I’ve heard way too many stories of church leaders who are clearly not walking out their leadership in a godly manner, yet for some reason the Christians in their church feel like they must continue to follow and obey that church leader. Why?
Why do people think this is what God intended? No where in Scripture does it says that we are to obey a leader who is leading us to do or commanding us to do evil or to do anything against what God defines as good. (Any leader is capable of taking and re-defining what is “good” themselves, hence the need to clarify the definition of what is good.)
I believe this belief that Christians must obey and not contradict or stand against church leadership, comes from several key verses that are utilized by ungodly leadership to try to falsely manipulate people into obeying them. Verses like Romans 13:1-2 “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.”
I mean, wow, that does sound scary accurate to the whole “obey no matter what” and “don’t interfere or try to change things” mentality, right along with the ominous warning of “or else you’ll be the one bringing judgment on yourself” warning attached. That is, until you keep reading.
Romans 13:3-4 “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.”
Oh, and let’s back up to the verse right before the comment “Let every soul be subject.” That’s right, what does the verse right before it say? Rom 12:21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
What are we to do? Romans 13:3-4 “Do what is good.” Rom 12:21 “Overcome evil with good.”
Who do we answer to? Romans 13:1-2 “There is no authority except from God.”
Ephesians 5:23 “Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body . . . the church is subject to Christ.”
Col 1:18 “And [Jesus Christ] is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
If what God says in the Bible differs from what your leader says, Biblically you are to obey and do what God says in His word not what the leader says. God is the authority and God has preeminence.
How do we know this is what this means? Act 5:29 “Peter and the other apostles answered and said [to the religious leaders]: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men’”
Challenge: Please do not think God has mandated you to follow ungodly leaders or obey them in their evil. If you are being told by a church leader that you must obey them even when what they say contradicts the Bible, it’s time for you to say as the apostles did, “I must obey God rather than you.”