Authority Unlimited

When we preach the message of Jesus, if some reject His message, then they are rejecting Jesus. We can't stretch that to mean that if our disciples reject our advice they are rejecting Jesus.

Touch not my anointed and do my prophets no harm!(Psalms 105:15 KJV)

Some discipleship groups interpret this verse to mean that we shouldn't question or say anything negative against our leaders. This interpretation squelches legitimate questions or complaints that might stop errors.

Leaders who adopt this slant on scripture become almost immune from accountability to their people. This is only one example of the ways in which abusive discipleship groups may use Bible verses. Passages are often taken out of context and their true meanings distorted; but these groups also correctly interpret many verses. That is why it is so difficult to see what they are doing.

Gilbert Trusty, a former pastor who used this passage to control his flock now explains...

This particular concept is so twisted, so groundless that it would be funny if it was not so sad. In context, in those verses (Psalms 105:915) (KJV) God is talking about the patriarchs, about how He protected them, about how He kept Abraham's life. The main thing the scripture was dealing with is when Abemelech took Sarah into his harem. God wanted Abraham to keep his wife. God was protecting Abraham because from him was going to come a nation and from that nation was going to come the Messiah.

Also John tells us that in the body of Christ we each have the anointing of God. (1 John 2:20-27) This anointing does not apply only to the man behind the pulpit; we each have the anointing of God. The Holy Spirit is available to every one of us. We can be filled as we open ourselves and yield to God. It's not just one man, or some church leaders on earth who God has set apart anointed. "Touch not my anointed" refers to all of us who are in the body of Christ.

Many times people forget that this scripture could never be used to mean that sheep should not question their leaders. A good leader should be honored and respected; but we are instructed (1 Thes. 5:21) to prove all things. First Tim 3:10 says that deacons must be proved. According to Revelations 2:2, even those who call themselves apostles should be tried. Jesus commends them because they tried those who called themselves apostles and found they were false. In abusive discipleship the mere fact that someone is a leader means that I should never say anything critical about that leader.

What a nice position! To be a leader when your flock feels that they can't be critical of you without going against God! But this is very dangerous for the flock.

The foundation of the discipleship movement is the authority of the discipler. What distinguishes discipleship relationships from the typical relationship between a pastor and the flock is that the discipler is granted a significantly greater authority to guide the directions and decisions of the disciple. Could this possibly be Biblical, that a young Christian lay person is granted power to oversee souls?

This heightened authority may be communicated directly to disciples through teaching, combined with an insistence that disciples be submissive, obedient, trusting and broken. Another way in which the excessive authority is indirectly communicated is by the way in which a leader exercises authority over the disciple. The church has always held that both the content of a leader's doctrine and the leader's behavior are important. (1 Tim. 3:113; Tit. 1:511; 1 Pet. 5:2,3)




What does the Bible say?

The more extreme controlling groups will stress one or more of these ideas to gain more control...

•Not only should you trust God but you need to trust your leaders also!

•Not only should you be loyal to God but you need to be loyal to your leaders!

•Not only should you have faith in God but you need to have faith in your leaders!

•Not only should you imitate Jesus but you need to imitate your leaders (without also teaching that it is the leaders' Christian virtues which are worthy of imitation.)

You don't find these ideas in the Bible, but if a group wants to gain nearly unlimited authority over people it is extremely important for that group to emphasize them. If your group only uses one of these ideas, it is time to recognize it and analyze how it is misused and what the Bible really teaches about it. Of course it is not wrong to have some trust, faith, or loyalty in your leadership. What is wrong is to teach that the Bible says this is expected of us. If your group labels people as sinners because they don't trust the leaders, don't have faith in them, don't have loyalty to them, or fail to imitate them: this is also contrary to scripture.

Non-controlling churches generally stick more closely to Scripture and only teach trusting in God, having faith in God, having loyalty to God and imitating the life and virtues of Jesus or the virtues of Jesus in men.

Chapter Review

Manipulative Groups Might...

•overstep the boundaries of Scripture when it comes to limiting leaders' guidance capacity
•twist verses like "Touch not my anointed" implying that we can't be critical of leaders without being critical of God
•stress trusting leaders, having faith in leaders, imitating leaders and being loyal to them
•grant disciplers (lay people) significantly greater authority to guide than Biblical standards permit
•at times claim that refusal to obey leaders' opinions in personal matters is sin
•allow leaders to exercise authority like high officials instead of being a servant to the their flock
•stress that leaders are servants but in practice allow leaders to force their opinions on members by threatening or actually carrying out public or private rebuke for differences of opinion
•not call attention to Scriptures saying that people were not always expected to obey their leaders
•imply, or even teach, that we should look on our discipler as the Apostles looked on Jesus
•classify almost all criticism of leaders as slanderous or malicious
•selectively focus on the idea that Jesus endured under abusive authority by being crucified; implying that we should obey even bad advice from leaders as that would prove our brokenness
•selectively focus on words or phrases and change their meanings; especially the words: obey, submit, dying to self, thus making it appear that a complete compliance to group leaders is what the Bible teaches
•denigrate any career other than full-time service to the church as serving God less than full-time ministry
•not teach that there is a distinction between back-biting, and legitimately criticizing leadership's actions
•not teach that the authority is in the message and not the messenger
•permit novices to oversee souls or promote novices to positions of leadership
•teach that Jesus poured himself into only 12 people
•not teach that there is a distinction between a leader's opinion or advice, and the Lord's Biblical commands
•not stress "Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind" (Romans 14:5)
•not stress Scriptures which describe how Jesus refused to obey authority
•not explain that the Greek word exousia was never used in reference to church leaders, except the Apostle
•not explain that only reasonable commands of leaders must be obeyed and that these must stay within scriptural boundaries
•impress that we need to be accountable to a discipler in every area of our life and not just in the area of Scripture
•claim that if advice from leaders doesn't contradict

Copyright 1996 Mary Alice Chrnalogar
At Twisted Scriptures