The more I think about this, the more important this issues seems to be, yet I can’t remember anyone’s thoughts on it (apart from my own team).
If the NT has a place for people in authority in church, and calls on Christians to submit to those in authority over them (in the church), what is the grounds of that authority? How do people get in authority?
Let me suggest 3 ways that “could” happen…
1. Formally Appointed Authority
Paul tells Timothy to appoint elders. Churches should appoint leaders of groups and, I believe, projects (like in Acts 6). The church should submit to these leaders because they have been given a responsibility to teach/decide/plan/etc.
2. Informally Assumed Authority
This is when someone steps up into a gap where there is no existing authority, or the existing authority has left a gap in leadership. These are the people who see a need, whether a person or a tool, and begin to provide that need. It comes from a servant’s heart, wanting to help people. A basic example might be you arrive at church, and the guy appointed to run setup is sick, so you say, “ok everyone, lets do it like this”
3. Informally Offered Authority
This is when people in the congregation give respect and honour (aspects of authority) to someone who they think highly of; maybe someone older, or who has been in a position of teaching authority in the past. This person may not be seeking this authority, nor putting their hand up for it, but they get given if none the less.
So, think through your congregation. Who have you formally appointed to have authority? Who are the people who assume authority? Do you want those people to do that? How do you encourage/discourage it? Who gets given authority? Should they get it? They are potentially the most valuable and yet dangerous people to the kingdom.