5 Ways We Can Misuse Our Spiritual Authority

Have you ever wondered why God entrusted us with the potential for so much power?

I mean, really, think about that. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit (“you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” – Acts 1:8) to those who follow Him as a disciple!

The Holy Spirit is given to all believers, but why might that be different for leaders?

It’s because we’ve also been entrusted with organizational authority.

Human authority is typically granted by a church board or some formal structure that recognizes calling and gifts. This is in the natural realm.

God gives power through His Spirit. This is in the supernatural realm.

The combination of human authority and spiritual power is the foundation of spiritual leadership.

Those of us who lead have been trusted with two important elements; the responsibility to lead and the power of heaven to actually see life-changing, eternal results.

When we lead according to the will and purposes of God, it creates an extraordinary divine partnership.

So back to the opening question, why did God give us this power?

For the purpose of salvation for others and their maturing faith and our boldness, wisdom, challenge, and encouragement. Essentially, the ability to live a life that would not be possible without Him.

The power of God is for our benefit but not based on our agenda; it is for His will and His purpose.

That’s where this can become complicated. We are human. Therefore, we are not perfect. We have fears and insecurities that can lead to less-than-ideal leadership.

On occasion, when we are not at our best, we can misuse this incredible gift of supernatural power and therefore misuse the authority that has been entrusted to us.

Let’s take a look at some common ways this can happen with insights toward prevention.

5 ways that misuse your spiritual authority:

1) Believing you are the source of your authority

It never goes well when a kid on the playground announces (by their behavior) that he’s pretty much king of the hill. Today we call that a bully.

The same is true in leadership; it always works better when you are chosen, affirmed, and invited into leadership. In this case, a person or a group entrusts you with authority.

The authority we possess as leaders was never ours, it’s always transferred to us. It’s a matter of stewardship, not ownership or rights.

When we understand the source of our authority, gratitude comes more naturally, and it’s easier to surrender it when it’s time.

If we ever begin to think thoughts like, It’s “my church” or “my campus.” Or this is “my department, I started it and built it,” we have forgotten the source of our authority.

2) Hiding behind another leader’s authority

I’ve consulted in church environments where a staff member would name a more senior staff member’s name as the one responsible for an unpopular decision. Even going as far as saying (paraphrased), “I was against ‘them’ letting ‘John’ go, but what can I say?” When all along, they also wanted the dismissal of that particular staff member.

This is not only a misuse of authority (hiding behind it) but also a character issue.

Good leaders never hide behind the authority of another leader. Instead, they have the courage to own their convictions and the influence to lead in that direction.

When we are trusted with authority by God and man, we are expected to step up into that authority and use it. Furthermore, we are expected to use it wisely for the good of others and the glory of God.

3) Leading beyond your authority

There exists inside many leaders, potentially all of us, the temptation to lead beyond our stated authority.

This is different than taking the necessary initiative to solve problems and make things happen. It’s when we overstep into areas we were never asked to lead that it becomes a problem. It’s a fine line, but deep down, we know the difference between influence and interfering.

One good way to test this is to ask these questions:

  • Are you leading to make a contribution or attempting to control?
  • Are you tired and leading under sustained pressure?  
  • Are you attempting to effect change in an area you’ve been asked not to?

There is always a tension between taking initiative and leading beyond our scope. A good way to bridge the gap is to keep honest communication open and without repercussions.

4) Separating authority from responsibility

It’s a sign of healthy leadership if we first sense and embrace the weight of increasing responsibility more than the satisfaction of the increasing authority.

Jesus taught us that we should never use our authority to “lord it over” anyone.

25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Authority is good and needed, but not if embraced strictly in the realm of power. Jesus had all authority but submitted it to His Father in Heaven.

Jesus submitted His authority to the Kingdom purpose of His Father. Therefore, each of us must know who we submit to.

Good leaders use their spiritual authority to fulfill the responsibilities of their leadership, nothing more, nothing less.

5) Leading beyond your walk with God

God is the divine source of our spiritual authority, which He gives through the Holy Spirit.

Spiritual authority, however, is not a switch that God flips on or off. We have a part as well. For example, to consistently practice:

  • Humility
  • Surrender
  • Intimacy
  • Submission

For more in-depth on these five virtues, please see this post, “Five Steps on a Lifelong Path to Spiritual Authority

The point here is that it’s very difficult to live out the spiritual authority of God if you don’t live in the spiritual practices to remain close to God.

This does not suggest that perfect leadership is the goal; that’s unrealistic. But it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to lead from a sense of supernatural authority (the power of God) and not be in close communion with Him.

For example, how can we, with any spiritual authority, declare the power of prayer if we don’t live out the practice of prayer?

I pray this post is of great value to you and your team.

2 thoughts on “5 Ways We Can Misuse Our Spiritual Authority”

  1. Your articles help to strengthen my involvement as a spiritual leader. Thank you for your enlightened insights on walking as a leader after GOD’s own heart.

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