A preacher’s guide to idols: authority

No genuine preaching is devoid of power and authority.

However it is possible for power to be abused.

The idol of authority is the second of twelve idols highlighted by Derek Tidball in his book, Preacher, keep yourself from idols.

There are three aspects to a preacher’s authority:

  1. The sermon is a declaration of the word of God.
  2. The anointing of the Holy Spirit whose work ‘lifts preaching out of the realm of ordinary public speaking or after-dinner entertainment and transforms it into an instrument by which spiritual business is transacted.’
  3. The preacher’s authority resides in Scripture. The call is to ‘preach the word.’

However, preachers can abuse the authority of their role:

  • By using the pulpit to preach at people who disagree with them.
  • By using the pulpit to be dogmatic over disputed issues (see Romans 14).
  • By going beyond what God has revealed.
  • By preaching as if every issue is of equal weight, failing to distinguish between what is critical and what is secondary.
  • By attempting to drive the church towards a particular vision or development plan which may ‘have more to do with management-speak than biblical truth.’
  • By beating up congregations who are judged not to be sufficiently supportive.
  • By pronouncing on detailed political or economic policy.
  • By using the pulpit to voice personal prejudices.

It all needs to be held in check by cultivating:

  • a right estimate of ourselves
  • a right understanding of our calling
  • a right understanding of authority
  • a right measure of power

Authority arises from a positive appreciation of the grace of God, not from the negative denunciation of others.

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