One significant responsibility every Christian has is to submit to the established spiritual authority that God has set over him or her. It’s a very simple recipe, if followed. However, one reason why so many bad things happen to so many Christians is that they don’t possess a biblical perspective or understanding of the purpose of spiritual leadership as God has established it in the church (Eph. 4:11; Heb. 13:17; 1 Tim. 5:17). Failure or refusal to follow, abide by, and live under a spiritual covering is why so many believers run into so much adversity, their lives altered, many are so easily defeated in life, and are unrecognizable as solid Christians. Integral spiritual leadership is a gift from God, just as natural, godly parents are a great gift and blessing to their children.
Every believer needs a pastor, a church home, and a spiritual covering in his or her life at every stage of spiritual development. Every believer also needs to purposely submit to their spiritual covering. You never outgrow the ministry gift of a pastor in your life; it doesn’t matter where you feel you are spiritually, where you think you are going, how spiritually equipped you are, or how deep you think you are. Every instruction the Lord gives us must match up with His Word. God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33) concerning His church or anything else.
Unarguably, many Christians would have been much better off if they had simply listened to the instructions from the Word of God that their pastor had given to them. Our consumer-driven society has drawn many Christians into becoming active consumers (shoppers and hoppers) of church, often by looking for a more relaxed, attractive, entertaining, and subjective Christian experience, without any strings attached. Much of the shopping and hopping eventually leads to dropping church altogether. Many run in and out of different churches and ministries as though churches are like fast-food restaurant chains; some people regard God’s leaders as disposable products. Some have personal, deviant agendas and motivations looking for platforms for spiritual stardom and popularity. Most, however, are unable to identify exactly what they are looking for. Even if they think they know, and even if it hits them right between the eyes, most are still not able to identify it, because they believe everything they hear—and nothing—all at the same time, while only obtaining bits and pieces. Paul the apostle, instructing young pastor Timothy, warned, “A time will come when people will not listen to accurate teachings. Instead, they will follow their own desires and surround themselves with teachers who tell them what they want to hear” (2 Tim. 4:3 GWT). The role of the church, along with the ministry of the pastor, is to turn “seekers” and “wannabes” into bona-fide disciples of Christ—it’s not about entertainment or constantly arousing excitement (Matt. 28:19).
A transit spirit of monolithic proportions has overtaken the body of Christ in recent years. If you don’t like something in a church or if you get tired of the spiritual leadership, though it may be sound, biblical, and morally good, then you criticize it, condemn it, and simply pick up your belongings and head down the street to the next church, where you repeat this vicious cycle of rebellion and destruction—and on and on it goes. Many have fallen into this tragic trap and have become spiritual vagabonds with no anchor, no spiritual roots, no real anointing, no identity, and no spiritual heritage. Sadly, many never recover from this chaotic pattern.
This is a great travesty, because most have placed themselves under their own spiritual authority, and have endangered themselves and others by their stubborn refusal to submit to the real spiritual authority that God has placed in His church. To their own great detriment, they are temperamentally unable to discipline their flesh, sit down, be still, and listen. They are notoriously negligent with their spiritual walk. This short-sighted and foolhardy behavior often leads to extensive, far-reaching, and long-term spiritual damage. Nothing good ever results from one’s biblical illiteracy, obstinate will, and reckless approach to faith—nothing at all. There can never be any lasting spiritual change, progression, or growth until we learn to surrender to the spiritual authority that God has placed over us. The purpose of spiritual authority is to guide us in our spiritual development in the Word of God, to help us to reach spiritual maturity, to lead us into service work in ministry, to unify the body of Christ, to set biblical standards, and to settle, encourage, and strengthen us in our life of faith (Eph. 4:12). In order for these things to take place, we must be submitted under the established spiritual-authority of the local church, not in isolation. Far too often, many weak and feeble believers remain immature and undeveloped or underdeveloped spiritually because they simply won’t listen, submit, and follow instructions. When you are truly submitted to the Lord, then you will be submitted to His Word; when you are submitted to His Word, you will be submitted under the spiritual authority that He has set before you. It’s not spiritual rocket science!
The successful path that God has laid out in the Scriptures is for all believers to be conscientious in submitting to all kinds of authority. Submission to legitimate authority is essential to a quality of life that is peaceable, attainable, and successful, whether it is the authority of the nuclear family, the authority in a marriage relationship, the authority that exists in societal governments, or any other authority in the kingdom of God. The path of submission to spiritual authority may not always be easiest thing to do for our flesh, but it is God’s way of bringing great dividends and benefits to those who will adhere to it, which will far outweigh the destructive forces that will certainly come for those who vigorously oppose it. The payback and rewards for godly submission and obedience will most certainly be tremendous!
TR Williams is a gifted lecturer, author, communicator, family counselor, and spiritual-life coach—30 years strong. He is the founder and president of Empower Life Inc.: a nonprofit whose aim and mission delivers a message of hope, empowerment, encouragement, and leadership to individuals who seek success and advancement in life. TR Williams holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications from North Central University in Minneapolis, Minnesota; a Master of Arts Degree in Organizational Leadership from Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota; and an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Humanities from St. Thomas College in Jacksonville, Florida. He has received numerous accolades and awards for his contributions on leadership development. TR Williams and his wife are the proud parents of three children.