“Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourself with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:1-5 NASB

Positional Authority is the kind of authority we are all used to and usually want to have. It is the roles and privileges given to those who are ‘in charge’, the ‘big’ person, the ones that others follow. We are all familiar with Positional Authority for it is the authority we most easily recognize.

When we are given a title, position and responsibility we have positional authority. As human beings we tend to feel good when given positions. Yet, positional authority is NOT spiritual authority. And it is not our natural authority either. In fact, leadership experts say that positional authority is the lowest form of leadership. When others follow us because they have to, because we have the position, this is not the highest kind of authority, but in fact the lowest.

John Maxwell in his book The Five Levels of Leadership describes positional leadership this way,

“Positional leadership is the lowest level of leadership – the entry level. People who make it only to Level 1 may be bosses, but they are never leaders. They have subordinates, not team members. They rely on regulations, policies, and organizational charts to control their people. Their people will only follow them within the stated boundaries of their authority. Position is the only level that does not require ability and effort to achieve. Anyone can be appointed to a position. This means that position is a fine starting point, but every leader should aspire to grow beyond Level 1.”

We see the 5 Levels of Leadership listed below and in the diagram:

5. Pinnacle – respect
people follow because of who you are and what you represent

4. People Development – reproduction
people follow because of what you have done for them

3. Production – results
people follow because of what you have done for the organization

2. Permission – relationships
people follow you because they want to

1. Position – rights
people follow you because they have to

Because positional authority is so easy to attain and yet so low in skill we can manipulate it into something quite damaging for those we are leading. Because we are often insecure in ourselves and the Lord, we can turn position into something that builds us up while tearing others down. This is not what God intended in positional authority.

Positional authority is:

  • in our homes as parents
  • in our work places as service providers
  • in our businesses as owners
  • as our jobs as managers
  • in our churches as pastors and leaders

Let’s take a look at the pitfalls and the true sense of what having a position is all about.

At its core, positional authority is to be taken on as a trust, an honoring, a building, and a stewardship of all of creation. Within the Kingdom of God and as stewards of The King we are entrusted with the people of God.

Consider the following passage. While we traditionally understand that this passage is speaking about money, imagine that the ‘talents’ are in fact the gifting and anointing of people,

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.

Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” Matthew 25:14-21 ESV

If we read the parable of the talents as a parable about leaders with people, we begin to see that we are corporate stewards of gifting and anointing, that within the body of Christ we are to create safe environments in order for each person to discover and know their own response to the Lord. We are to be developers of people (which is #4 leadership on John Maxwell’s scale of leadership levels); we don’t allow the gifting and anointing of people to stay buried and undeveloped.

Great leaders encourage, empower, and equip others to enter into their best. Allowing and encouraging people to produce their best brings about legacy and impact that otherwise would not be. People make a difference. And in positional authority it is our privilege to make a difference in other’s lives, that they might excel.

We build others by serving them. By honoring the hearts of others we build them up. In respect of the hearts of people, we reveal our respect for the heart of God. Matthew 25:40
There must come the fearful realization that:

People are the expression of God’s glory. Genesis 1:7
Every time we are with another person that we are on holy ground. Genesis 5:1
The callings and the anointing of each life have nothing to do with you or I. Romans 14:12
We are called to equip God’s people to do the work of the Lord. Ephesians 4:11-12

The most dangerous thinking in positional authority is the belief that we own the people under us and that it is our job to micromanage, to allow or not allow, to restrict or to release others according to our thinking and understanding. Yet, when we take leadership to mean that we are the boss of them and their lives, we have stepped over a line that we are never meant to cross.

How many leaders are hiding away the people of God and keeping them from the fullness of the Kingdom of God through their lives? Have we been teaching them how to pray, how to preach, how to share their testimony, how to heal the sick, how to lead others to Christ?

“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. THEIR RESPONSIBILITY IS TO EQUIP GOD’S PEOPLE TO DO HIS WORK AND BULID UP THE CHURCH, THE BODY OF CHRIST.” Ephesians 4:11-12 NLT (emphasis is mine)

Consider this passage, “So I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You, wicked and slothful servant.'” Matthew 25:25-26a ESV

It is a difficult line to walk, the place of taking on the stewardship of God’s people, without taking on the ownership of God’s people. Being in positional leadership and making it something that keeps others low so that we can be big is an injustice in the body of Christ. People simply do not belong to us, we are not God in their lives, and we dare not mismanage them.

Mismanagement happens when we have positional power but not any real influence, no real relationship from which to lead. When this happens, leaders will bully their ideas onto others and people get hurt. When leadership turns into force, we are not leading.

Positional authority turned into force is not the heart or way of God. Because we can so easily mismanage people, positional authority is prone to all sorts of abuses and manipulations. Sometimes we do not even recognize the abuse. Authority gone bad can be summed up as one or more forms of bullying, abuse or cult behaviour.

Positional authority gone bad shows up in churches this way:

  • power base for control, ‘I’m the boss’ thinking
  • uses guilt, fear, and intimidation to make people do what we want
  • focuses on themes of submission, obedience and loyalty
  • discipline that involves ridicule and humiliation
  • a learned helplessness is taught to people
  • legalistic thinking, focussed on the letter of the law
  • keeping others isolated from support systems
  • anyone outside the group is denounced, ridiculed, and belittled
  • ‘this way is the only way’ kind of thinking


If we believe God to be mean and angry, capricious, volatile, fatalistic and retributive we will not be able to really understand or live the true heart of God. If we believe that God micro-manages people, puts them down, and keeps them in their places in shame, then we will treat people that way too.

Believing and acting in these ways we will not be able to accurately express or live the generous, compassionate, gentle nature of God. It is therefore important to identify the false beliefs we have about God and about authority in general.

In contrast to using, abusing, and mismanaging people, the real picture of positional authority is that of stewardship in service to people. Positional leadership is to be about nurture and care and growth and expansion and ‘how might we risk together’ to accomplish what the Lord is asking of us.

We do this by looking at what is true about God:

God loves us so very much. 1 John 3:1
God is extravagant with grace. Ephesians 1:6-8
God makes us to stand. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22
God can be trusted. Hebrews 10:23
We have been made new by Him. Romans 6:6
We are chosen by God. Ephesians 1:4
We are blameless in his sight. Colossians 1:22
What is Gods is ours. Romans 8:16-17
God is not keeping track. Hebrews 10:17
God doesn’t have a problem with our struggles and pains. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
We don’t need to improve on what God has done. Colossians 2:10
God saves us completely & Jesus defends us. Hebrews 7:25
Jesus advocates for us. 1 John 2:1

This list and the accompanying verses reveal to us a much different kind of God than many have been taught to believe. Many of us have been deeply hurt by people in positions of authority and abused and misused by leaders throughout our lives. This greatly adds to our misunderstanding of positional authority.

As positional leaders we are simply witnesses to the movement of God through other’s lives. This is a holy place and should be respected as such. When we mismanage people, we mismanage the primary loves of The King. Quite simply, before we are entrusted with Spiritual Authority God wants to know if he can trust us with his people.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 ESV

APPLICATION

As leaders it is important to maintain regular ‘housekeeping’ of our leadership, keeping things right with those we are working alongside and the relationships we are in, we call this keeping short accounts. Mark 10:42-45

Just as a house can be in disrepair if not attended to, so too can our relationships. Proverbs 10:9
A good habit for all leaders is to keep short accounts at all times. This means that any conflict that has not been worked out, any conversations uncompleted, any bad feelings, any apologies that need to be made, any difficulties that need to be addressed, we deliberately attend to these.  Ephesians 4:32

Keeping short accounts is the care taken to go back to the people around us, one by one to apologize for any abuses or mean spirited words or actions we may have taken against them. Keeping short accounts is humbly asking others if there is anything we have done to offend them.

It is paying attention to our conscience by which the Holy Spirit alerts us to where we have offended others or have broken relationship with them in some way. Isaiah 30:21

Keeping short accounts are the good habits of leaders to ensure that we are honouring others, keeping relationships strong and right, even in the midst of the many things we may be doing. Keeping short accounts is doing all we can do to ensure that we are at peace with others and them with us.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Romans 12:18 ESV

*Read all of Romans Chapter 12

We act this way first and foremost with our spouse, then our family, then our team, and finally the congregations and faith communities we are leading. We keep short accounts with those we are serving and finally to anyone on the fringes and to whom the Lord alerts us. Philippians 2:3

Keeping short accounts is not about fixing every thing per se, as there are many things that cannot be fixed, rather keeping short accounts keeps us as leaders responsible, trustworthy to ourselves and the Lord and others and bring resolution, forgiveness and understanding where possible — we stay in integrity regarding the promise we made to lead well and in true service to others. Mark 10:42-45

At the end of the day we want to say, despite any difficulties, that we did all we could to ensure good outcomes. Keeping short accounts is one way that we do this.

I suggest that a rhythm of short accounts be kept. That while we operate from a commitment of keeping short accounts at all times, that once every three to five months we seriously and intentionally attend to anything amiss among our families, organizations, and ministries.

Take a week or two to engage conversations, to make phone calls, to ask relevant questions of those you work alongside; doing this you will find out what can be done differently and better going forward. You will then have opportunity to take full responsibility for what has not gone well and as you address these things you show your true strength as a leader.

This work is courageous work. We ask for feedback from those closest to us so that we can become better leaders. 40


Questions – To ask ourselves:

  • Who have I insulted in the last three months?
  • Have I undermined anyone’s authority? 41
  • Did I deceive anyone recently?
  • What are the problems at this time and have we talked these through to solutions?
  • Are there any bad feelings not resolved?
  • Have I said the hard things I am afraid to say?
  • Have I apologized for my errors?

Keeping short accounts is hard work. It is vulnerable work. It is tenacious work.

Because it is hard work, and because our emotions can derail our best efforts and intentions it is important to think through and make note of the conversations we need to have beforehand.

Asking questions of ourselves, taking the time to actually write down our answers and our plan helps to ensure that we keep short accounts in a manner worthy of our calling. Luke 6:31

Here is what I want you to do with this:

  1. Get pen and paper and sit down with yourself and the Lord –make the time.
  2. Invite the Holy Spirit to guide your thinking, “Lord I invite you to bring to mind any relationships, situations, difficulties, that I need to address.”
  3. As God brings to mind different people and situations, make your notes and a plan to attend to what the Lord is revealing to you.

Pray through and think about each conversation you need to have. Become clear about the purpose of each conversation. In each instance what is it exactly that you want to come away with?

Lastly, before any short account conversation bring any bitterness or anger or unforgiveness to the Lord.

Going into any conversation angry and bitter will not make things better, and the goal is to make things better, not worse. 1 John 1:9

Accountability – Let someone know:

Work with your leader, allowing them to help guide you as you take on these conversations and as you learn to keep short accounts.

And as you have your conversations with others keep track of what worked well and what didn’t work well. Be a learner so that you will continue to grow as a leader. Proverbs 1:5

PRAYER

“Dear God, thank-you for the position within the body of Christ that you have given me. I receive it with thanksgiving. I ask your full provision of wisdom and perseverance and courage as I care for your people. May I not abuse or manipulate or use these your people for my own gain.

Give me a true servants heart, increase my love, and show me how to honor you and the body of Christ. I confess that I need your help each and every day. It is your wisdom and insight, direction and leading that I require. I invite your presence and the power of the Holy Spirit into my leading each and every day. Help me in my every day, I ask your blessing through me, that others might be impacted for your glory and honor and their delight. I commit myself to you again this day, in the name and the blood of my Lord Jesus Christ. Amen”

SUMMARY – POSITIONAL AUTHORITY

Positional authority is a trust given us by God, a stewardship of his people. Ephesians 6:4

People are one expression of God’s glory and we therefore treat and honor them with great care. Genesis 2:7

Guilt, fear, intimidation, control, and more, are not the kind of authority that honors people. Titus 3:2

As leaders we must be before the cross of Christ daily, always acknowledging our need of the Lord. Psalm 91:1-2

______________________________

39 source for text and image: http://www.johnmaxwell.com/blog/the-5-levels-of-leadership
40 When you ask people for their perspective of you, make a point of listening to what they have to say. Just listen, this is all you must do. Give no excuses, make no argument, give no defence. This is very important, for if you make arguments, excuse and defence, you will discredit yourself. You will make yourself weak and you will not be trustworthy to receive feedback in the future. You will be cut off from your best sources of feedback and information about yourself.There is no way to grow in leadership unless you are open to hearing about your faults and failures. How you impact people is important and so it is important to hear from the people you are impacting.
41 To undermine someone is to remove from another the power or the authority to make something happen. Mismanagement is common in this way, it is where a leader gives someone responsibility for something but without the authority to make decisions about how to follow through and carry out the task to successful completion.Bad management doesn’t allow others their expertise or perspective to be used and it does not allow mistakes by which we all grow and learn.

=> Next is some encouragement in our lesson Redeemed

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