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Does pastoral authority supercede a father's authority?

Submitted: 7/21/2006
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Question: I'll prefix my questions with some background.... I am comfortable with 'in the pulpit' pastoral authority, because I believe in anointing and even though preaching rubs me the wrong way somedays, I know it is only the battle between the Spirit and the flesh, and I don't think I can say my pastor has ever been off in his preached message. He is always aligned with the Word. Addressing 'off the pulpit' pastoral authority, I struggle with the authority issue a little more. If I am a man led by God and not by my own desires,(though I am influenced by my own desires enough to know it is a struggle), but if I am led by God, is there a line that God draws for pastoral authority in the headship of family? What is it (hopefully show me some scripture)? I'll give you an example. As a father of five, four of whom are young adults (3 teens and a 20-year-old), my wife and I endeavor to keep them chaste, healthy, God serving young ladies and gentleman. Yet, at this time in their life, they are interested in developing relationships (healthy as far as we discern in most facets) with the opposite sex and they with them. My wife and I are trying to 'manage' this correctly in the Lord and teach the children to do the same. We did not come to the Lord until we passed this stage in life and struggle with the 'right' way to develop or not develop these relationships (time spent together, money spent on each other, cell phone use, etc.). Though we struggle, we believe we are at the cutting edge of the issue, have good ideas and are well informed on the subject of Christian dating and/or Christian no-dating philosophies. We believe in pastoral authority, but I have questions on how much authority a pastor or church organization should have as 'rule' by setting standards for youth interaction outside of church related functions versus advisement on how youth should behave. We have invited our pastor to help work these relationships out scriptually for the kids and this will of course effect other pastors churches and their youth. In fact, it already has affected the policies in our churches and new standards are in place. Three pastors have started to formulate standards for related youth interaction out of church sponsored activities. My main question is on pastoral authority but feel free to write back on as much as you want on dating philosophy as well! Do you think the flock should submit family matters as a matter of the body of Christ and be subject to standards under the concept of missing God's blessings if we don't submit to pastoral standards or conversely is there sovereign authority of the godly parent within their home who are trying to do what God is leading them to do for their house. Does a man of faith hold sovereign authority over his home under God?

Answer: We believe that a man is the sovereign head of his home under Jesus Christ. Pastoral leadership pertains to the assembly as a whole and stops at the front door of each member's house. This is not to say that pastoral leaders do not play a role in teaching and advising. But as the saying goes, 'Advice that is not asked for is butting in.'

We agree that pastoral leaders ought to provide wise guidelines for young people and encourage godly behavior in the strongest terms. But we do not see their role as including setting forth mandatory standards of conduct. That is what parents are supposed to do. How would pastors enforce their standards anyway? Parents can put children on restriction or assess other penalties. But what can pastors do? To our way of thinking, pastoral ministry depends entirely on voluntary cooperation.

Please see our article 'The Limits of Pastoral Authority' on Shelf 4 of the Apostolic Free Library.