makes a final decision, even if it’s something I might disagree with.
Second, it has deepened my own desire to know God better. My spiritual life has grown tremendously since coming on the team here. I see what someone else has and I want more of it myself. By the way, isn’t that what we could call discipleship?
Are you a pastor or a spiritual leader? The very best thing you could do for those you serve is to spend time consistently with God. Be zealous as the early disciples who said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables” (Acts 6:2).
So what do you think? To leave a comment scroll below or click here.
[image by Adrianna Calvo]