“When Jesus finished saying these things the crowds were amazed at his teaching because he taught as one who had authority, not as their scribes.” Matthew 7:29
As we consider how Jesus led, this first blog in the series takes a look at Jesus as an individual. The scriptures tell us that he taught (one role of a leader) with authority and apparently that authority was very different from the manner in which the scribes taught. As we consider what this means for those entrusted with ecclesial leadership in the 21st century, what might we consider of this “authority?”
First a perspective from CoachNet:
To truly be a leader, there is an intangible at work, something that we can’t acquire for ourselves no matter how hard we seek after it. First a couple framing statements: a leader is someone who others follow and leaders are ultimately judged by the fruit their leadership produces. If these are true, the ultimate fruit that gets passed on to the people following a leader are kingdom things. Where do kingdom things come from? The Scripture is very clear that these originate with God. There’s something that starts with God, works through the leader and gets passed on to those who are following. Some Christian faith traditions call this spiritual authority, others have other names for it.
At its core, this authority is the intersection between calling and competency. One can lead without a calling, but it’s less effective. One can have a calling to lead and no competency, but again, this lowers effectiveness. You need both.
If you are reading this, chances are that you have been called to some form of leadership in a parish or diocese. You have been called by God to participate in the coming of God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Differentiating your authority from that of every baptized person who holds a piece of this kingly authority by virtue of baptism is the fact that you have been called by God to serve Christ’s Body, the Church. A piece of your authority then comes from this calling. This links you to the kind of authority Jesus had. One perspective on the scripture with which we began this blog is that it is THIS calling from God that separates Jesus’ authority from that of the scribes. There is something different when leadership flows from God’s call, God’s claim and God’s vision.
In the Roman Catholic Church, this calling from God is ratified by pastoral or episcopal appointment. That gives another level of authority, what is called conferred authority. The scribes in the scriptures had this kind of authority. Their listeners were able to differentiate between this alone and the authority with which Jesus taught. That is because he had a calling from God and a vision and mission. The vision: God’s kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven. The mission: to save the people from all that separates them from the ability to work with God in God’s great enterprise of restoration of the original order. Jesus led with this authority, and so can you!
Next up: Working out of this authority—taking our lead from Jesus.