Authority Inversion: The Subversion Of Pastoral Leadership -- By: Tony Garland

Journal: Journal of Dispensational Theology
Volume: JODT 018:54 (Summer 2014)
Article: Authority Inversion: The Subversion Of Pastoral Leadership
Author: Tony Garland

Authority Inversion:
The Subversion Of Pastoral Leadership

Tony Garland

* Tony Garland, Th.M., M.T.S., Th.D., pastor, Mabana Chapel, Camano Island, Washington; guest professor of biblical studies, Telos Biblical Institute, Redwood Valley, California; and, author and teacher, Spirit and Truth Ministry.

A troubling situation many pastors find themselves in today is that of occupying a place of apparent leadership, but lacking true authority. The office of pastor, which Scripture establishes as the source of leadership and authority within a local fellowship, can be hindered and even subverted by local church practices which have more in common with cultural expectations than the teaching of the New Testament. The unfortunate result is that the person or persons expecting to be entrusted with the role of spiritual leadership and authority within the local church find themselves under the restrictive control of those whom they purportedly lead. The limitation represents an inversion of the authority structure established by the New Testament and contributes to the subversion of pastoral leadership within the local church.


Although there are numerous situations which contribute to the inversion of pastoral authority, consideration of a few representative scenarios can help to illustrate what is meant by “authority inversion” and provide a foundation for identifying some root causes of this unbiblical practice.

Congregational Rule

One of the more obvious practices by the local church which subverts pastoral authority is that of congregational rule. By its very name, a congregational-ruled church, places ultimate authority within the congregation. The congregational-ruled church governmental structure is particularly popular in the West since it aligns with the expectations of the untaught within a congregation that biblical government would naturally

follow democratic principles. For instance, if the Bible teaches that men are predisposed toward evil, congregational rule would be the safest and wisest approach rather than centralization of authority among a few men — or even one man.

Within the congregational-ruled local church, decisions are made by popular vote. Although the pastor or pastors within a congregational church may have considerable influence upon the decision-making process, ultimately they have no more authority than any other voting member within the local church. Therefore, authority ultimately resides with the sheep rather than the shepherds and authority is inverted.

It is mainly in our American democratic society where the churches feel it ...

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