• Addicted to
Addicted to Authority
By June Narber
It is a difficult concept to accept in that people can become addicted to authority. However, it is possible looking at the example of the countless thousands of people who could not leave a church that changed the majority of its long held doctrinal stances, including the validity and authority of the Seventh Day Sabbath and the nature of the Godhead. Although several of the members of this church did accept the changes doctrinally, several hundred does not. Why did they not take a stand as did thousands of their spiritual brothers and sisters? These that took a stand left this religious organization, joining others, starting new ones, or choosing to fellowship in home fellowships in order to have the freedom to keep what they believe to be the truth of God. While looking at the original church, and subsequent splinter churches that evolved, we can see a reoccurring pattern in much of the membership. That problem is literally an addiction to authority. Both those in the position of authority and those under authority can become addicted to its power.
When people are under a strict hierarchy type of government for a long period of time, the ability to judge things for oneself and think independently becomes a difficult thing to do. Humans that are used to looking to a physical leader develop dependence upon that leader and spiritual organizational style, that to stray from it seems like a type of sin. Some of these kinds of churches prey upon the emotionalism of its lay people that bind them to that particular government structure. The reason for this includes the lust for money (tithe money and offerings) as well as the power trip involved for the leaders that control the entire “structure”. While in such a system, follows, those addicted to this type of government structure/authority in their lives often cannot verbally equate any fault to their leaders. If any one presents facts that would cast even the slightest shadow on the integrity, actions or personal leaders involved, the follower will defend them over any fact presented. Friendships and families have been broken up over loyalty to a physical man in charge. This reminds me of the Israelites we read about back in the time of Saul. They begged God to give them a physical leader. In so doing, they rejected God as their king and leader. There is a real danger in valuing any human leader to too much of a degree. In lifting up a man, the same man becomes an icon to the person who “lifts them up”. Most people in the faith who do this may not fully realize they do it. In many cases, these souls are actually falsely misled by the religious associations they are involved with to believe such things that the given leader is 1) annointed by God 2) has a special calling from God, making him the final word on all earthly matters pertaining to the Church 3) is actually a prophet of God or 4) Is the only “true” leader/minister of Jesus Christ left on earth at this present time.
In the most severe cases, the bubble will eventually burst. Such leaders that elevate themselves and encourage the lay people to do the same will eventually make human error. The most common of these include making false prophecies that do not come to pass, immediately pointing out that they do not have any “special insight” from God, or perhaps they will be caught in some scandle involving misuse of church money or some sexual exploit. Money and power go hand in hand.
What kind of people are most vulnerable to such situations? Anyone that allows a man to become more important of an authority in their spiritual life than Jesus Christ is. People are especially vulnerable to charismatic leaders during time of crisis in their lives or major life changes. Any one that believes only “they have the truth” have a potential of becoming a man follower, addicted to the authority over them.
What kind of churches are prone to have this kind of problem? Any church that promotes one primary man as THE leader or THE person we should look to. In churches where the ministry are set way up on a pedestal and given special privilege and respect by the lay people, more than the norm. There is a huge vacuum of power and equality in such churches and religious affiliations: the minister and a handful of men are at the top of the pyramid structure of the hierarchy system; followed by elders, and other “offices” and finally down to the weak lay person who is only encouraged to pay and pray. In such systems, the ministry often deny that lay people can have gives of the holy spirit, be it something as simple as wisdom, insight, or healing abilities. There is discouragement to read other churches’ publications or to attend fellowship with other sabbatarian groups. The whole issue can be boiled down to “power” over the personal actions of the lay people. The authority in a Christian’s life should be Jesus Christ and God the father and the word of God as found in the Holy Scriptures. Churches cannot act as a police force, or worse, as a dictatorship “lording over the people of God”. Without freedom of choice, how can people truly be free moral agencies? Part of the Christian growth process is growing in the character of God through trial and error, repentance and overcoming of faults. When one is addicted to authority, there is often more fear of being marked by their church leader or even being blackballed and put “out” of the church. This is still a common practice in many churches in order to keep the independent thinkers from getting the rest of the sheeples worked up and thinking about issues in front of them. If people became unhappy with the given leadership, they might stop paying money in to them and quit following them. The result of this is the decrease of power and privilege among the leaders. This is probably among their worse nightmares.
How can you tell if a leader is a threat to the spiritual growth of the brethren?
First, he or she will react violently or negatively if given any kind of criticism especially from a lay person. A truly converted servant of Jesus Christ is going to have deep humility and will welcome correction so that they might also individually grow. Second, they will be concerned about the individual welfare of each of the brethren in the church. They will personally get involved to help people when they see a real need, even the simplest of jobs like raking leaves, repairing a roof, grocery shopping or visiting someone in need. No job is beneath them; they seek out ways they can serve. Third, they will not accept an outrageous salary, realizing that this money is God’s money and better spent in promoting the gospel locally or elsewhere in the world or giving to the poor who truly have serious personal needs. It is not fair to set a maximum salary for a minister; but if someone is busy seven days a week, visiting the sick, doing church programs, bible studies, youth programs, single seminars, writing and delivering sermons, and serving in the community, they should receive a salary equivalent to a middle class salary. On average this can range from $32,000 to $40,000 a year in a larger city; perhaps less in a rural area where duties are less demanding. Many independent churches of God have a revolutionary idea in that their ministers receive NO salary; they give of their time on the sabbath and work full time jobs during the week to support their own families. This idea has a lot of potential. However, such outrageous salaries can be found among almost any television evangelist (non-sabbath keepers). These salaries often range from 100,000 clear up to a millioin dollars. How can these kind of salaries be justified when poor widows often give money to such churches out of their social security checks?
We must realize that God is in control; no minister has the power to condemn anyone to the Lake of Fire, the Tribulation, or even having the ability to judge the human heart. True fear of God would make a leader a very service oriented individual. All leaders in every kind of position must guard themselves against the corruption of power.
What can we do if we are addicted to authority? People who give themselves over to authoritarian leaders and groups later become disillusioned and end up mistrusting themselves. The first step is to realize that they have hero worshipped or elevated a man to a position that was wrong. Until they make this personal realization, it is impossible for a change to take place. Challenging individuals who are addicted to authority or authority figures is not always a good idea. The best hope is to ask pointed questions that might stir to action their reasoning skills. But if such a person is brainwashed, per se, to the point that they believe their leader can do no wrong, it will take a drastic awakening to bring them around. God will do this in his own good time. In the mean time the best we can do for them is to fast and pray that God will help them.
Why should we be concerned? True spiritual growth can only occur when individuals are able to think rationally and take responsibility for not only what they believe and what they do. In my former religious association, I recall often telling outsiders the reasons I could not do various things, and it was always along the lines, “My church won’t let me”.
While this was wrong, it was also very true. My church said I could not date non-baptized members; could not wear makeup; could not lead a band; could not seek to become an effective leader personality type because of my gender; and so on. In my heart, I did not think these things were wrong, but felt that since the church was “god’s true church” they must know something I did not know. Years later I learned the difference between church policy and doctrine. Doctrine can be backed up with the word of God. Policy is another issue altogether. It is often labeled the “church’s” decisions on issues that the Bible are not clear on, but are based upon similar themes the Bible is clear on. In the end, God judges me (and you) for what we do based upon what we understand and are committed of. Just because I did not do something because the church said so did not make me righteous in the eyes of God and Jesus Christ. However, the current time period is a new beginning. I make my decisions based upon my understanding of how God is working in this present time; what the Bible says; and what I believe is correct based upon this understanding of God’s law. I may make a lot of mistakes before I die; however I will also have learned many important lessons in not only the legal issues involved in being a Christian, but in the love and power of God’s grace and infinite kindness. Human authority is like a ball and chain, preventing spiritual and physical growth of those people who are mentally bound to this way of thinking. I have come up with a list of steps that might help people to be “UN-addicted to Authority”.
1) Realizing that God is working out a calling and work IN YOU individually.
2) Forgiveness of those in power who abused you; and also forgiveness of yourself for following a man instead of God.
3) Repentance before God of your faults; asking for strength and development of your discernment, wisdom, talents, and a place to use these talents.
4) More personal meditation; note taking from personal bible study and focus on develop YOUR talents, spiritual gifts, personal evangelism and acts of service to family, church, community and world.
5) Ask God for daily guidance; write a list of goals and traits you would like to develop in yourself to become a better christian, leader, and good decision maker.
6) Focus on extracurricular reading; world events; self-help books; and especially skills involving public speaking and writing. What better way that to be unaddicted to authority by realizing that YOU have authority over your own life. God can only work IN your life as YOU allow him to. Recall the scriptures that say “Choose this day blessing or cursing, life or death.
7) Realize that often we choose to wrestle against flesh and blood, Ephesians 6:12.
8) No one has authority or power over you unless you allow them to. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, unworthy, or just plain awkward, realize they might be in error and not you. Test the spirits; judge people and circumstance by their fruits. If there is no spiritual growth, realize that the leader is probably making some bad decisions and they are affecting the mentality, spirituality, and growth of the entire congregation.
9) Don’t be afraid to fellowship with different sabbath keeping groups, even if they are just from your own “church branch” of the Sabbatarian community.
10) Make an affirmation to change your life and decide what needs to be changed.
11) Make up a call to action plan of how you plan to change the things you decided needed changing.
12) Finally, make God and Christ your partners and step forth to put your plan to change plan into action. Rejoice that you have taken the courage to be responsible for your own actions. Be happy when you fall or make mistakes, realizing that through these YOU are able to grow.
Copyright © 2010 June Narber, All Rights Reserved.