Pastor says: ‘Do as you’re told!’

Walk-thru-walls said:

In a nutshell:
Submit to your leaders – fine… great. As you correctly say we all have to submit to a number of authorities. Society is based upon adhering to overt and covert Social Facts.

But the extent of this submission is what i think is the key issue. Within a church meeting/gathering – submitting to your leaders (whatever the title) makes sense – there must be order and functions performed in any assembled body.

When this submission begins to extend to how people spend their time, make decisions about the future, how they spend their money, who they associate with – this has the potential to become poisonous – especially when leaders start sprouting “curse verses” and “bumping members down” the lay-leadership ladder for simply trying to put reasonable limits on this submission.

Where exactly this line of acceptable submission is – I’m not sure. I imagine there are many views…(I am aware of the multitude of bible verses – but what about actual tangible and practical limits).

Where is the line of acceptable submission to church ‘leaders’? This is an interesting question, which I put to a pastor some months ago. There’s no doubt the concept of submitting to your leaders is in the scriptures.

I put it to the pastor that submission meant doing whatever he asked us to do, and was told yes, that is what it means, unless it is something immoral – outside the bounds of scripture. For example, if he asked us to drive to Western Australia from Sydney, we should do it – although he’d never ask us to do that. Clearly for him then, the authority extended beyond the church service and into our personal lives.

Recently, a different pastor preached that even if we felt it was wrong, we should do what we were told to do by our leaders, and God would bless us anyway. To take this at it’s face value and to an extreme, this is how war crimes are committed – and people were ultimately imprisoned for doing this very thing. Obeying an authority even when they thought it was morally wrong.

I find it distressing to hear the concept of leadership and submission taught this way. The message that I find in scripture is that submission within His Kingdom is not meant to be a response to domination or a line of over control. However, there is a need for order, and there are those who will be recognised as having authority over time.

So are we right to obey God in our personal lives where it conflicts with our pastors’ direct instructions? A child obeys its parents – but when the child grows up, the parents no longer have that amount of authority.

Do our pastors or leaders have any right whatsoever to order us to drive to WA?

43 thoughts on “Pastor says: ‘Do as you’re told!’

  1. The only authority any pastor or elder has is the Word of God. When you step beyond the Word of God, you’ve overstepped the bounds of your authority. He has no authority, if you’re in his congregation, to say to you, “Go here and do this. Go there. I command you to…”–He has no authority to do that. That is overstepping his bounds. He is nothing more and nothing less than an instrument by which God makes known to you his revelation. That’s his role.

    Now, he may say to you, “Given the circumstances, I would recommend this because it appears from what I know about that and what I know about you that this would be a good choice,” but that is not authority; that is counsel. His authority stops when he closes the page of the bible, and then all he is doing is giving you counsel. You can consider that counsel as to its inherent value and make your own decision. But he has no authority to command you, beyond the pages of the Word of God.

    That very point is where pastor’s and elder’s leadership becomes out-of-bounds and abusive and overbearing. God never intended that. The best we can do is give wise counsel. That’s why the Old Testament says, “In much counsel, there is wisdom.” The point is there. If God wanted us to just listen to one guy, He would say, “If you want to know what to do, go ask the elder.” But He says, “Get much counsel and you’ll get wisdom.” His authority stops where scripture ends and then the best he can do is try to give wise counsel based upon his best understanding of the facts.

  2. That’s a good and clear comment, Teddy.

    What about when the pastor has misinterpreted the Word of God, in your considered opinion? If the pastor is instructing you in your behaviour within the church unit based upon his mistaken interpretation? Do you obey anyway or does his authority cease at that point? When the issue is an arguable one, and he is choosing to instruct based on just one limited view of an issue?

    I’m just exploring the permutations of this train of thought.

  3. I’d have to say that as long as you can point out clearly and accurately why the pastor is wrong in his directions then you’re well within your right to defy his ‘authority’

  4. Actually, I don’t know that we have to take his word on anything, and rather we should test what the pastor teaches in the Scriptures, then practice it if it holds up.

    But in so far as administrative matters go, I’m happy to just cooperate.

  5. Actually, I don’t know that we have to take his word on anything, and rather we should test what the pastor teaches in the Scriptures, then practice it if it holds up.

    But in so far as administrative matters go, I’m happy to just cooperate.

  6. Some words of advice: do not trust pastors. Do not trust any person claiming authority in the name of God. They are all fraudulent.

    I hope that clears the matter up.

  7. Perhaps we neeed to go beyond the discussion about the appropriate boundaries of Christian leadership and examine whether the whole hierarchical, entitled, and appointed leadership system has completely missed Jesus’ intention. Jacobson and Smith in the article below makes a good case for purely functional, non-hierarchical, un-paid, servant leaders – Those who are a bit further along the journey than us who help us along for a bit…….

    To Serve Not to Manage:

    “One popular teacher a couple of decades ago defined spiritual leadership as the ability “to motivate people to do what they wouldn’t otherwise freely chose to do.” That’s manipulation not leadership. While it may be true of drill sergeants in basic training or advertising executives designing commercials, it is the opposite of what God has in mind for his children.
    Virtually everyone today gives lip service to the biblical ideal of servant leadership, but most don’t realize that as long as you try to get people to do what you think is best for them you act as their master, not their servant. You are not serving them; they are serving you.
    If anyone had the right to be served you’d think it would be Jesus, who is after all the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But even he didn’t take advantage of his position (when he certainly could have) but instead concerned himself with helping others to settle down at home in his Father’s life.
    We can barely talk of leadership today without using the language of management. We see leadership as those who by power, influence or anointing compel others to act. Our religious systems take people who have a heart for God and turn them into program managers who make people conform to their program and think it is loving to do so. Those who get to the top of any institutional process hold great power over people and derive great personal benefit from it as well.
    When Jesus lived in the flesh, he didn’t treat power the way others did and it drove his disciples nuts. Rather than gather power, he emptied himself of it. He knew that the way to help people into the Father’s life was not to direct them there, but to let them see his Father’s reality and help them learn to live in it. He knew compelling people would never work so he always gave them the freedom to choose. Likewise the early disciples had the grace to tell people the truth, and then let them go so they would be free to choose as their conscience directed.
    Any Godly leader will do the same. He won’t create power centers of influence, money or programs that can be managed or exploited, but will release the body to do as God leads them.

    Extract from “We Already Have a Shepherd – Leadership in the Relational Church” by Wayne Jacobson & Kevin Smith

  8. This is really good stuff Odyssee. I really can’t fault it and Jacobson seems to making all the points that seem to jump out at me from the scriptures about leadership recently. Jesus’ leadership is so not the world’s leadership.

    I think I will read the links too. This is great.

  9. I love this quote from the first link “living in the relational church part I”:

    What God calls Church

    You have to look past the institutions and buildings we call church and find those people who are living in him .. if not, we’ll confuse our religious systems with the church and miss the great thing God is doing in preparing himself a bride. We must be careful to call church what God calls church, or we’ll end up saying things that don’t make any sense.

  10. and this

    The important thing is that you recognize family dynamics when you see them and embrace them wholeheartedly. Conversely recognize hurtful, institutional dynamics which have nothing to do with God’s kingdom and take your distance from them guiltlessly.

    As much as Paul encouraged believers to get together in ways that encourage your life in God, he also told them to be free to walk away from environments that become destructive to that life. If you sense him leading you away from such a group, don’t be condemned either by them or yourself. You will not be leaving the church at all, he may only be preparing you to find it in a more authentic way than you ever dreamed.

  11. He disobeyed God not his ‘leader’ and God killed him. He didn’t submit to God (not God’s duly appointed representative)

  12. It sounds as tho FL would do whatever his Pastor told him, even if he wasn’t sure it was scriptural.

    It sounds as though FL regards whatever a Pastor says as automatically from God, and therefore will do it as an expression of obedience to God, even if it contradicts his own understanding of scripture. Even if he thinks the Pastor is not hearing God correctly, submission to authority outweighs any other scriptural understanding that might contradict it. You will be blessed if you obey, regardless of what that obedience requires you to do.

    FL is not alone in this. It has been taught at my church.

  13. I Corinthians 2:15 “…But he that is spiritual judgeth ALL THINGS (including what MR big name Pastor says), yet he himself is judged of no man…”

  14. Acts 5:1-11 has nothing to do with disobedience to anyone. Acts 5:1-11 clearly indicates that they were killed for LYING to the Holy Spirit. Acts 5:1-11 clearly indicates that they were free to give as much or as little as they wanted, it was LYING about how much they had given (claiming to have given all when in fact they had only given part) that got them killed.

  15. I actually have problems with the word ‘influence’. To me, it seems, that’s another way of saying, one has control over others. I don’t think I ever saw Jesus be influential, but what I saw Jesus do here on earth as a servant was inspirational.

    Inspiration means God breathed. They inspire me to be like themselves or to help others.
    Influence seems like it is a mix of inspiration and control. I think we need to get our head around the influential aspect of leadership. I don’t think that is biblical. Pharisees were influential people. They were revered by some and influenced a lot of people in those days (especially to stir up the crowds to crucify Jesus).
    To me, inspirational leadership wouldn’t do that.

  16. RavinPente said:
    “FL is not alone in this. It has been taught at my church.”

    John Bevere teaches about “submit/honour leadership and you shall be blessed” in His DVD ‘Relating to Authority’.
    It’s a false doctrine. Being obedient in submitting and honouring God is what blesses Him, therefore He chooses to bless us.

    And good day SpeedyGon. Of course we speak for God. We are your leaders who tell you how to live life and teach you to never stray from the flock- that’s why you’re back. >:-)

  17. Presuming to speaking for God or quoting other people who are thought to speak for God, will never be as effective as arguing from general principles that can be widely accepted.

    It is only when the Bible adheres to generally accepted morality and widely held principles of ethics that it is an effective voice. But then, that supports the arguing from general principles idea – you may as well dispense with the Bible.

    Remember, the Bible is not a reliable moral compass. This should be obvious to anyone who has read it.

  18. Then SpeedyGon, why did you say:
    “Makes me glad I walked away from your “church”.”

    I assumed you meant that you walked away from the Signpost’s online because everyone on here goes to different churches. Are you saying you’re non-Christian then?

    Do I even know you?
    Lead Potassium?
    Parachuting Buddha Kid?

  19. Of course you would assume “church” meant this little congregation of braggards and malcontents. Never once would it occur to you that “church” might mean the religious institution known as.

    Speedy is as Speedy does. You don’t know me.

  20. RP,
    ‘It sounds as though FL regards whatever a Pastor says as automatically from God’

    How wrong can you be? Test every spirit whether it be of God, n’est pas?

    I can’t see where you could attribute tat error to me.

  21. Thanks for the correction FL. But the impression I get from your comments is that even if you regard the pastor as being incorrect, you would still do as instructed as an expression
    of submission?

    Or are there degrees to which you would do this, depending upon the circumstances?

    Regardless, I have been taught at church that the first approach is the desirable one, and that God will just look after things if you submit and the pastor turns out to be wrong.

  22. Welcome, Speedy. Maybe you could introduce yourself so we can understand where you are coming from?

  23. I don’t find it to be an issue, RP. I can’t, off the top of my head, think of anything I’ve been asked to do which is ungodly. I’ve been asked to do things I didn’t think I was very equipped for, but discovered that, through application, prayer and faith I could accomplish them, but that’s why leaders are often able to see things in us we can’t ourselves, isn’t it?

    I have been unfairly treated and had to learn to walk away, be forgiving and allow God to vindicate or correct, which is a very difficult thing emotionally. We all get that.

  24. Well, it doesn’t seem to be an issue for you personally, FL, but clearly it is an issue for others. You don’t seem comfortable with the idea of others not doing as requested when as a matter of conscience, they aren’t comfortable doing as asked. For example, when they and the pastor have a different view, both scripturally based, regarding a particular action.

    You haven’t really answered the question, just brushed it aside as a non-issue when applied to you personally. Certainly, if you always agree with your pastor, it won’t be an issue. However, if you agreed that we ought to listen to our conscience, rather than just doing what we are told, particularly where we have a different scriptural understanding on a matter, you might be endorsing behaviour that to some, would look rebellious. If investigated further, the behaviour could actually be a more obedient response to God.

  25. FL – I’d just reiterate what walk-thru-walls said about what happens in some churches:

    “When this submission begins to extend to how people spend their time, make decisions about the future, how they spend their money, who they associate with – this has the potential to become poisonous”

    In this situation, we have the God-given right to reject the overbearing, overstepping authority that we were never meant to be under. However, nothing you have said seems to admit this could be the case.

  26. Not only do we have the right to reject it, but we should reject it – unless for some reason, we feel that God is leading us otherwise for the time being.

  27. I have been in a situation where I felt the Lord tell me to submit for the time being, while He sorted things out elsewhere. But at no time did I feel He was telling me I should stay in that situation indefinitely or that it was right for me to be treated so badly. Nothing in scripture endorsed that view. This was in a ‘Christian’ workplace, which thankfully, I got out of fairly swiftly.

  28. Do you think the “I’ve got this personal message from God feeling” is problematic? How can you verify that someone’s personal message from God is actually from God, and not some conditioning kicking in? If the personal message is from someone in authority it’s obviously even more of a problem as discussed above.

    It’s not just you that needs to be re-assured as to the source of these feelings, it’s the community in which you live. Why not work from clear principles and reasoned argument? Isn’t that the method provided by God?

    Somehow, it seems rather strange that God gives everyone private messages. The only group discourse from God has apparently been frozen in the Bible.

  29. Um… I don’t think I asked for reassurance about the source of these ‘feelings’.

    I don’t always have a feeling that I have a ‘personal message from God’. But if I pray, read the Bible, ask God – then at times I do get a sense of peace or reassurance or direction in a particular issue or area. Sometimes its been a bit more than that, too.

    I don’t tend to go around telling other people that God has given me an instruction for them, either. If anyone tells me such a thing, including my pastor, I expect it would typically only be confirmation of something I already know in my walk with Him, or that it will be confirmed personally in some other fashion. And that it won’t contradict scripture.

    Anyway, these are part of our walk with Him in faith, and its something that can only be experienced in faith. I don’t expect those who don’t share my faith to relate to it.

  30. OK FL, then you do in fact agree that its OK to ‘disobey’.

    So why do you get so angry when people are ‘rebellious’ when it is a response to poor or unscriptural exercising of leadership?

  31. RP, I sold out to Jesus and his Church long ago.

    I have done things leaders, not my direct Pastors, told me to do which I didn’t like, on reflection, and which were potentially detrimental to my ‘reputation’ in their eyes, if I had not gone along with their demands, but the main reason I went ahead with their requests was that others were involved who would have been trampled on if I had refused and not complied.

    I’m talking about things like having to write written apologies to people I hadn’t actually done anything to, but were lied to by other, insecure, so-called leaders who felt threatened by me, but to comly with a leader’s ‘advice’ in how to clear up matters so I could progress, discovering a file of my alleged ‘misdemeanours’ (none of which were true) lodged at a head office without my knowledge, or being pressured into not talking to heads of organisations I was accountable to so that the ‘underling’ over me I was about to expose wasn’t implicated. Yuck!

    Those situations are always best left in the hands of the Lord. My reputation is of no account anyway except to be known to have a good report with those within and without the Church. God delivered me of any blemishes those people determined to see in me and effectively separated me from their influence without anyone’s noses being put out of joint.

    In a way it protected them from their own insecurities, or ignorance of what they were doing or saying. They were allowed to walk on in their good qualities and calling, and, hopefully, grow up in the stuff which was immature and potentially damaging to themselves and others.

    Today I would be in a position to confront them with the issues. Then I wasn’t, because of their lack of understanding, mostly, and a level of insecurity, which often leads to a controlling mentality. We need to see where others are in their walk, even if there is a degree of ‘seniority’ in their spiritual position.

    This is how serious it was – I wanted to write a book about their deeds, but the Holy Spirit, and my godly wife, pointed out that exposure and revenge weren’t an option, and it was better for me not to pray for fire to come down from above onto them, or hope God would sort them out when they stood before the judgement seat, which is where I was for a while, but rather that I walked in the integrity of forgiveness and hand it over to the Lord, asking him to let them go and help me walk away from their influence.

    I am relieved to say that it took some thinking about to tell you this, since I could not remember the offence to answer your question. Praise God! I’m free!

  32. Yes, it is good it took you a while to recall it all. You’ve obviously moved on, which is great. Sounds like you were in a very unpleasant and complicated situation. Particularly being accused of things you had not done. That was a part of my situation above too – a lot of slander and accusation behind my back by a particular superior who had a lot of power in that environment; complete invention.

    In fact, I had some support from a Christian brother in the office who perceived the difference between what was said about me and what he saw of my behaviour. There were also two other people who did the same, and helped me shelter from the storm I was being subjected two – one Christian, and one not. I am still encouraged when I think of how these people were willing to go against the status quo and assist me in some very unpleasant circumstances.

    If I saw my brother or sister being bullied or intimidated by church leadership, or secular leadership in a different environment, I hope I would do what I could to encourage or assist them. That varies, depending on the situation.

    I totally agree with your wife that revenge is not an option.

    Sometimes exposure is though – again, depending on the situation I guess. For example, I was in a Protestant church where the married 50 yr old minister became involved with a 14 year old girl. This was covered up by the church hierarchy – he was friends with influential people, and later exposed by the ICAC. It would have been better had they not covered it up at the time.

    Also, if someone in leadership in the church is involved in systematic bullying or despotism, they also should be exposed. It is only by exposing people that their behaviour can be stopped. Sometimes exposing people is simply not covering up for them. Or openly discussing their behaviour, and breaking the church taboos that prevent such discussion when it is labelled ‘criticism’.

    In the post ‘Let the weak say I am strong’, the examples of scripture there show how Jesus advocated behaviour that exposed the sin. I’m not saying those examples will always apply to us, but they do demonstrate that allowing the sin to expose itself is good.

    Other times, we may have to speak up on behalf of the victim. Again, that can mean we are percieved as rebellious, divisive or critical. At least in Australia, that is mild. In some countries, people die for that.

  33. There are times to expose, and times to confront, times to let go. In the cases I mentioned I was prohibited by the Holy Spirit, which I am glad about today. He knows best.

    I saw close up an illustration of the national overseer of a Christian organisation expose his international boss over an issue which affected him personally, but not the entire organisation, by going to the media, and far from bringing closure through exposure it made a bigger mess of things, and brought the Body of Christ into disrepute. I thought of my circumstances at the time, and the outcome of his, and he was, in a way, justified, in the natural, in what he did, and had earlier told me he would, but I was uneasy about the potential outcome, but the result for me was that it brought my situation into better perspective.

    I do agree that if the problem affects the lives and well-being of unwary innocent people, then it should be exposed.

  34. As you say, He knows best.

    It sounds as though you did the right thing in your particular circumstances, after much consideration and wise counsel from your wife.

    And absolutely, there is a time for everything. Ecclesiastes is one of my favourite books.

    So sometimes – though not always – obeying God means submitting for a time to unfair treatment; other times it can mean exposing or refusing to hide things, leading one to be labelled rebellious, critical or worse.

    As for the media, well, it does have a vital role in our society in exposing all kinds of unacceptable things. But it also lives off sensation. I’ve never seen anything that I have personal knowledge of covered without bias in the press, unfortunately. I’m sure it does happen sometimes. You’d have to think very carefully before going to the media over anything – in a way its like playing russian roulette. Still, sometimes, its the only place left, and people do go there as a last resort. And I do think that God does allow the media to tear some ministries down, after they ignore repeated warning bells.

  35. Fl – revenge no. I agree with that. But exposure, if it reveals truth and light. No problem. None whatsoever. Otherwise you have potential problems that the church is facing with hiding certain immoral fallings

  36. This was a super blog thread- Interesting intrusions by characters like “Speedygonzales”

    Facelift, you did seem to come closer here to discussing life openly than anywhere else Ive seen you; you seem quite the creature of intense drama, and Im glad to have heard this much of your story; you too Ravingpente!

    Anyhow, the monstrous abuse of power, and equal social cowardice of Religious authority-figures; especially where money or paid-position is a factor, is quite conspicuous here; & also my experience , guys.

    Ionbpfs comment at the end seems quite right to me; people should be free to see some of these practices exposed for what they are; deluded & abusive.

    ‘Ive got to go away and think more on the cure’, one wonders!


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