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Pastoral Authority




Please review handout on Church Government from the GGWO Glossary of Terms.


1.      What are the areas in which pastoral authority biblically functions:  spiritual, financial, governance, Word of God, teaching, preaching, rebuke, correction, exhortation, temporal, other?  Based on what we have learned in the area of accountability, should the pastor have unquestionable authority in any of these areas?  If so, which ones and why.


Answer comments:

·        No, he should be subject to accountability in all areas.

·        Pastoral authority = the responsibility to make decisions affecting the local church.  Spiritual – teaching and preaching – it is not unquestionable authority (Heb. 13:7, 17; I Thess. 5:12).  Financial – maintain integrity; (1) church administration; (2) – business administration.  He participates and is accountable to the whole but has one voice.  As a facilitator, helps the process and participates, but not a dictator. (1 Tim. 3:3; 1 Pet. 5:2; 2 Cor. 4:12; 2 Cor. 8:18-22; 1 Tim. 4:4; Titus 1:7; 1 Cor. 9:18; Acts 11:29).

·        Business Admin – he does not have the final say – 2 Cor. 8:16-24.; 9:4.

·        Pastoral restraint in authority.

·        Governance – oversee (1 Tim. 3:1; 1 Pet 5:15; Acts 20:28; Acts 6:4; 1 Tim. 5:17 – rule well).

·        Pastoral authority – 1 Peter 5:1-4 – he has the r to responsibility to rebuke.  Gal 6;6 Titus 1:10-11; 1 TIM. 4;15; Actsw 2:29-30; Titus 1:9.

·        A member should have the right to ask the Pastor to explain decisions.

·        He does not have sovereign authority – not unquestionable - there must be a check and balance.

·        Must balance pastoral authority with individual priesthood with God.  1 Peter 5:1-5 – must not lord it over . . . 2 Cor. 1:24, but available to give spiritual guidance.

·        Help people make spiritual decisions.

·        No – Roms. 13:1, need checks and balances, lead by example; be free in Christ but with boundary lines.

·        “One of the greatest gifts I got from my congregation was NO trust; I had to earn trust.”  (2 Cor. 1:24).

·        Pastoral authority should function in all areas, but in every area there are biblical boundaries.

·        To provide oversight (1 Peter 5:1-5), to be a watchman against sin and heresy, but Christ is the final authority (Matt. 28;18; 2 Cor. 5:19), no unquestionable authority.

·        Yes, but the Pastor’s authority does not supersede the elders or table of organization (Prov 11:14).

·        Acts 15 – Pastor can be challenged when he is off.  The Word of God has final say.


2.      Does the Pastor have a biblical right to decide personal issues for members of the congregation?  What (if any) would be the parameters for this?

Answer: Unanimously, No.



·        He does not lord it over the people (1 Pet. 5;1-4), but he can give counsel when he is invited.  Member can choose pastor’s counsel or not based on believer-priesthood.

·        Parameters – yes, if personal sin affects the Body (Mt. 18) in order to bring resolution and accountability to the Body of Christ.

·        No biblical right to decide personal issues for another person.  It is their free volition and we cannot determine that.  2 Tim. 4:2 – only preach  and pray. Col. 3:23; Rom. 14:8.

·        He does have the privilege of advising and counseling on personal issues when invited.

·        He does have the responsibility to make decisions that affect the Body; give counsel and advice, but Roms. 14:4; 2 Cor. 13:10.

·        Every believer is responsible for his own choices.  He can provide Biblical counsel and explore options with the believer.

·        He should consider legal issues; he has a responsibility to instruct those that oppose themselves – can only give Biblical counsel but not decide how to implement that.

·        The Pastor is to be an example in leading through preaching, teaching, and lifestyle. (2 Thes. 3:9; 2 Tim. 2:24-25).

·        He is to point people to Christ and the WOG.  He cannot make their decisions because it takes away their rights as a believer-priest.

·        Not a ruler but a guide.  Believer makes up his or her own mind. 



3.      Is there any correlation between the office of the New Testament pastor and an Old Testament Prophet or King?  Do you agree that a New Testament pastor does not hold the same degree of authority as an Old Testament King or Prophet?


Answer comments:

  • No direct correlation. Mk 10:42 – servant’s model of leadership.
  • Yes correlation – there are common elements – both were called to minister and administer and lead, but no equality.
  • Dispensational – call is the same; authority is not the same.  King was accountable to God; Pastor is accountable to elders and congregation.  It comes through love and grace.  There are no equal offices in these 2 dispensations.
  • Similarities in functions – leading, being shepherds, etc.  Holy Spirit. was on the prophets, but NT – he serves people, is a servant-leader and brings people to Christ.
  • King was appointed by God and God placed them in power and took them down when necessary; NT – Pastor is not on same level.  Similarities of leadership, responsibilities of king w/NT pastor, it is a different premise – Heb. 1:1-3 – Christ is our King.  No, it is not the same premise even though we have been called kings (1 Pet. 2:5-9) but we are not in that capacity as the only sovereign authority on the earth.  Christ is in each believer.
  • Agree with principle – correlation and parallels, yes, but not exact equivalence.  (2) Agree because of dispensations (1 Jn 2:20); NT dispensation on Body and different gifts.
  • King led God’s people, prophets spoke to the people; Pastor does this too but he does not have the same degree of authority.
  • No correlation – we are not prophets or kings, but forthtellers.  Today we proclaim the Word of God that has been written.
  • Yes, there are correlations – Kings had administrative duties and NT Pastors also have administrative duties, but it is not a direct equivalent of authority.  There are close parallels.
  • Yes, similarities – both communicate the Word of God and mind of God.
  • NO correlation – OT prophets and kings had anointing for a specific office; prophet – foreteller of the Word of God.  NT – every believer is anointed and a priest/king – 1 Pet. 2:1; 1 Cor. 1:29-30 – not all have the same gifts but a Pastor operates in the given boundaries of his authority.



4.      Is the teaching of a pastor to be treated with the same degree of respect as the teaching of the N.T. apostles?  Is a pastor’s message to be treated as divinely inspired and therefore unquestionable and infallible?

Answers: Unanimously, No and No for both questions.



  • An Apostle had a special authority because he received divine revelation – 1Cor. 3:11?  B. – A Pastor today is not to add or remove from canon of Scriptures; anointed message can be infallible (2 Tim. 3:16), but the man of God is not.
  • 1 Tim. 3; 2 Tim. 3:16 – inspired Rev. 1 Thes. 2:13; we have observation, interpretation and application.  Interpretation must be lined up with the Scripture in its proper setting.
  • Only the Word of God is divinely inspired.
  • No Apostles for today; we are not inspired, but anointed.
  • Acts 17 – even apostles were subject to scrutiny.
  • Same respect for God’s Word – apostles – some died in their presence; some were healed by their shadow; their min. was NOT voluntary; Acts 17:11; Isa. 8:20; Paul – 7x – follow me as I follow God.  Response was purely voluntary.  NO, it is not unquestionable and infallible.  Not the same level as NT.
  • NOo but a Pastor preaches from the divinely inspired Word of God, which needs to be respected; believers should study for themselves (Acts 17:11; 1 John 2:27); it is the Word of God, not man (1 Thes. 2:13); we have to exercise faith; otherwise, we criticize the Pastor.
  • Pastor must rightly divide the Word of truth; it is NOT the same degree – we have receivers and givers.  It is through the anointing and Word of God, but it is not infallible.   Deut. 29:29b – balance of respect, which is different from unquestionable or infallible.
  • People should be taught to always test the message.  If someone treated the Pastor’s message as divinely inspired but infallible it would be contrary to the Word of God.



5.      Identify potential problems that might arise from the misapplication of pastoral authority.


Answer comments:

  • People going through Pastor to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2-3)
  • People making Pastors icons?
  • Cultic behavior.
  • Pastors may use authority for personal advantage;
  • Ps. 116:8 – they become like the Pastor instead of Christ.
  • Instills pride in young leaders who would emulate and then they “rule” instead of serve.  Begemoai(Heb. 13:7, 17, 24).
  • Who would emulate and try to rule instead of lead (2 Cor. 11:2-3) – issue of presentation of Christ to the believer.  Pastor should not disciple person unto him but unto Christ.
  • Manipulation of the people by Pastor; embezzlement; people will be hurt; Pastor could misrepresent God’s character and nature of grace; Pastor may use grace as a license to sin.
  • We must have proper Pastoral accountability.
  • Terrible testimony to the world – 1 Peter 5:3.,
  • When people’s vertical is replaced with another person’s authority;
  • Elders and pastor become liable when his authority supersedes a person’s own responsibility and brings financial devastation to the church.  If practiced, pastor’s name can be used as an authority for misapplication.  “Pastor said. . . “
  • Turn into a cult, shepherding, spiritual and financial mismanagement; undue influence; weak organizational structure; rob people from individual believer-priesthood; destroys lives; bullying, shunning, bondage (Gal. 2:4); not giving people freedom to walk in their call and gifts of the Holy Spirit; killing their walk with God (2 Cor. 6:3).
  • St. Ignatius (bad teaching)  – bishops word is equal to God.  If you do not obey, you are labeled evil.  Anyone who does anything without bishop’s knowledge is of the devil.
  • People might not search the Scriptures or right divide the Word of God, thus they neglect their  believer-priesthood; develops soul attachments; hinder their growth into maturity (Eph. 4:13) –counter-productive to job as Pastos in equipping the church and robbing them of eternal rewards.
  • Financial manipulation; leading people in our agenda, not God’s; branding people as rebellious; meddling in private lives; using my authority to mark people (Mk 9:35) instead of restoring people.
  • Corrupts the authority of the Word of God; soul-power attachments; controlling people’s lives; violation of believer-priesthood; disrupts prayer life because they rely on the Pastor.  In extreme cases a Pastor could take the place of God in a misguided persons life..
  • Control; manipulation; violation of trust; relationship with God becomes diverted so we do not hear God.  Jn 8:54 –distorted honor.



6.      Should there be an agreed upon objective statement regarding the definition and extent of pastoral authority for GGWO?

Answer: Unanimously, Yes.



·        Yes on spiritual authority, inspiration and revelation (1 Cor. 5:18).

·        Requires dedicated team of Pastors to search Scriptures and develop it.

·        Should be part of ordination packet and ordination charge.

·        Clear definition leads to better implementation (Prov. 29:18; 1 Cor 14:8)

·        Needs to be Biblical and organizational.

·        YES!!!!!!!!!!............. model set of bylaws produced by GGWO affiliated pastors.



·        Potential problems:

Balance with need for accountability;

Question:  Can the misapplication of pastoral authority cause heresy?

·        Clarify a leader has a responsibility to decide personal issues if it affects the congregation.  If a person is in sin (1 Cor. 5) should they be excluded from fellowship?  No, but addressed because there is an infection in the Body.  They should privately go before the Table of Organization. 

·        Difference is the approach. If someone brings discord, it should be brought privately before Table of Organization before it spreads throughout the Body.  2nd stage – public repentance before the Body.

·        What about personal sin?  1 Cor. 5 – Pastor admonishes, corrects, approaches, but if they do not repent, have to publicly deal with it.  Even personal sin, a Pastor has a right to give counsel.  Gray areas—Pastor should NOT intervene in those areas.  There is a public secondary actual level of influencing a person.  Pastor has authority by nature of office to give information that will influence their decision on a secondary level, but that is not good.  (i.e., a Pastor can disagree with another Pastor’s methods, but if he voices it to another, it can cause suspicion about that Pastor.)

·        PT cannot tell people where to live, where to go, etc.

·        Balance – Pastors have to deal with trends in the Body.

·        You can ADVISE but not DECIDE for people.

·        If someone leaves, love them and pray for them and bless them.  But how they leave is important—if they sow discord.  God has people where He wants them.  God brings people to our church to take the message somewhere else.  It is a blessing.



How do PTs balance the difference between what I see going on in the church and what I preach from the pulpit?

·        1 Cor. 9:18 – Abuse not my power in the Gospel . . . Do not use your pulpit as a sounding board.

·        You may know of things going on, but be humble before God.  It cannot be because I want to deal with something.  Be humble, walking in the light and secure if God says NO, do not say anything.  Be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit.  Do not preach without permission from God.

·        With authority comes tremendous responsibility with the pulpit.  The pulpit protects people’s privacy but does not invade it.  You can preach principles in generalities.  Be wise and shepherd the flock and be responsible with the authority you have.

·        Ministry manipulation is a fine line.  Abuse can be subtle.  Presuppositions – it is easy to lord over people.  Phil. 2 – esteem others better.  Every pastor has to be a deacon and have a willing heart to be servant of all or lowest bondslave.  A Pastor can protect the flock, but he cannot change anyone’s decision. There is a balance.

·        Using the pulpit as a sounding board – 2 Tim. 2 – Do not reprove or rebuke without preaching the Word first.  Just teach the Word verse by verse.  It is a two-edged Sword and God can deal with people through preaching.  The Holy Spirit can deal with issues in people’s lives that we do not even know about.