Christians Screwed-up Understanding of Authority is Literally Wrecking Christianity-

If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit- Matthew 15:14 NIV

Christianity has a leadership problem.

Accounts of bullying, embezzlement, adultery, duplicity, abuse, control and even pedophilia involving high profile pastors, churches and entire denominations have become routine. The Catholic Church, Jim Baker, Mars Hill, Ted Haggard, Bob Coy, Willow Creek, Sovereign Grace Ministries, Mike Warnke, Hillsong, Josh Duggar and The Southern Baptist Convention are just a few of the leaders, churches and organizations whose names have become synonymous with corrupt Christian leadership.  Leadership problems aren’t restricted to high profile pastors, mega churches or big-name Christian ministries. Many churchgoers have experienced hurt at the hands of insensitive pastors or pastors who acted much more righteous in public than in private. 

Sigh. 

Experts blame the rise of bad leadership on an increase of narcissism in churches and Christian organizations.  A narcissist has a strong sense of entitlement, is extremely self-focused, has an unusually high need for attention, is overconfident and a has profound lack of empathy. Christians can be narcissists. Narcissists have enormous blind spots where their behavior is concerned. Narcissistic Christians can justify almost any action, including actions they know are sinful. Narcissistic Christian leaders truly believe God will overlook their sin because they “do so much for the kingdom”.  Narcissists do not understand how their behavior affects other people. Therefore, they can do a great deal of harm to people without even knowing it. Most experts believe narcissism is a growing problem among Christian leaders. This is concerning considering the contrast between a narcissistic leader and the model Christian leader described in Titus 1:7-9, Timothy 3:1-3 and 1st Peter 5:1-5. 

This begs some hard questions: 

Why is there so much bad behavior in Christianity? 

What does the church do to produce and attract narcissistic leaders? 

How do average Christians enable narcissistic leadership?  

Christianity is plagued with narcissistic leadership because Christians have a flawed understanding of what New Testament authority should look like.

Here’s what I mean:

Most Christians form their views on spiritual authority from Old Testament stories, principally from the system of Kings found in the Old Testament. Old Testament Kings had absolute God-given authority. This is most famously played out in the story of Saul and David. Saul was an awful king. Saul was evil, volatile, selfish, and guided almost entirely by pride and sinful passions (1st Samuel 16:14, 1st Samuel 18:14, 1st Samuel 19:4, 1st Samuel 15:22-24).  

However.

 Because Saul was anointed King, David faithfully submitted himself to Saul’s authority. David did not disparage Saul, physically harm him or challenge his authority.  Christian teachers (including myself) universally applaud David’s submission to Saul’s authority. It’s an example of Old Testament obedience God clearly blessed (1stSamuel 26:9-11, Acts 13:22). 

Many Christians apply the same concept of anointing to present-day pastors. Many deacons, board members and elders flat refuse to question or correct a pastor even when they know the pastor is wrong because they view the pastor as God’s “anointed” and therefore unchallengeable, regardless of their behavior. Many Pastors, especially narcissistic pastors tend to see themselves as having the same unchallengeable authority as Old Testament Kings. The rotten fruit of this understanding of authority is at least partly to blame for the large numbers of people who have left the church in recent years. It’s also literally obliterating the churches ability to do our one job: reach the lost (Matthew 28:18-20). Non-Christians understandably see leadership situations like the ones at the Southern Baptist Convention, Mars Hill and Hillsong as unacceptable, indefensibly gross and entirely inconsistent with the whole notion of a good God. 

Here’s the thing. 

There are to be no human kings in the Church. 

Jesus is the only King among His people. Period. End of story. Jesus is the only leader who can demand or who deserves absolute obedience. Pastors are simply not anointed to lead churches the same way kings were anointed to lead Israel in the Old Testament. The word anointed or anoint in reference to people and/or Jesus is used a total of eleven times in the New Testament. Eight explicitly refer to Jesus (Mark 14:8, Luke 4:18, Luke 7:46, John 11:2, John 12:3, Acts 4:27, Acts 10:38, Hebrews 1:9). The remaining three teach all Christians are anointed for ministry, not just a few specific leaders (2nd Corinthians 1:21, 1st John 2:20, 1st John 2:27). 

All Christians are given gifts to benefit the church (Ephesians 4:11-12, 1st Corinthians 12:7-11, Romans 12:3-9). Some spiritual gifts have a leadership component to them (apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, overseers). The New Testament commands Christians to treat these leaders with respect, to make their task joyful rather than difficult (Hebrews 13:17). Christians will be judged for how they treat their spiritual leaders. Therefore, any challenge to a leader’s teaching or behavior must be prayerfully contemplated before action is taken. 

 However.

Pastors simply do not have the same authority as Old Testament Kings. Instead, the Bible promises leaders and teachers will be judged at a higher standard than other Christians (James 3:1). ALL Christians will be accountable to God for how they use or misuse their authority in the home, workplace or church. Christians are called to humble servanthood, and specifically commanded not to lord their authority over others (Matthew 20:25-26). 

Truth-be-told narcissism has taken root in churches because too many pastors have been given unchallenged authority and too many Christians have foolishly chosen to follow human leaders more closely than they follow King Jesus.  

People are Basically Good and Other Dumb Things we Believe-

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature- 1st Corinthians 14:20 ESV 

It sure feels as if there are more dumb ideas than ever before. There are several possible reasons for this:

It’s possible people are actually getting dumber. It would stand to reason that because the earth’s population is growing at a rapid clip there are simply more dumb people running around than in past generations. Obviously, more dumb people would mean a multiplication of dumb ideas (Romans 1:20-22). It is also possible people are just as dumb as they have always been and the invention of the internet and social media has simply made it easier for dumb ideas to spread faster to more people than in past generations. It is also possible there are exactly the same number of dumb ideas and dumb people as there has always been and I am just more judgy than I used to be. 

Whatever the case may be.

I spent time scrolling through the comments sections of some news stories this week and was blown away by all the dumb ideas in such a small space.  Sigh. The good news is the absurdity was weirdly inspirational.  I decided to highlight a few of what I personally think are the dumbest ideas out there. Honestly, there are so many it was no easy task narrowing the field down to a manageable number for a blog post. 

I finally decided the following six deserve some sort of recognition:

All love is equal and should be equally celebrated-  

Nope and nope. Much of what passes for love these days is just a silly, selfish and fleeting emotion that bears no resemblance to the real deal (1st Corinthians 13:1-13). Unfortunately, even more of what passes for love in our world is cruel, exploitive and hurtful. Nevertheless, human beings are capable of loving in a way that is self-sacrificing, patient and beautiful and reflective of the love God has for us.  That is the kind of love that should be applauded and celebrated. 

People are essentially good-

More nope (Mark 10:18). Human beings are born with a sin nature that causes them to be bent towards evil and injustice (Genesis 6:5, Jeremiah 17:9). Without the redeeming presence of Jesus in a person’s life there will always be a tendency for people to be selfish and exploitive of others. It is true that on some level most people really do want to be good but few are willing to do the one thing that has the power to make people truly good: submit to the rule and reign of Jesus in every area of their lives.  

Christianity always leads to some sort of weird oppression of women-

This ridiculous idea comes out in books and television shows like The Handmaids Tale. The assumption of the author or the producer is that if Christianity were to gain a foothold in the culture the world would inevitably devolve into a weird dystopian nightmare where women would be oppressed in very creepy ways. Those who hold to this line of thinking willfully forget it was Christianity that eventually freed women from the bondage of the pre-Christian world. One need to look no further than any Islamic country to see that the countries where Christianity has had the biggest impact are also the places women have the most protections, respect and personal freedom. 

Salvation is in politics- 

All human beings are born with a God-sized void in their hearts. Therefore, if people spurn faith in God the hole we all have always gets filled with something else. For many in our culture politics has filled the void where devotion to God belongs. This is why so many usually mild-mannered people are literally becoming unhinged over their political views. There have actually been threats made against those who vote or believe the “wrong’ way.   Sadly, politics is a horrible little god that promises much and demands much of its worshippers but delivers very little.  Without a return to biblical faith the political climate will only grow more toxic and dangerous. 

Most people are racist- 

It is true some people are racists. Most are not. One needs to look no further than the riots that have gone on in major cities to know believing the worst in people never leads anywhere good or healthy.

Science is settled- 

This idea is more than just dumb. It’s alarming because for many “science” has become their god.  Real science is NEVER really settled. What is true today could easily be disproven by breakfast tomorrow. For example: when I was a teenager, scientists were concerned about the earth becoming an artic wasteland, now global warming is thought to be a problem. For some mysterious reason many have bought into the notion that once science “proves” something true it will always and forever be true.  This dumb idea is dragging society back to an era when “unbelievers” were punished for stating an opposing view or believing something that was contrary to accepted dogma. This dumb idea could easily lead to a new dark age and an end to real science. 

As Christians we are called to develop our minds (Matthew 22:37) and be lovers of truth (John 8:32) so that we can lead the world to the truest truth of all: that without God even the “wise” become fools (Romans 1:22)