I saw a good question in a Facebook group pertaining to pastoral authority. Specifically, one was asking how much authority a pastor has within a congregation. While no one answered with the dictatorial model, some did indicate the pastor has no authority. Some said only God has authority. Some answered claiming the pastor has authority over spiritual things. I spent just a couple of minutes writing my answer which included some scripture and wanted to share it here because I feel this is an area where more biblical teaching is needed.
What authority, if any, does a pastor have in a congregation?
A pastor has the spiritual oversight in an assembly. This looks a lot like representative government (the collective appoints him by vote and he leads)*. But he is who determines what man steps foot in the pulpit, officiates the worship service, etc. He also bears responsibility to guide the church into things they need to be doing, whether a physical project like a building repair or matters of discipline. The church is to follow his leadership as he follows Christ.
The pastor is also responsible to share something very authoritative: The word of God. If a member – or anyone else for that matter – is living in blatant sin or engaging in dangerous patterns, the pastor must warn them from God’s word. This authority doesn’t begin or end with the pastor, it is based on God’s word. God’s word, by the way, covers all matters of life. It speaks to how we spend our time, resources, how we treat other people, how we are to work, etc. If the pastor shares God’s word with you and calls on you to repent, your disobedience isn’t to him but to God who sent him, as he is sharing God’s word.
At ordination, a man has the authority to administer the ordinances. He has the authority to officiate communion and to baptize. He has the authority to preach as the Spirit leads him. He has the authority to pastor where he feels led, provided the people feel the same way and call him.
Any pastor who says “pastors don’t have authority” would quickly backtrack if some unsound person entered their building and tried to take to the pulpit.
All that said, the pastor is not a lord. He is a servant leader. If you want to be the greatest sir, you must be the least. We have had a lot of self-appointed, wannabe boss preachers in our history. The real men God uses are the servants. That’s what he calls us to do, serve and lead.
Heb 13:7 KJV – Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of [their] conversation.
Heb 13:17 KJV – Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that [is] unprofitable for you.
Heb 13:24 KJV – Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you.
2Ti 4:2 KJV – Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
Mat 28:19 KJV – Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Mat 28:20 KJV – Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen.
1Co 11:1 KJV – Be ye followers of me, even as I also [am] of Christ.
1Pe 5:1 KJV – The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
1Pe 5:2 KJV – Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight [thereof], not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
1Pe 5:3 KJV – Neither as being lords over [God’s] heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
*To be clear, the call to preach is of God but the call to pastor comes from a congregation. Both are necessary for this to work.