I confess I am guilty of blurring the line between vocational ministers and laity (between those who are compensated for their ministry in a particular church and those who are not). I also admit that I probably have a higher view of the roles and responsibilities of us average, non-professional Christians than most people have. Finally, when you accuse me of believing and teaching that God’s call on the life of a layman is just as high and defining as His call on any professional minister, I am guilty as charged.
But none of that translates into a dim view of pastoral authority…recognizing, of course, that “dim” is a relative term.
I am always a little afraid of a pastor whose entire model of church leadership comes from the Old Testament. When his (and I won’t add the normal “/her” because it’s pretty clear that no female leader in the church could derive her entire model for church leadership from the Old Testament) only illustrations for pastoral leadership are from characters such as Moses or David or Elijah, it tells me some scary things about that pastor. You see, neither Moses nor David nor Elijah had any experience at all leading people who were indwelled by the Spirit of God Himself. So, while those are important leadership (even pastoral) models, they are by no means complete illustrations for leadership in the Age of the Church.
What, then, is pastoral authority in this age? Where does it come from and how does it inform the relationship between pastor and layman?
First, what it is and where it comes from…pastoral authority comes from speaking the Word of God exactly as God gives it to that pastor to speak. When a pastor speaks exactly what God speaks, the authority is present.