Questions and Answers About Spiritual Fathering and Mothering

Floyd follows up a weekend of teaching with an open session of questions and answers regarding spiritual mothering and fathering. The following issues are addressed in the Q and A time:

  • How Does the Bounded Set and Centered Set Paradigms Apply to Spiritual Fathering and Mothering?
  • What are the differences between Spiritual Fathering and Mothering and a Discipling Relationship?
  • How does Counseling, Submitting to Spiritual Leaders and Spiritual Fathering and Mothering work together?
  • How do you set Appropriate Boundaries in Relationships With Spiritual Fathering and Mothers?
  • Can you speak to Cultural Issues Regarding Spiritual Fathering and Mothering?
  • What is the Difference Between Discernment and Being Judgmental?

Five Different Kinds of Christian?

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Understanding the disparity of those who call themselves Christian in America.
A new national survey co-sponsored by Leadership. Reported by Helen Lee.

Survey Shows 5 Kinds of Christians in U.S.

Jennifer Hua identifies herself as a Christian. A 35-year-old former attorney studying Christian counseling at the Wheaton College Graduate School (Illinois), she has gone to church all her life and is a lay leader in her suburban Chicago congregation. She furthers her spiritual development by daily Bible reading, prayer, listening to and singing worship songs, and interacting with other Christians. And every few months, she carves out time for a silent retreat. "I do all of these things because I know from past experience I need to recalibrate my mind and my heart to be in tune with God," she says.

James Smith also identifies himself as a Christian. He attended church as a child, but his attendance was minimal as a young adult. He believes in God, occasionally attends Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan when his time-consuming job in the finance district allows, but he does not often participate in other activities to further his spiritual life. He has a Bible but rarely opens it; what leisure time he has he spends with friends, most of whom are of different faiths, and he does not necessarily believe that his God is any different from the one his Muslim friend worships.

"I don't think that God would be a God who would shut others out of heaven because they don't use the word 'Christian' to describe themselves," he says.

The United States is described in mainstream media as largely Christian (between 70 and 80 percent, depending on the study, identify themselves as "Christian"), and compared to the rest of the world, this is certainly the case. However, not all within this vast group of Christians are alike.

To understand the range and differences among American Christians, Christianity Today International (publisher of Leadership) recently partnered with Zondervan Publishers to commission Knowledge Networks to conduct attitudinal and behavioral research of U.S. Christians. In September 2006, more than 1,000 self-identified Christians 18 years of age and older were surveyed on their religious beliefs and practices. The results reveal a number of significant differences, illustrated by the examples of Hua and Smith. In fact, portraits of five distinct segments emerged from the study. We have named them Active, Professing, Liturgical, Private, and Cultural Christians.

Each group represents about one-fifth of those identifying themselves as Christian, with Active Christians (such as Hua) most likely to have a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that affects their beliefs and inspires an active church life; Cultural Christians (such as Smith) are least likely to align their beliefs or practices with biblical teachings, or attend church. Between the two is a range of beliefs, commitment levels, and public practice of the faith.

Leadership discussed the survey results with leading pastors and religious experts to ascertain the ramifications for church leaders. Three critical issues emerged:

  • The local church is no longer considered the only outlet for spiritual growth.
  • Churches must develop relational- and community-oriented outreach.
  • Lay people have to be better equipped to be God's ambassadors.

Faith Yes, Church Maybe

The survey shows that for nearly half of Christians, involvement in a local church body is a minimal part of their daily lives (see chart 1).

"Faith is relevant for many people, but church is not," says Bryan Wilkerson, senior pastor of Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts. "People want to attend to the spiritual side of their lives, they are interested in God, but their experience of church has not been relevant. They say, 'Why do I have to sit through boring sermons and old music that don't speak to my real needs and problems?'"

"A growing element of the Christian population is disappointed with or frustrated by the local church," says D. Michael Lindsay, assistant professor of sociology at Rice University and former consultant with the Gallup Institute. In part, this trend can be attributed to factors within local church bodies themselves, such as lack of strong leadership or teaching.

Given that 60 percent of all Christians worship in churches with fewer than 300 people (see chart 2), most Christians are in congregations that continually struggle with resource issues. Previous generations were accustomed to that, and today's worshipers have higher expectations.

"These days, people can get good teaching, wonderful music, and excellent writing, whether through iPods, TV, or online," says Wilkerson. "They learn to shop around and pick and choose. Then they expect the same high quality in their local church. A generation ago, the average person learned to accept his home pastor and was faithful to his local church. But now, people's appetites for excellence have been heightened."

As pastor of a large church himself, Wilkerson acknowledges "we probably end up perpetuating that kind of appetite by trying to be as high-quality as what we find out there. The temptation of larger churches is to compete and to be as good as the others are."

Even for those Private and Cultural Christians who do not typically consume Christian media, access to it can still play a significant role in their spiritual development in ways that may not be reflected in the survey.

"Private and Cultural Christians might not use traditional Christian media, but I would bet they disproportionately watch [Lakewood Church pastor] Joel Osteen on cable," says Lindsay. Cultural Christians are the group that spends the most time watching TV and using the Internet.

Spiritual growth, then, may be occurring for many of today's Christians in non-traditional ways. Instead of attending church on Sunday mornings, many opt for personal, individual ways to stretch themselves spiritually.

"Emerging generations may not see themselves as churched, but neither do they see themselves as any less committed," says Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland Church in Longwood, Florida. "The traditional programming that churches do is becoming less essential to work out faith for many people."

Personal or Media Relationships?

The danger, however, is that the multimedia availability of religious content helps people become spiritual do-it-yourselfers. As a result, they lack an important aspect of faith development: interaction with other Christians in community. This privatizing of Christian faith fits with the American spirit of individualism, but it may not produce Christians with enduring and long-term spiritual vitality.

"It's fine to use religious media as an addition if you are part of a local Christian community," says Lindsay. "It becomes problematic if you have no binding commitment to a local community and you become a Lone Ranger Christian. Before long your faith becomes something you put on and off like a jacket."

Instead of trying to win underchurched people back to a traditional church context, leaders say the approach to bringing Private, Cultural, and non-Christians into the church is relational and outward-looking rather than programmatic and inward-focused. Lindsay notes many Christians who are not involved in traditional churches are "much, much more interested in personal connection. The ways in which they nourish their faith are through home churches or one-on-one Bible study or non-church related small groups."

In fact, house churches have recently become a noteworthy trend in the United States. Time magazine in March 2007 quoted pollster George Barna as saying that house churches were evidence of a "seminal transition that may be akin to a third spiritual awakening in the U.S." and that in two decades, "only about one-third of the population" will attend traditional churches.

"The old paradigm of evangelism was a transactional sharing of the gospel," says Ken Fong, senior pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles. "I would try to get people to intellectually agree with me. But the new paradigm is different, an approach in which I invite you to walk alongside me, examine my life, and see evidence of the truth, and hopefully there will be something compelling that you see. It's a no-strings-attached invitation to enter my life as I follow Jesus."

Another necessary shift is recognizing that the old metrics of success may no longer apply. Wilkerson says, "We need to spend the next ten years investing in the life of our surrounding community and finding ways to regain a hearing for the gospel. Instead of going to the nursing home and holding a church service, we're just going to go and love and serve people for years and years, until the staff and residents ask, 'Why do they care so much?' This won't result in 150 decisions for Christ in a year. You might not see results for five or ten years."

Churches that do engage their local communities may discover that what they gain surpasses what they give. At Evergreen Baptist Church-LA, the demographics of the city of Rosemead, where the church is located

Willow Creek Update

I used the wrong language in my recent letter about Willow Creek. I described what they are learning as "repentance." I apologize for that. The word "repentance" was not the right word to use about the study they did called "Reveal." Below is a blog posting from Greg Hawkins clarifying what exactly did happen at Willow Creek in regard to what they are learning about spiritual formation and participation in programs and cell groups.

I want to express my respect and appreciation for Bill Hybels, Willow Creek and the huge contribution they have made to the body of Christ. If you have not read the  story of Willow Creek, I urge you to add Rediscovering Church by Bill and Lynn Hybels to your reading list. It is very inspiring and instructive.


Floyd McClung


The Truth About REVEAL - October 26, 2007


I'm thrilled to see the high level of interest and energy behind the blogosphere comments about REVEAL. But I've read enough postings to think that it might be helpful to provide a few facts on three issues that keep coming up. Trust me. I'm not into "spin control" here. I just want to fill in some gaps.

1. It's Not About Willow

REVEAL's findings are based on thirty churches besides Willow. In all thirty churches, we've found the six segments of REVEAL's spiritual continuum, including the Stalled and Dissatisfied segments. And these churches aren't all Willow clones. We've surveyed traditional Bible churches, mainline denominations, African-American churches and churches representing a wide range of geographies and sizes. Right now we're fielding the survey to 500 additional churches, including 100 international churches. So, while REVEAL was born out of a Willow research project in 2004, the findings are not exclusive to Willow Creek.

2. Willow Repents?

The Leadership Journal blog started with this question, and the answer is NO. Repenting, in my mind, deals with confessing sin. There is absolutely no sin involved in this deal. Just good, old fashion learning. What you are seeing is a set of leaders coming to grips with some new facts and deciding to do something about it. This is nothing new for us here at Willow. We are passionately committed to learning. Redeeming this broken world through the love and power of Jesus Christ is just too important for us not to be in a constant state of learning. We've always been a church in motion and REVEAL is just another example of Willow trying to be open to God's design for this local church.

3. Is Willow Re-thinking its Seeker Focus?

Simple answer

Willow Creek Leaders Repent of Program Based Church

Rarely I have been more proud of a church leader than when Bill Hybels recently repented for doing church the wrong way. I love Bill's honesty and respect him even more than I did before his repentance.

I also found his confession deeply affirming. I have been endeavoring to teach, write, model and call pastors and leaders and fellow believers to do simple church by focusing on the basics.

Excellent programming and systems was the Willow Creek claim to fame. What Bill Hybels did was issue a public statement repenting for some of their leadership practices. After an in-depth evaluation of the success of their programs they had concluded that much of their programming had not resulted in true spiritual growth. Their conclusion was that a church that builds a dependency on programs for discipleship will ultimately fail. Bill and the Willow Creek team concluded that Bible study, prayer, discipleship and missional community are all practices that must be instilled into people in a way that makes them depend on God for growth. It always just comes back to the basics. You can't program the basics, you have to instill them into people through one-on-one personal discipleship in a small community of outward focused people.

Reading about Bill's repentance confirmed to me that we are on the right track in emphasizing the following three "basics" as the only foundation for training and discipling leaders and workers in the kingdom:

1. Love for God by cultivating a lifestyle of prayer, fasting and reading the Word

2. Love for each other as members of the same community by intentionally investing and discipling in one another

3. Love for those who do not yet follow Jesus

I would like to quote the following article from another website about the Willow Creek Repentance to give you more background.

May god strengthen us all in our commitment to live a life of simple yet focused obedience,

Floyd McClung

Willow Creek Repents?

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Why the most influential church in America now says "We made a mistake."

Few would disagree that Willow Creek Community Church has been one of the most influential churches in America over the last thirty years. Willow, through its association, has promoted a vision of church that is big, programmatic, and comprehensive. This vision has been heavily influenced by the methods of secular business. James Twitchell, in his new book Shopping for God, reports that outside Bill Hybels

How To Pray For Africa

A young man wrote to me this week, asking how he can pray for us in Africa. Here is what I wrote him...would you join him in praying for breakthroughs and releases for Africa? We don't ask  for ourselves, but for Africa's 860 million people and 54 countries to be transformed by Jesus.

Thank you!

1. We are launching our first  All Nations CPx training program in Africa in February. We have over 80 applicants, all of them bearing fruit and proven in ministry, but most of them are living by faith and cannot afford the school fees. We need sponsors for the students - the fess are $1500 for three months of lectures, plus their outreach costs. (See and for more information on CPx and All Nations).

2. We have found a building we believe will be great for All Nations offices and classrooms for our training programs. Please pray for a release of finances to lease it long term and for favor with the owners for negotiating for the lease. We are trusting for $250,000 long term to help buy land and build.

3. Please pray for male converts in the township of Ocean View - many of the men are addicted to drugs, alcohol, are unemployed, and don't take responsibility for their marriages or families. A revival among men!

4. There has been a breakthrough among young men who have come to the lord in Masiphumelele, another township where we work. Most of these guys came to Christ through a sports programs we have initiated. Pray for these young men to be strong, to lead their friends to Christ, and for a movement of righteousness to spread among the men of Masphumelele.

5. Tend Days for Jesus. December 10-20. Ten days of intense, extreme all-out intercession and worship and outreach. Ten Days for Jesus. Partnering with 24-7 prayer. "TDJ" is for students ages 18-30. Pray the right ones will come and be changed forever!

6. We are allies with a sister ministry and together we are launching a project we are calling Africa Challenge. The vision is to send teams into every nation in Africa, and every high school in every nation. The mission is to bring a message of abstinence for AIDS prevention. Those who sign a pledge will be formed into clubs, then taught to live a holy life through the power of the Spirit. The vision is to see a movement of student disciples making disciples. We need workers to lead, organize and spearhead Africa Challenge. PRAY for workers with God's heart for Africa. With God's help, we can help stem the tide of AIDS and raise up a generation of militant lovers of Jesus who will lay down their lives to see Africa brought to the feet of Jesus.

7. We are yearning to see a army of 1000 church planters to go north from Cape Town into the unreached people's and Muslim areas of Africa, then further into the Middle East, Central Asia and North India. Pray for laborers.

Thank you!

With gratitude,

Floyd and Sally McClung

An All-too-Common Problem

When we were preparing to move here to South Africa, we talked about the problem of crime in the country. I wanted to work it through in my heart so that I was prepared for whatever we would face. If God was calling us here, I wanted to live in peace, not fear. I believe that everyone who follows Jesus should live where they live because they are called to be there. I believe we're all called "full time." Sadly, a lot of Jesus followers don't know that, or live that way. The sad result is they don't live like they are called, with a sense of destiny and passion. And of course, they don't have grace for what they do and where they live because they are doing it on their terms, not God's. I was determined to prepare my heart for our new location.

We talked about the fact that we would probably face a robbery or something worse someday. Unfortunately, it is all too common-place. It's rare to talk to anyone who hasn't been effected by crime in some way. Well, the anticipation is over. We've faced our first......and second experiences.

One of the crates containing some of the things we shipped over was broken into while in the locked customs warehouse, and boxes of our things were stolen. Very sad after making it half way around the world!

We also had a man attempt to break into the house where we were living with our friend. We were very suddenly woken up at 3 a.m. one night when a burglar was prying open a window and broke the glass on the window. Fortunately no one was hurt, and he ran away. After dealing with the police, etc. we were all awake for the rest of the night.....and slept lightly for many nights afterwards.

During the same few weeks, there was a shoot out at a grocery store nearby when some men tried to hold up an armored car picking up cash from the store. A coffee shop was held up the next night. A friend who had also just moved here had quite a few valuable items stolen by a workman in her home. It was not only a financial loss, but each piece was a symbol of a special time, season, place, event. Very sad for her!

Two guys on one of the visiting outreach teams were robbed at knife point and threatened one evening. They weren't hurt, but it was a frightening experience.

I'm sure all our guardian angels work overtime watching out for us here!!

The poorer people in the townships suffer even more. They face crime and risk to their lives daily. They live with the threat of danger and violence constantly.

It would be easy to become "accepting" of this problem - to see it as just a part of life here. I've instead been feeling the need to rally prayer support that the "stronghold" of this crime spirit would be broken and contained. And that faith for the country to be changed would invade the hearts of believers. I know we can't do that alone. We need hundreds, thousands! to do that. Would you join us in praying for this?

"One shall put a thousand to flight, and two put ten thousand to flight....." Deut. 32:30

By Sally McClung

A Memorial for Nkolo

The paragraphs below were written by Inesa, one of our team members. She wrote it as a memorial for Nkolo, who died a few days ago of AIDS.


A member of one of our short term outreach teams, Ella, has spent the last 3 weeks ministering at an AIDS hospice. She mostly spent time with 2 ladies. One was released today as she was better and her family was there to get her. The other lady came to faith in Jesus a few days ago. Ella went to read Psalm 27 to her and while she was reading the lady passed away. She was alone - there was no one to inform about her death.I was so touched by the fact that Our Father would not forsake her but would send her someone from afar to be with her in the last 3 weeks of her life. I have written a little " sketch" about this lady. I don't know her name so I have called her Nkolo. She died while listening to Ella read Psalm 27 to her...though she was alone she was not forgotten.

" My name is Nkolo, I have lived in the Cape all my life. My family has moved away and all those who were close to me are dead. I am 68 years old, ill and alone

Great Faith? Or Wishful Thinking?

When we moved to South Africa it seemed like a huge impossibility for us to buy a home. Many reasons - lack of funds, very high prices, not being able to get a mortgage (a "bond" in South Africa), etc. We looked at places to rent, but found that to be a very discouraging process. There were few places available, and the ones that were on the market were too small, too expensive, or too awful!

Through a series of God-ordained events, we found "our home." It's a house that had been on the market for quite a while, but because of it's different, not really South African style, had not sold. The owners had lowered the price considerably, but it was still too high for us.

At the counsel of a wonderful Christian realtor (the father of a young man in one of the All Nations house churches), we made a very low offer. Unbeknown to us, the owners had also received a full price offer, but they would have had to move out right away. They are retiring to England, and wanted a longer process for their move. We could continue house sitting/living with our friend Maureen, so that was fine with us to wait longer. They countered our offer with a price slightly higher than our low offer, and we had a deal. It was really quite remarkable. It all happened in 4 days.

Meanwhile, the dear realtor had investigated and found out we could get a mortgage on the type of visa we have, so things moved speedily ahead. The Lord wonderfully provided the down payment........and here we are now renovating and hoping to move in in a few weeks.

Early in the process, a missionary friend shared how the Lord had provided a home for her and her husband. They had been blessed in such a way that their home was paid for before they moved in! When I heard this, something stirred in my heart. I've felt an urgency to pray daily for a similar miracle for us - because that's what we would need......a "mighty miracle!"

There are days when I don't know if my heart is stirred with great faith or just wishful thinking - but I can't seem to get away from this impression in my spirit. I haven't been able to just shake it off.

So I'm wanting to ask if you would pray with me/us?! Maybe God has a "mighty miracle" to encourage us all! Whatever happens, we are so grateful for His guiding us, opening doors for us, providing for us in all the ways that have led us to this home in South Africa. As a 16 year old when I went on my first missions trip, I would never have dreamed of all that my life would have in store. God has been so good! How faithful He is!

"God gives.....a home to dwell in." Psalms 68:6

By Sally

A Day of Miracles

We've had some pretty big things we've been praying for recently - both personally and for our workers.  We've needed to see some "impossible" things happen!

A family has been making plans to come from Germany to join the ministry here.  Although the Home Affairs department in South Africa had granted their visa, the embassy in Berlin repeatedly refused to issue it.  The flight they were booked on was leaving in about 48 hours.  They needed a miracle!

A short term team was working in Masiphumele, one of the townships nearby.  In a split second, the bag with all their camera equipment and other valuables was stolen.  They needed a miracle to find the thief and retrieve their things before it was all sold to buy drugs.

We were scheduled to get the keys to our new home on July 1.  We've been anxious to take possession and do some renovation work before we move in.  We'll have been in "transition" for 15 months by the time we unpack our boxes.  I'm very ready to "settle."  Unfortunately, we've had a nation-wide strike of government workers going on for a number of weeks.  There was a backlog into May of transfer papers being processed.  The lawyer said it was absolutely, 100% impossible for the papers to be issued by July 1.  We needed a miracle!

We prayed, friends prayed and in a matter of hours we saw all 3 impossibilities become possible!

The family went personally to the embassy in Berlin, and, after much discussion, were issued their visas.  They were able to catch their plane as scheduled.

Some of the local young men found the robber and retrieved all the stolen items.  The thief had planned to sell the whole bag for 100 rand/$14!  It was a miracle that he hadn't already sold them, and that we found him!

Then the lawyer emailed and said she didn't know what happened, but our transfer papers were processed.  She was stunned!  They were still waiting for the ones from May to be processed, and ours went through!  It was an incredible miracle.

God had definitely been at work in answer to those prayers!  We won't soon forget our day of miracles!!

"It is time for the Lord to act."  Psalms 119:126

Reflecting on an interaction with a "Masi" Resident today…

A Reflection About an Interaction With a Resident of Masiphumelele, a A Community of Beautiful People We Seek to Serve - Written by a team member named Karen Strickland

"I've been living here on these wetlands for twelve years now. We have been forgotten and overlooked. People come in here and raise our hopes then we never see them again. More people come in later and the same thing happens. "

When I told her to not give up hope she agreed and then I told her that even if she feels that people have forgotten about them, God will never forget her. She agreed wholeheartedly with this. She said that us coming there today gave her hope again. I think the fact that we would even dare to walk the filthy, muddy maze was an indication to her that we cared enough to come and presence ourselves in their midst

Doing Church Differently

I have gone through a metamorphosis in my understanding of church in the last few years. The best way to illustrate the change in my understanding is to tell you about our involvement with Nash Sports Academy and the youth of Ocean View.

Nash and Joann Booysen are co-workers with us in Ocean View, a community of 35,000 people. Actually, the truth be told, we are working with Nash, not the other way around. Nash heads up a sports academy and Joann, his wife, leads a day care program. Their passion is reaching the children and youth of Ocean View.

Nash and Joann do church all week long. Nash and his assistants and the volunteers from All Nations who work with him coach thirteen sports teams. They mentor the young people, build friendships with them and visit them in their homes

George.....and friends!

George.....and friends!

I recently had quite a surprise when I looked outside on the living room deck and saw a large baboon walking along the railing. I had heard of "George," as he's called by everyone in the neighborhood, but this was my first time to "meet" him. Baboons normally move around in large groups called troops, but George had gotten into some kind of trouble and was dismissed from his troop. He now travels alone.

I called Floyd to come see George, and by this time Sossy, our dog, had spotted him too. She was barking furiously while pawing at the door trying to get outside. George just sat and looked at her while munching on berries he'd pulled off one of the bushes. He obviously didn't feel threatened at all by this barking house pet!

This week we were visited by the whole troop of baboons. Fortunately, at the house where we're living, all the doors and windows were closed. They only managed to get into the outside garbage can and scatter rubbish all over the yard and driveway.

But, later in the afternoon, they visited our team house! They walked right by one of the girls who was sleeping on the deck - and headed straight for the kitchen. They made quite a big mess while enjoying a container of homemade muesli. Then they headed for the guest apartment over the garage and caused more havoc there. They surprised a mother and her 4 children! The toddler spotted one of the baboons and said "doggy." The mom took the children and left.......while the baboons checked out the fridge. They ate 20 eggs!!

I love having guests and visitors, but I hope these "visitors" don't come back too often!

As I've said before, every day is an adventure when you live in Africa! You can never tell what might happen next.

"And God made.....everything that creeps upon the ground." Gen. 1:25

By Sally

Ministering Dignity - Holistic Spirituality

We're in a season of hosting a number of short term teams from overseas who are coming to minister here. We're often asked if groups of people coming into a new culture can really do much good in 2-3 weeks. We always say emphatically "yes!!" Recently we had a small example of what can be done.

We live near a wonderful HIV/Aids ministry/hospice called Living Hope. Some of the young ladies on one of the teams went to the hospice one day. They planned to give manicures and pedicures to all the women in the hospice.

They had noticed one lady in particular who was always quiet and withdrawn, always sad. After she'd received her manicure and pedicure, they were quite stunned to see her dancing around and quietly singing to herself. As they listened closely, they realized she was singing over and over - "today I'm a lady!"

If all of the teams came and only touched this one life - it would be so worth it! For a few hours/days, they ministered beauty and dignity to this suffering woman.

Some people define spiritual ministry as only taking place when someone is praying or preaching. We believe it's an act of worship to Jesus to serve those with AIDS and minister to the poor in whatever loving, serving, encouraging, or practical way we can.

"Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me." Matt. 25:40

By Sally

A Bible Study on Spiritual Authority

by Floyd McClung

Click here to download PDF

Introduction: This is a four-part study on the Biblical nature of authority as it relates to spiritual leadership:

  • A partial list of verses from the New Testament on the subject of authority
  • The meaning of the Greek word(s) for authority as used in the New Testament
  • Some comments on the nature of spiritual authority
  • The function of spiritual authority as it relates to elderships and leadership teams

I. A Partial List of Verses From the New Testament on the Subject of Authority

The following scriptures on authority use the word to mean the right and responsibility to exercise influence in people’s lives by virtue of godly character, experience, and fulfillment of a God-given calling or ministry:

Matt. 7:29 “... for He taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes."

Matt. 21:23 "When He entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as He was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’”

Matt. 28:18 "And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."

1 Cor. 9:8 "Do I say this on human authority? Does not the law also say the same?"

2 Cor. 10:8 "Now, even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it."

2 Cor. 11:17 "What I am saying in regard to this boastful confidence, I am saying not with the Lord’s authority, but as a fool;"

2 Cor. 13:10 "So I write these things while I am away from you, so that when I come, I may not have to be severe in using the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down."

1 Thess. 4:8 "Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you."

Titus 2:15 Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one look down on you."

1 Pet. 5:5 "In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

2 Pet. 2:10 "...especially those who indulge their flesh in depraved lust, and who despise authority. Bold and willful, they are not afraid to slander the glorious ones..."

3 John 9 "I have written something to the church; but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. "

Jude 8 "Yet in the same way these dreamers also defile the flesh, reject authority, and slander the glorious ones."

Rev. 11:3 "And I will grant my two witnesses authority to prophesy for one thousand two hundred sixty days, wearing sackcloth.”

Rev. 18:1 "After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority; and the earth was made bright with his splendor."

Rev. 20:4 "Then I saw thrones, and those seated on them were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God. They had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years."

II. The Meaning of the Greek Words For Authority as Used in the New Testament

"Authority" when used as a noun, comes from exousia, which is derived from the verb exesti, which means, "it is lawful." The most basic meaning of the word, then, means a derived or delegated right. It can also mean, depending on the context, permission to do something, liberty, the ability one has to perform or accomplish something, or the right to exercise power.

Other words that are translated "authority:"

  • Epitage - Injunction or commandment. See Titus 2:15
  • Huperoche - A projection of eminence, as a mountain peak, therefore, pre-eminence, superiority, or excellence. See I Timothy 2:2 translated, "high place" as of the position of magistrates. In I Corinthians 2:1 this word is translated "excellence" as in speech.
  • Dunastes - Close to dunamis, or power. Signifies dynasty, potentate, high and powerful officer. See Acts 8:27, Luke 1:52, I Timothy 6:15.
  • Authenteo - From auto (self) and hentes, probably signifying to authenticate. Thus, to exercise authority on one's own account, to domineer over. In earlier usage of this word it signified one who killed another person with their own hand, or who took their own life with their own hand. See I Timothy 2:12.

The word authority, when derived from exousia, emphasizes the right, more than the power, to do something. There are two basic forms of this right to exercise authority:

  • Intrinsic authority, which has to do with moral authority. This authority is derived from one's own person by virtue of the person's character.
  • Delegated authority, that is, authority given to a person from another source.

Since "there is no authority except from God" (Romans 13:1, speaking of the right of magistrates to exercise authority over others), we may deduct from this verse the principle that every kind of authority, other than God Himself, is derived or delegated authority, and therefore secondary to God. Even moral authority is derived from being created in God's image.

One other kind of authority that takes supremacy over human authority, is the Bible. Because it is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:20-21), it has divine authority. The Bible was given by God with the intention that we submit to it and obey it, not look to it as one more influence in our lives.

Christians have been given various kinds of authority. These include the authority of a believer to cast out demons (Mk. 3:15), the authority of parents to instruct their children and command their obedience (Eph. 6:1, 1 Tim. 3:4), and the authority of church leaders (see scriptures listed above).

Each kind of derived or delegated authority has certain conditions and qualifications in order for it to be exercised properly. The Scriptures are careful to distinguish between spiritual authority and the authority of magistrates. The authority that Paul speaks about in Romans 13 is the right and power to enforce obedience, but the authority Peter speaks about in 1 Peter 5 is the responsibility to serve God's people for God's purposes in God's ways.

Below is a list of scriptures that make it clear that spiritual leaders have been given authority to lead, albeit, with certain conditions and restrictions:

1 Pet. 5:1-5 Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it —not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away. In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

1Tim. 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching;

Titus 1:5 I left you behind in Crete for this reason, so that you should put in order what remained to be done, and should appoint elders in every town, as I directed you:

Acts 20:28-30 Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that He obtained with the blood of his own Son. I know that after I have gone, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Some even from your own group will come distorting the truth in order to entice the disciples to follow them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to warn everyone with tears.

1Thess. 5:12 But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labor among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you; esteem them very highly in love because of their work.

Heb. 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them… Let them do this with joy and not with sighing —for that would be harmful to you.

2 Tim. 4:1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.

2 Tim. 2:24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth

III. Some Comments on the Nature of Spiritual Authority

It is clear from these passages and from others that there is a delegated authority to those who are called and gifted by God to lead the church, but that authority can only be exercised properly to the degree there is derived authority to carry it out in a Christlike manner. In other words, spiritual authority is delegated by God, but derived through godliness.

So the real question on spiritual authority is not does it exist, but how is it to be exercised? That, in turn, depends on how one defines "spiritual authority." Jesus made it abundantly clear that what He meant by authority was influencing the flock through serving it. The only right use of spiritual authority is to serve others: "Let...he who governs be as one who serves" (Luke 22:26-27).

In this sense, authority is defined as the right to influence others. Jesus went to great lengths to re-define the meaning of that authority, both in word and deed. But how do we know if we are exercising spiritual authority in a Christlike way? The following seven tests may help:

  • Does it restrict or does it liberate?
  • Does it lead to conformity or does it promote creativity?
  • Does it bring dependence on man or on God?
  • Does it produce servility or servanthood?
  • Does it depend on law or grace?
  • Does it destroy or build a person's confidence?
  • Does it produce fear of touching God's anointed, or does it equip people to function with confidence in their gifts as priests and kings before God?

There are three dimensions of spiritual authority. By looking at the practical outworking of spiritual authority, we get a better feel of what authority is, and just as important, what it is not. Those three dimensions are:

• The mark of spiritual authority is Christlikeness. Spiritual authority is not taken, just offered. Once you try to force people to do or believe something, i.e. to enforce your right to influence them, you are no longer exercising spiritual authority, but operating in the flesh. Jesus came 2,000 years ago as a suffering servant. He came to win the hearts of people by serving them, and ultimately dying for them. Spiritual leaders in His church are commanded to do the same. Mark 9:35 “He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’”

Spiritual authority includes persuasion. Paul is a good example of someone who employed every means possible to convince the churches he planted to do what he felt was right. He pleaded, cajoled, warned, and pressured, all to touch the hearts of God's people and move them to obedience to the Lord. 2 Cor. 5:11 "Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others..."

• The mandate of spiritual authority is to lead. While I am concerned about the style of leadership, I want to be clear that it is leadership I am calling for. It is going in front. It is making decisions and persuading others to make decisions.

The exercise of spiritual authority differs according to the gifts a person has been given. The spiritual authority of a teacher flows from right use of the Scriptures to persuade and convince, whereas the prophet warns about sin in people's lives and reveals the heart of God. Apostolic authority is derived from the faith and vision one has of the glory of God among the Gentiles and one’s role as a spiritual parent to those who come to Christ through their ministry.

It is vital to note that when Paul appeals to his authority as an apostle in correcting the saints in Corinth and Galatia, he is not thinking institutionally or positionally, but relationally. The apostolic networks and chains of command we see in the body of Christ today tend to operate in a manner that is completely foreign to what Paul had in mind when he spoke of his apostolic authority. Paul appealed to his authority to see new Christians free from the control of false teachers, and to preserve the truth of gospel, not to establish a network of churches that reported to him at the top. He was concerned about the believers being brought under the influence of false doctrine. There is no scriptural evidence that Paul set up a movement of churches with himself in charge as the “ruling apostle”.

• The ministry of those given spiritual authority is three-fold:

a. Guard the flock:

• against wolves from within - Acts 20:28-30
• against false doctrine – 2 Timothy 4:1-5
• against deceivers - 2 John 7-11
• against those who cause divisions - Romans 16:17- 18, Titus 3:10
• against immorality - 1 Corinthians 5:9-13


b. Govern the flock:

• By tending the flock - 1Pet. 5:1-5 "Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it —not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock."

• By correcting the flock - 2 Tim. 2:24 "And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth"

• By bringing order to the flock - Titus 1:5 "I left you behind in Crete for this reason, so that you should put in order what remained to be done, and should appoint elders in every town, as I directed you”

I Timothy 3:15 You know how the church ought to conduct itself

• By making decisions that affect the flock - 1Tim. 5:17 "Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor..."

Acts 15:13-22 "James spoke up: brothers, listen to me, it is my judgment...then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided..."

c. Guide the flock.

• By teaching from the Word – 1 Timothy 4:11 "Command and teach these things"

2Tim. 4:1 "I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching."

John 3:34 "He whom God has sent speaks the words of God."

1Tim. 3:2 "Now an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach..."

• By equipping and preparing others for the work of ministry - 2Tim. 2:2 "And what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well."

Eph. 4:11 "The gifts He gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ..."

Eph. 4:12 "To prepare God's people for works of service."

• By imparting passion to others - Romans 15:20,30,16:26 "It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ is not known...I urge you, join me in my that all nations might believe and obey him - to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen."

Cynicism, disrespect and disorder characterize this present evil age. It is not surprising, therefore, to find within the church a hunger for fresh understanding concerning the nature of spiritual authority and obedience. Tom Marshall once said, “We live in freedom only within the constraints of divine order in all of our relationships.”

Some teachers and leaders in the Body of Christ so gravely misunderstand and misrepresent the issues of authority and obedience that we need to think very carefully about the Biblical issues and principles involved. In the flesh people seek to avoid personal responsibility, pushing the responsibility for decisions up to a leader. The leader, also in the flesh, is all too eager to take responsibility that is not his or hers to take.

The Bible makes it clear that obedience merely for the sake obedience is not necessarily good. We can obey evil as well as good; we can obey man when we ought to obey God. Obedience that produces conformity is not healthy. Obedience to gain acceptance feeds the flesh. It is therefore of great importance that we distinguish between true spiritual authority and the abuse of authority.

It was Tom Marshall that taught about three different kinds of authority and the obedience that is appropriate to each one:

1. Task authority

2. Teaching authority

3. Spiritual authority

Authority is to be exercised differently in each of these categories. Many of the problems in the church arise from using a type of authority and expecting a kind of response that is inappropriate to the situation.

Task authority is the simplest and easiest to understand. This kind of authority concerns a job that is to be done. A person is put in charge that gives assignments and direction; under him or her is a team whose responsibility it is to comply as promptly and efficiently as they can with the leader’s instructions. It may or may not be appropriate to be "creative," take individual ownership, or discuss the pros and cons of certain approaches to the tasks to be done.

In certain circumstances task authority is a legitimate and effective form of leadership. It turns a group of individuals into a single operating unit and allows work to be done efficiently. The New Testament uses the Greek word peitharcheo (to obey a chief or ruler) to describe the obedience that is appropriate in response to leaders in such situations (Titus 3:1). This word is also used to describe the kind of obedience we are to give to magistrates (Romans 13:1), and the obedience to God rather than man (Acts 5:29).

When we turn to teaching authority, the purpose is much more than simply accomplishing a task. It is not so much something that is to be done, but truth to be learned. What is of greatest importance is that the one learning has the opportunity to discover how to learn for himself, so that after he has learned he will no longer need detailed instructions. In these situations, unlike the task situation, questions and answers, reasons, explanations and dealing with objections and misunderstandings are all part of the learning process. Thus the Bible uses the Greek word peitho (to be persuaded) to describe the kind of obedience God is looking for. He wants obedience with understanding, from the heart. When the writer to the Hebrews says, "obey your leaders" (Hebrews 13:17), peitho is the word he uses.

Teaching authority is persuasion authority. We are to convince others by appealing to the Word, with the aim that the person being taught has revelation for him or herself of the truth being expounded. Paul said in 2 Cor. 5:11 "Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences."

Teaching authority in the church is often confused with task authority. The pastor or leader who balks at being asked such legitimate questions as "Why?" or "What for?" needs to understand the difference between the two types of authority and the obedience God expects to each. Applying task authority to teaching situations will not produce true learning; the believers will not really understand but just repeat a lesson or truth like a parrot.

A good teacher will never be content with rote learning; he understands the severe limitations on those who do not truly understand the truths being presented. Some of those being taught may not want to grapple with the truths of God's Word; others may not want to make the changes it demands in their lives, but we must not lapse into a task authority approach when teaching the Word of God. It may seem easier, but in the end it does not solve problems, it creates them.

When it comes to the exercise of spiritual authority, the aim again is different. The aim is not compliance or blind obedience, but motivation from one’s heart to take ownership of what God is doing or saying in a particular situation. The purpose of spiritual authority is to serve people, equip them, and influence them to become who God wants them to be.

The essence of Christian maturity is the free response of the will to truth and the will of God as one seeks for and receives revelation to his or her own heart. The witness of the truth to a person’s heart is vital. If I alter my behavior or try to develop my character for any other reason than a loving response to the conviction of the Holy Spirit in my heart, it is not obedience that is pleasing to God.

Thus, the word used for this type of obedience is different again; it is hupakouo, "to listen under." The hearing and obeying both come from under the surface, from deep within the heart. The spiritual leader may be a channel of God's Spirit motivating a person, but they are not the only channel, and they are not assigned by God to control what channels He uses in people’s lives.

Task authority and teaching authority can both be deadly if applied to a situation that calls for a person to seek for and find what God wants for themselves. The exercise of spiritual authority in relation to hupakouo obedience should be aimed at leading a person to self-discovery of the will of God. We should not order them as if it were a task they should do, nor should we spoon feed them as if they cannot study the Word or listen to the Spirit for themselves.

The right exercise of spiritual authority calls upon leaders in the church to trust the precious Holy Spirit to work in people's hearts. He is more committed to their obedience and growth than the leaders could ever be.

IV. The Practical Outworking of Spiritual Authority on Leadership Teams/Elderships

How does authority work on leadership teams, where there is a plurality of spiritual gifts? Because the nature of spiritual authority is to serve, it requires humility to recognize and receive what has been given by God to others, and receive those persons as gifts from the Lord. If God has given a person the spiritual gift of leadership, and if He calls him to give oversight to a leadership team/eldership, then it requires humility both in him to offer that gift, and in others to receive it. Authority, in that context, is the call of God to lead the team with the vision, wisdom, values, perspective, etc., that God has deposited in that person.

Authority is delegated to the person called to lead, and is derived through their obedience to God. By leading, the person who is the “senior amongst equals” is offering to serve others with the gifts God has given to them. Each person on an eldership has been given spiritual gifts that result in ministry to the body, and to the others on the eldership.

Each person on the eldership has something unique to contribute, each one has been gifted by God, and when He brings a group of people together, they are to honor those gifts and callings of their co-workers, and submit to them.

That includes the one chosen by God to be a senior amongst equals. God's normal pattern is to anoint one person to lead out, to be the senior on the team. That person plays the role of helmsman, like a captain on a ship. The analogy of a ship is a good one, because one person cannot single-handedly navigate, engineer, set the sails, and clean the decks for an entire ship. It requires a team effort. The role of each person is vital for the ship to be kept in tip-top condition and to reach its destination.

The role of the helmsman is an important one, but no more important than anyone else in terms of value or function. And though each person has equal value, not every person has equal responsibility or authority. It is the helmsman, the captain, who brings the crew together, makes sure each person on the crew is prepared to take up their responsibilities in sailing the ship, and helps chart the course they are to sail.

God has provided for this role in the church by giving some the gift of helmsman (sometimes translated leadership, or administrations). This gift is mentioned in 1 Cor. 12:28, and comes from the Greek word kubernesis, which literally means to steer or pilot. The same gift is referred to in Romans 12: 8. There Paul uses the word proistimi, which is translated as governorship, or oversight. It is translated in the English language as leadership.

As each person honors the gifts and callings of God in others, and is secure and clear about his or her role and calling, there will be unity. That unity in turn will flow out into the body and be a great source of inspiration to others to take up the place God has given them. As each person is functioning in his or her gifts, the body is joined together and grows into the likeness of Christ. Then the purposes of God for that fellowship of men and women are accomplished to the glory of God and the worship of His Son, Jesus, in the nations.


Copyright: Floyd McClung. July 4, 2007

Timothy and the Incarnational Principle

A few weeks ago and I wrote and told you that one of our workers, Timothy, was beaten by a gang of criminals. The bottom line is these guys are against what Timothy and our team is doing. We are seeking to plant a church in the heart of a very poor township called Masiphumelele.

The guys who attacked Timothy smashed a beer bottle in his face, beat him with their fists and kicked him when he was able to break through the circle they made around him and get away.

TimothyTimothy is doing well. There is a picture of Timothy to the left, holding one of the children of a couple on our team. Timothy has been a model and inspiration to our team of courage, faith and sacrifice. Timothy lives among the poor. He is a humble man. He lives by faith, loves people and has a great sense of humor. Timothy loves sports; he is discipling some guys he plays basketball with.

Timothy is an example of the incarnational vs attractional principle of missions that we try to follow. We believe as much as possible we should live and work among people, going to them and not expecting them to come to us. This is what Jesus did for us. He stepped into our world. He invites us to do the same for others: " the Father sent me, so I send you..."

There was power in the incarnation. There was no compromise in what Jesus did, but there was humility is coming close to people in their sin. The power of being with people, of simple friendship, is extraordinary. It touches us when we realize that Jesus enjoys being with us. It affirms us and adds great dignity and significance and hope to our lives. And we do the same for others when we are "incarnational" in our lifestyle.

But Jesus was on a mission. He had an agenda. God sent His son to save people from their sin. Hanging out for the sake of hanging out misses the point. God sends us just as certainly as He sent Jesus. We are to go to them, enjoy them, like them for the pure pleasure of enjoying who God has made them to be, but we are also to take Jesus with us into every conversation and every friendship.

Without knowing it, Timothy embodies the principle of incarnation. He is very holistic. He is fully human and at the same time fully dedicated to the purposes of God.

Please pray for Timothy. He is on the verge of a break through. The guys he is discipling are close to making commitments to Christ. A simple church is being formed through his involvement with them. When it happens, well, you can be sure I will let you know!