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Leader’s Authority

Where does your authority come from? Your answer to that question makes a difference.

Leaders deal in the realm of authority—it’s the currency with which we get things done. We prefer the word “influence.” It is a better term. It more accurately describes the innate function of leadership. It communicates what we are about better than “authority,” but at the end of the day if a leader can’t handle authority, he or she can’t lead.

Leaders often struggle with handling authority. Some leaders take advantage of their authority, others barely act on it. Some leaders over-step their authority, others hide behind it. The wisest of leaders understand that the authority wasn’t theirs in the first place and steward it with wisdom, grace and strength of character.

Where does your authority come from? Your answer to that question makes a difference. What you believe about the source of your authority shapes how you handle your authority.


The Source of Your Authority

There are two primary sources of authority: God and Man. The two are usually integrated. The important point is that you are never the source of your own authority. The implication is that it doesn’t belong to you. The complication is that you are still held responsible.

God gave leaders gifts and abilities. He gave us the ability to influence, skills to work with, and talents that give us a unique edge. He gave all these things to us, and they are ours to keep. But ultimately they did not begin with us. Is this a fine line? Perhaps it is, but again, how you think about this really matters.

I have sat in many ordination services where young pastors were commissioned into the ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That night they were scared to death, humble, and quick to acknowledge that all that they have came from somewhere else. Their God-given talents and their earthly-given opportunity to exercise those talents, all were given to them.

Then as time passed, they began to believe that they owned what they had been given, and some even began to believe they were the source of their own authority. And in these cases, nearly always, the ministry headed for trouble. Looking from the outside in, this seems impossible. But it is no more impossible than a young couple standing before a pastor reciting their sincere promises of love before God, family and friends only to find themselves a few years later in a bitter divorce.

Phrases like “my church,” “my staff,” and “my ministry” may be innocent, but they may also be a preview of ugly things to come. You may resist here, saying “But it IS my church, I’m the one held responsible.”

This is the complication I stated earlier. The life of a servant is complicated. We are responsible for that which does not belong to us.

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Category: Ministry, Winter 2020

About the Author: Dan Reiland is executive pastor of 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He is the author of Amplified Leadership: 5 Practices to Establish Influence, Build People, and Impact Others for a Lifetime (Charisma House, 2012), Shoulder To Shoulder Strengthening Your Church By Supporting Your Pastor (Thomas Nelson, 1997), and From a Father's Heart: Letters of Encouragement to Children and Grandchildren (Thomas Nelson, 1999). Twitter: @DanReiland

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