Biblical Pastoral Authority

Pastoral Authority

Heavy-handed, cult-like leaders abound in churches today. These types of leaders are in all sorts of churches—both small and large. Micromanagers of the flock and power-tripping Deacon and elder “boards” are not confined to corporate mega-churches. Pastoral authority has been abused and has overreached its God-given boundaries. But this top-down leadership, CEO mentality, bullying, and intimidation are not Jesus’ leadership style. Much of the problem is rooted in a misunderstanding of the nature and limits of pastoral authority.

Pastors and elders need a functional understanding of spiritual authority. A lack of clarity will make leading and following in the church more difficult. Authority is a precious gift from God intended for the church’s stability and direction.

A pastor who understands his authority is a blessing to the church because he operates within the boundaries of God’s written word, increases his people’s confidence in the Scripture, and honors the conscience and competence of spirit-filled people. The pastor who tries to wield an authority that belongs to Jesus alone is a pretender. He lays claims to a title, a power, and a crown that do not belong to him.

So, what are the nature and limits of pastoral authority? There’s not a single verse that explains everything. Still, by compilation and consolidation of the Bible’s teaching on authority, we can derive several principles that will help us define pastoral authority as the following:

A Delegated Authority

1 Peter 5:2 refers to the church as “the flock of God.” Jesus is called the head of the church (Eph 5:23) and the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). The church belongs to Christ. She is His unique possession. This alone should remind the pastor that he does not bear authority in the church. Why? Because Christ, and Christ alone, has that right.

The pastor holds an office like a steward. In ancient times, a steward was responsible for managing his lord’s estate, specifically when the lord was absent. The steward would delegate tasks to the other servants in the household, managing the lord’s financial accounts, and oversee the success of the lord’s estate.

This is the pastor’s authority. It is a delegated authority. While the Lord readies to return, the pastor is commissioned to faithfully steward the house of God so that it might be found ready for His coming.

Limited by Scripture
It is important to understand that no pastor has authority outside God’s Word. We can keep biblical, pastoral authority in check through the sound teaching and parameters outlined in the Word of God.

The preacher is called to interpret and proclaim Scripture with sympathy, compassion, and humility. But he also is charged to present biblical truth with authority, commanding God’s people to hear, believe, and obey God’s Word. The pastor must always know that what he proclaims is confined to the Word of God and not a preference-laced, selfish agenda. The only authority the pastor has is when he preaches the Word of God accurately in the Power of the Holy Spirit.

Christ-like in its Demeanor

In the Great Commission, Jesus said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” (Matt 28:18). John 3:36 tells us that under His authority, the one who believes the Son has eternal life. In Matthew 8:27 we see that “even the winds and sea obey him.” Undeniably, these verses testify to the unparalleled authority of Christ.

Yet what is so beautiful about Christ is that His matchless authority and His immeasurable compassion always go together. So, with our limited, delegated, biblically defined authority, how much more do we need the compassion of our master? Our Lord possessed all authority, and He came to serve and to lay His life down as a ransom for many (Matt 20:28). That kind of sacrifice reminds us that we are not CEOs.

Biblical authority is not just marked by correctness but by Christ-likeness. Luke 12:37 humbles me each time I read it: “Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.” Jesus embodies servitude, and it should shock us to think how we so often demand authority, respect, and obedience. Pastors are slaves, laying their lives down for the people of God—just like Jesus did.

A Plurality

Eldership in the New Testament is always plural (1 Tim 5:17; Titus 1:5; James 5:14; 1 Peter 5). Even the writings of Solomon in the Proverbs demonstrate the wisdom of leading in a plural system: “Where no counsel (guidance) is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” (Prov 11:14).

Elders are accountable to one another in church polity. This kind of plurality is rooted in the wisdom of God and acts as a guard against individual oversteps of authority. Where one man can go wrong, three might correct him.

Honoring to the Freedom of the Christian

Baptists in the old days called this the “soul competency” or the “freedom of conscience.” The idea is to trust the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit to illuminate, convict, and transform His people. John writes in John 17 that “God will sanctify his people.” God is at work in the people whom He regenerates.

That does not excuse human responsibility, but it should empower us not to micromanage people’s sanctification. If leaders are bossy, opinionated, and heavy-handed, so too will be their people. If you keep your preferences in their appropriate containers, your people will also learn to do that.

Honoring the Priesthood of all Believers

The pastor is not the mediator between God and man. Because of their position, pastors sometimes think they are in a place different than the people they minister to. That is not a biblical understanding of our position before Christ. There is only one head of the church, Jesus Christ.

The true picture in the New Testament is not that of a congregation under the authority of the preacher but of both preacher and congregation under the authority of God’s written Word. Remember, Pastor, you are a church member before you are a pastor.

Consistently Exemplary

1 Peter 5 and 1 Timothy 3 remind us that there are requirements to meet before you can be in leadership. Authoritarianism does not fit with a man who is to be gentle, blameless, and concerned for others. The pastor who leads as Christ has mandated models a consistent illustration of life under the subjugation of the Word of God.

Concerned with Obedience to God, Not the Pastor

Don’t be easily offended when someone doesn’t take your advice; you’re not a medieval monarch. John Owen wrote, “The authority of the pastor is in respect to their office only. If those who suppose themselves in office do teach and enjoin things that belong not onto their office, there is no obedience due unto them by virtue of this command.”

Owen is communicating here that the pastor’s authority is ministerial, not in every area of life. When a pastor departs from Scripture and wanders into opinion, there is neither obedience nor submission due unto him.

Guarding Against Abuses

None of us are perfect. But how you handle the times you overstep defines your progress in managing your pastoral authority in a way that honors God. Pastors, you can apologize; you can admit you are wrong. A pastor is not exempt from admitting his failures and repenting and is to lead in it.

Among the followers of Jesus, leadership is not a synonym for lordship. Our calling is to be servants, not bosses; slaves, not masters. Proper pastoral authority is shown not in power but love, not force but example, not coercion but reason. Leaders have power, but it is safe only for those who humble themselves to serve.


Soteriology 101

Soteriology is the doctrine of salvation. This an important for the church because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is essential to the salvation of lost souls. To preach the gospel, we must first know what the Gospel is.

The Gospel Explained

The Gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ, and it is the central message of the Christian faith. The word “gospel” comes from an Old English word meaning “good news” or “glad tidings.” In essence, the Gospel is the story of God’s love for humanity and His plan to save us from sin and death.

The Gospel is primarily conveyed in the New Testament of the Bible, and it centers around the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. According to the Gospel, God created humanity in His image and for a relationship with Him, but sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, and all of humanity has been affected by sin ever since.

However, God did not leave humanity to its own devices. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to take on human form and live a perfect life. Jesus’ teachings, miracles, and examples of sacrificial love for humanity demonstrated God’s love and mercy toward us. He then willingly died on the cross, taking upon Himself the punishment for the sins of humanity so that we could be forgiven and reconciled to God.

The Gospel message continues with the good news of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. By rising from the dead, Jesus conquered death and demonstrated His power and authority over sin and evil. This victory over death is available to all who believe in Jesus and follow Him as their Lord and Savior.

In summary, the Gospel is the good news of God’s love for humanity, demonstrated in Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. Through faith in Jesus, we can be forgiven of our sins and have eternal life with God.

How Does God Save Sinner?

This is the Gospel, and every child of God believes the Gospel. However, there are differing opinions about how God saves sinners. You may have heard of the debate between Arminianism and Calvinism, but what about Pelagianism, and Semi-Pelagianism? I am not interested in sparking a divisive debate. I want you about the various viewpoints that inform this debate. Let me share 4 stances on Soteriorlogy. The first 2 were declared heresy by early church councils, although these views are still held by many people. The last two are the most prominent views in the evangelical church.


Pelagianism is a Christian theological doctrine named after the British monk Pelagius (ca. 360–420). It is the belief that humans have the free will to choose their own actions and the responsibility to choose good actions over bad ones. According to this doctrine, divine grace is not necessary for salvation, and people are capable of achieving perfection through human effort. It is a form of semi-Pelagianism, which holds that people can initiate their own salvation through their own efforts but still need divine grace to be saved. Pelagianism is opposed to the doctrine of original sin, which holds that people are born sinful and in need of divine grace to be saved.


Semi-Pelagianism is a theological view that emerged in the early church as a compromise between two opposing theological positions, Pelagianism and Augustinianism.

Pelagianism was a teaching that denied the doctrine of original sin and claimed that humans are capable of living sinless lives and earning their salvation through their own efforts. This view was condemned as heretical by the Church.

On the other hand, Augustinianism emphasized the doctrine of original sin and the complete dependence of humans on God’s grace for salvation. According to this view, humans are incapable of doing anything to merit their salvation.

Semi-Pelagianism attempted to find a middle ground between these two views. It agreed with Augustinianism that humans are fallen and incapable of saving themselves, but it also argued that humans still have the ability to take the initiative to seek God’s grace and respond to it in faith.

In other words, while Semi-Pelagians affirmed that salvation is ultimately a work of God’s grace, they also held that humans play an active role in their salvation by responding to God’s grace with faith and good works. This view emphasized the cooperation between God’s grace and human free will in the process of salvation.

Semi-Pelagianism was also condemned as heretical by the Church, as it still placed too much emphasis on human effort in salvation and failed to fully acknowledge the depravity of human nature. However, the debate between the various views on salvation and the role of human free will in it has continued in Christian theology throughout the centuries.


Calvinism, also known as Reformed theology, is a theological system that takes its name from the French theologian John Calvin (1509-1564). It is a Protestant theological perspective that emphasizes the sovereignty of God in salvation and the idea of predestination, the belief that God has already chosen who will be saved and who will be damned.

Calvinism teaches that human beings are totally depraved and incapable of saving themselves. It emphasizes the absolute sovereignty of God, meaning that God is in complete control of all things, including human salvation. According to Calvinism, God has already chosen before the foundation of the world who will be saved and who will be damned, based solely on his own good pleasure and not on any merit or works of the individual.

Calvinists believe in the concept of “unconditional election,” which means that God’s choice to save a person is not based on any foreseen faith or good works, but is entirely based on God’s sovereign choice. Those who are chosen for salvation are called the “elect.”

Calvinists also believe in the concept of “limited atonement,” which means that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross was only intended to pay for the sins of the elect, and not for the sins of all humanity.

In addition, Calvinism teaches the doctrine of “irresistible grace,” which means that those who are chosen by God for salvation will inevitably come to faith in Christ and cannot resist God’s call to salvation.

Finally, Calvinism emphasizes the doctrine of “perseverance of the saints,” which means that those who are truly saved will continue in faith and good works until the end of their lives.

Overall, Calvinism is a theological system that emphasizes the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation, the concept of predestination, and the doctrines of unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints.


Arminianism is a theological system that takes its name from the Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609). It is a Protestant theological perspective that emphasizes the free will of human beings and the role of grace in salvation.

Arminianism arose as a response to the teachings of John Calvin and his followers, who emphasized the sovereignty of God in salvation and the idea of predestination, the belief that God has already chosen who will be saved and who will be damned. Arminius, on the other hand, rejected the idea of predestination and instead taught that God gives human beings the freedom to accept or reject his offer of salvation.

According to Arminianism, salvation is available to all human beings, but it is not forced upon anyone. God’s grace is available to everyone, and it is through the exercise of faith that a person can receive salvation. Arminians believe that God’s grace is resistible, meaning that human beings have the ability to reject it. They also reject the idea of “irresistible grace,” which is a central tenet of Calvinism.

Arminians also hold to the idea of “conditional election,” which means that God chooses to save those who choose to accept his offer of salvation. This stands in contrast to the Calvinist view of “unconditional election,” which holds that God chooses to save some people before they are even born.

Overall, Arminianism is a theological system that emphasizes human free will, the availability of God’s grace to all, and the idea that salvation is conditional upon a person’s faith in God.

There you have it. Four contrasting views about how salvation works. Neither definition is complete, and each of the 4 viewpoints contains many nuances I did not have time to explore. Changes are you fall into one of the above categories. Let me know what you think.

I’m Back

It’s been awhile since I posted on this blog. I suppose I was distracted by other things. But I am now back. I will be posting about preaching and theology in the coming days.

While you are here, allow me to direct you to The Preaching Matters Podcast. You can find the podcast just about everywhere you find podcasts.

Here is a link to the webpage:

Here is our Facebook page:

Our Twitter handle is: PreachingMa

Preaching Matters is a podcast devoted to the art and craft of sermon preparation amd preaching. Episode 53 dropped today.

Give us a listen, then leave a 5-star review where you get your ear candy. If you have questions or comments, you can e,ail me at If you have issues you would like to address in future episodes, please let me know. I’ll do my best to put your ideas into rotation, and I will give you credit for the suggestion.

Prayer For Kyler Glover

Please pray for a 15-year-old young man named Kyler Glover. Kyler suffered a broken leg a while back saving his sister from being hurt in a sledding incident. During a surgery to repair his leg, the surgeon severed two nerves in Kyler’s leg. After the surgery, Kyler developed compartmental syndrome, in which the muscles swell preventing blood flow into the leg. To treat his condition, Kyler underwent a fasciotomy. This procedure required his leg to be opened, and left open for two days. The fasciotomy was required to alleviate the pressure in Kyler’s leg.

After the fasciotomy, Kyler developed a condition known as complex regional pain syndrome. This condition causes Kyler to experience severe pain. Kyler can walk, but he is in constant, extreme pain.

Kyler and his family are in consultation with a surgeon in the Midwest. The surgeon believes she can help Kyler’s pain with a neurectomy, but there are no guarantees the surgery will be successful. It is also possible the surgery will leave Kyler with permanent drop foot.

Please pray for Kyler and his family. Kyler’s father Stephen Glover is Pastor of Vision Baptist Church in Mars Hill, NC. Kyler’s father Stephen, his mother Tracy, and his sisters Jada, Amberly, and Tamia would appreciate your prayers.


Thanks and God bless,

Life Lessons – Part 2

More important lessons I’ve learned.

7. The worst drivers are always other people.

8. Humanity has yet to devise a method of making yellow squash edible.

9. Bacon is the ultimate super food. It elevates everything it touches. For instance, a baked potato becomes an entrée when bacon arrives. What would a lettuce and tomato sandwich be with out bacon? An LT, that’s what! Who would eat that?

10. My old nature is a tremendous power for evil.

11. Elections, candidates, and Presidents come and go, but Jesus Christ is always on His throne, and He is always in control of everything. Everything!

12. Self-promotion is one of the surest paths to self-destruction. It’s in the Bible!

13. Not all preachers are, but they should be.

Life Lessons – Part 1

I have lived in this world 54 years. I have learned a few important lessons. I want to share a few of those lessons with you.

1. Legos can be used as a torture device. Don’t believe me? Scatter a few on the floor and then accidentally step on them, and you will see.

2. The words “seriously” and “really” should always be used properly. Seriously!

3. Squirrels like nuts. Who knew?

4. Pasteurized processed cheese food is not cheese. Since I support cheese rights, I refuse to eat food that belongs to cheese.

5. Men, your wife doesn’t want you to fix her problem. She wants just you to listen to her tell you how she feels.

6. Cats don’t have owners, they have staff.

Meeting at McDowell Church

I am preaching this week at McDowell Independent Presbyterian Church just outside of Morganton, NC. Brother Dennis Carswell is the Pastor. We had a great service last night. The Wards sang and I preached a little, the Lord moved and the people responded well. It was a good night. Pray for the meeting. We will continue through Thursday evening.

The Sermon Notebook and your Bible Software

The Sermon Notebook is available as an add on module in several Bible software programs. What follows is a list of the companies that publish The Sermon Notebook.

Wordsearch – Product information can be found here:

Biblesoft (PC Study Bible) – Product information can be found here:

Logos – Product information can be found here:  We are still in pre-publication at Logos. Spread the word and buy the product.

Accordance – Product information will follow soon. We just contracted with Accordance to make The Sermon Notebook available to Accordance users. When The Sermon Notebook is available in Accordance, I will post a linK.

Thank you all for your faithful support over the years. The Lord has been good to us!

The Sermon Notebook in Logos

The Sermon Notebook is now available on your Logos software. We are currently in pre-pub status. If you would like to add The Sermon Notebook to your Logos library, you can do so here: .

Thank you all for your support over the years. The fact that you use The Sermon Notebook to enhance your sermon preparation is a humbling thought for me. Please keep a watch on the website for new content. I am preparing to upload new sermons in the very near future.

A Kidney For Katie

Let me introduce you to Katie Bearden Chandler. Katie lives in Carrollton, GA with her husband Buck. Katie is the daughter of Dr. Doug Bearden and his wife Gail.

Many of you know brother Doug. Brother Doug has pastored for over 30 years in and around Carrollton, GA. He has been Pastor of Central Baptist Church in Carrolton for 27 years. His preaching, his fellowship, and his love for preachers have been a blessing to many of us for years. Some of you know Mrs. Gail. She is precious, committed, godly Pastor’s wife, mother, and grandmother.

While you may know Brother Doug and Mrs. Gail, some of you don’t know sister Katie. Katie is preparing for a kidney transplant. Right now Katie endures dialysis three times a week. A young lady from North Carolina has graciously offered Katie one of her kidneys. Her kidney is a perfect match to Katie. The surgical team is working with Katie and the kidney donor to prepare them for the upcoming surgery.

Katie needs at least $100,000.00 to offset the cost of surgery, and to meet the other financial needs that will arise. I am asking you to donate to help Katie meet this need so she can have her surgery.

There are several ways you can donate to help Katie get her new kidney.

1. You can go to any branch of BB&T Bank and make a deposit to her account. Tell the teller you want to make a deposit to Katie Chandler’s account.

2. You can send her a donation through PayPal using her email, which is

3. You can send her a check made out to Katie Bearden Chandler. Her address is 903 Hays Mill Road, Apt. 1304, Carrollton, GA 30117.

Please consider helping Katie. Most of us don’t possess the $100,000.00 she needs, but together, we can help Katie get the kidney she desperately needs. Your donation, of any amount, will be appreciated, and will make a difference in the life of Katie Chandler and her family.

Thank you for your help, and God bless you.

His by Grace,
Alan Carr