In recent decades many churches have moved from having the Scripture preached with authority to a watered down “talk” so committed to connection and amateurism that it completely lacks authority. While the “watery talk” may have proved ineffective in achieving anything other than a voluntary social club under the name of church, we need to think carefully about the authority that we have as a preacher. Again, reading Al Mohler’s, He Is Not Silent, I see a brief list worth mentioning for your thoughts.
Three forms of false authority of which we should beware:
1. Professional Authority. The task of preaching and teaching the Bible is not a professional task identifiable by degrees and letters after the name. While I would encourage many people to pursue the benefits of formal training, I never suggest that an academic qualification qualifies someone for ministry – the biblical standards are clearly spelled out, for example, in the Pastoral Epistles. Some churches despise formal training (often out of bad past experiences with apparently arrogant graduates, and often because of insecurity among the present leaders). Other churches simply ignore any higher qualification earned (which still seems a bit unfortunate considering what it takes to get through it!) On the other hand, some churches honor the degree as if it confers authority for ministry, which is missing the point of formal training. We don’t need to ignore or despise academic qualifications, but let’s not grant authority based on them either.
2. Positional Authority. Do you lead in the church based on your title? This is also a false authority. Positional titles in church hierarchies are not the source of authority in preaching. This can come from the leader, or from the people in the church overstating the importance of a position. Somehow some people derive security and even identity from revering the pastor, the minister, the vicar, the whatever. But this is not the source of authority in our preaching. Mohler points to Acts 17:11 and the noble Bereans’ response to the Apostle Paul – good example.
3. Personal Authority. This is the “small c” charismatic leader who influences by sheer force of personality. Many churches fall for this, or create it for themselves. Again, beware. This should not be the source of authority in preaching.
We should preach with authority. Not an authority based on professional qualifications, nor positional titles, nor personal charisma. We should preach with the authority of God’s Word well understood, well explained, and well applied. The authority is not in us, but it should shine through in our lives and our words.