titles, positions and authority

This morning on my drive into work I got to thinking about a conversation with a local pastor that happened almost five years ago on the issue of leadership and missional living.  Here is how it went:

Me:  “Let me ask you a question.  For the sake of the people at church, would you be willing to let go of your title as senior pastor if it meant they would discover the kingdom of God, live a missional and incarnational life in order for them to discover that Jesus is the Head of the church?”

Pastor:  “Gibby, as long as this church exists and I’m here I will be the senior pastor. That’s what I’m called to be and paid to do…a senior pastor.”

I still find it to be a fascinating answer.  It is a very telling answer and reveals the true nature of this man’s heart.  You don’t just shake those words from the mind.  See, I didn’t ask if he would be willing to leave the local church or give up shepherding the people. I wanted to see if he would give up his title and if he was willing to let Jesus Christ have the title of Senior Pastor.

Titles.  In the local church they can be very deadly, blinding and corrupting when they seep into the heads and hearts of those not willing to humble themselves to be servants first.

We can argue all day about biblical titles, positions and authority.  Still, the example of Jesus was one of a servant.  He squatted down to the level of the adulterous woman showing he was willing to be stoned with and for her.  He risked his reputation by taking water from the woman at the well and shared with her the truth of worshiping God.  He challenged the status quo of religious authority by welcoming the children to sit on his lap.  He washed the feet of his disciples.  He ate with sinners.  He was human.  He took the sting of death on rugged cross and rose for the sake of the kingdom.  He released his Spirit into the world that we might allow him to dwell in us.  He calls us to humble ourselves by loving our enemies.

This, my friends, is an issue of the heart.  Are you willing to give up your title for the sake of the kingdom of God?

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5 responses to “titles, positions and authority

  1. Hi Gibby, when I read this yesterday, I was thinking, “yeah, if I was sure God was asking me to give up title or position, I believe I could do it” but this morning I was realizing it runs much deeper than that. You can still be very motivated by your own ego without the titles or position. Down deep I want God to use me at least partly for my own validation, so the world will see that I have the “God seal of approval” or something like that. So, beyond the titles and position, what does it take for us to lay down our ego?

  2. Steve and Lisa, your point is exactly what I was getting at with the pastor. His ego and need for control were completely connected to his having the title of “Senior Pastor.” The irony in all this is that he was the only pastor on staff. He talked about adding elders and associate pastors, but there was always an excuse for not doing it. His ego got in the way of his true calling to be a shepherd of people and make disciples who followed Jesus Christ. There were other questions I asked him that revealed even more the issue with selfishness, pride and a swelled ego.

    What does it take to lay down our ego? That requires us to take on the attitude of a servant and lead with a towel in one hand and a basin in the other. It requires that we seek the kingdom first and realize our walk with and in Christ is not about us, but about the will of the Father.

    Yes, it’s easy to give an answer here, but the reality here is that a posture of humility is difficult to embrace when we all want approval. Titles and positions do not really give us authority. The Spirit of the Lord does. Incarnating the gospel does. The character of Christ in us does. Our ability to help reveal the rule and reign of God does.

  3. Pingback: Titles, Jogging, and Seminary… but not all at the same time | The Assembling of the Church

  4. What is strange to me is when a pastor talks about servant leadership and yet has the same type of ego, albeit more carefully concealed.

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