Published on: Jun 3, 2009
For those who don’t me, I am a gymnastics coach who had been involved with both theater and gymnastics training. Consequently I fell in love with acrobatic gymnastics which is a very theatrical sport. I now own my own business which is a school in acrobatics as a medium for developing Christian community. Every summer I run a special circus program which extends the class curricula to include unicycling, juggling and group acrobatics. While assembling the pyramid routine that I would teach the children, the Lord dropped into my heart a message to them on the subject.
Order of Construction
Pyramids have to be built in a logical order. The larger athletes comprise the bases, the medium athletes are the middles and the smaller athletes are the tops. The bases form first, the middles mount second then the tops climb up last. Pyramids have to be dismantled in the logical order as well. The tops come off first, the middles come down second, then finally the bases can get up.
The bases are the first in building the pyramids and the last to leave the pyramids, whereas the tops are the last to mount the pyramid and the first to dismount the pyramids. Consequently, the bases are doing all the work, and endure the weight the longest. Furthermore, they are the only ones who really control the balance of the pyramids because they feel how the pyramids might tip and are in the position of being able to move the whole pyramid back into balance. The tops have no control of the middle or bases, although they can cause the pyramid to fall if they lose their balances. Neither are the tops bearing the burden of holding up any weight. Consequently, the bases are in charge of the pyramid.
True Spiritual Authority
This is a clear illustration of spiritual authority in the Kingdom of God. We have a natural tendency to project the world system upon our understanding of the Bible. In the world the person on top of the pyramid is in charge. This may be the CEO of a corporation or the pastor of the church businesses. He directs the middle management, or elders of the congregation, in what he wants to have the workforce, or congregation, to do.
Not so, in the organic body of Christ. In the context of forsaking all for Christ, Jesus said, “But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first” (Matt 19:30 KJV). I asked the children, “Who is at the bottom of everything? Who takes care of everyone? Who keeps everything in Creation running?” They knew the answer. God.
God is not on top of Creation, He is beneath it holding it all up. To draw close to God is to go to the bottom rung where the work is really done. True spiritual authority lives in those who are serving the needs of all that God brings to them.
Consider the apostolic authority of the Early Church. The apostles were the first to plant the churches. They stayed with the new believers until Christ was formed in them (Gal. 4:19). Then, when they knew that the believers were able to to hear God for themselves and to walk with the Lord on their own, they were the last to leave. All great projects are begun by the visionary who remains with the project until it is completed, then are the last to go. Paul said that he laid no other foundation but Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 3:11). Their authority resided in their being the ones who brought Christ to them and had taught them to know Christ for themselves.
The other workers who came after the apostles were like the middles and tops of the pyramid. They were building upon that which the apostle had already laid.
The Kingdom of God can be a bottom up authority unlike the world because of the omniscience of God. Humans are limited in their knowledge and abilities. A visionary for an enterprise tends to stand on the top of the pyramid and delegates authority because he sees the possibility, but may not have the ability or resources to make the project happen. It would be ridiculous to have the laborers who tighten the widgets to call the shots for the factory production, because they only see the widget not the whole factory. So it is common sense to have top down management in the world.
However, for the Body of Christ, God at the bottom knows everything that needs to be done to accomplish His will. Those who are close to Him do not need to see the big picture, although He may grant such visions. Rather, in the course of serving He will direct the believer in the joints and ligaments that connect the whole Body together.
Authority Over Satan
When one lives as Christ in serving others and denying self for the sake of others, then one also has the true spiritual authority over Satan that comes with our salvation. Satan knows those who function according to the world from those who live according to the Kingdom. Evil can not be overcome by evil. Evil is overcome by good. Satan will encourage our worldly understanding of authority because it leaves us still under his authority. But those who serve others as Christ will overcome Satan through good. Truth is self-sufficient and is independent of lies. Lies need Truth in order to exist. Likewise, Good is also independent of evil, yet evil can not exist without good. So, when Jesus told the Pharisees who accused Him of casting out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that a house divided can not stand (Matt. 12:25), He was stating that true spiritual authority comes from good overcoming evil. But as long as believers live like the world, they will lack real authority over the enemy.
This is why believers are confused about spiritual authority through the church business system. They see pastors sitting on top of the pyramid telling everyone what to do, which is the world system. They do not see pastors cleaning the toilets (although many do) or usher people in. What they see and are taught is that if they serve the pastor’s business they will be worked up the hierarchical ladder and some day get to sit on top, too. But that is the world, not the Kingdom. Because the Kingdom is not a hierarchical organization, but a living organism. The organic church participates in the organization, but is not the organization. In discussing this with someone, I made the point that organization is not our enemy, but is only a tool for our use. She replied, “Yes, because she is the Bride of Christ!” I said, “No, religious organizations are not the Bride, but the people are. We must not confuse the two as the same.”
True spiritual authority tends to be anonymous, not exalted with titles and positions. In my pyramid illustration, the bases get no recognition for the work they do, because everyone usually is looking at the person on top of the pyramid. Yet, without those bases, the top would have no glory.
Elijah came out of nowhere in the biblical narrative. After he slew the prophets of Baal and fled in fear from Jezebel, he cried that he alone was left of the prophets (1 Kings 19:10). But Yahweh responded,
Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him. (I King 19:18 KJV)
Seven thousand anonymous people who Elijah knew nothing about, just as no one knew anything about him before the Lord directed him to confront Ahab.
Who are these people today? They are your fellow members of the congregation, not the pastoral staff, or “elders” of the house church gatherings. How will you know them? By their fruit (Matt. 7:20). By the witness of the Spirit (Rom. 8:16). And by the results of their lifestyles (Heb. 13:7).
If one walks close to God and lives according to His way as a servant to others, spiritual authority is not forced upon others because the Holy Spirit will enforce His own authority. And that authority is not enforced by the ways of the world, but by the purity of God’s own heart.
Family Authority and the Body of Christ
I am convinced that the family is the organic church of God. Husbands and wives with their children comprise the primary ecclessia of God. In another article on this bottom up authority I used a tree as the illustration. God is the root of the tree, Christ is the trunk of the tree, fathers are the branches of the tree, wives are the flowers of the tree, and children are the fruit of the tree. Fathers are held up by Christ and God as they hold up their wives and children.
The Bible tells us that those who wish to oversee the people of God must be above reproach and husbands of one wife (1 Tim. 3:2) because if they can not manage their own families, how can they take care of the church of God (1 Tim. 3:5)?
The top down management mentality of the world has caused many men to run their homes as strict disciplinarians like corporate CEO’s. This is not the spirit of Christ. Husbands are told to lay down their lives for their wives as Christ died for the church (Eph. 5:25) for no man hates his own flesh but nourishes it and takes care of it (Eph. 5:29).
The bottom up way of Christ in managing our homes is to honor and respect our wives and children. To believe the best in them and have faith in their choices. It is to express appreciation for them, and to realize the gift and privilege that God has given us in our families. This is spiritual authority. Wives and children submit to love and affection. They recognize the genuine care and concern for their better health and welfare in them. There is no need for force.
I have found this to be true in my classes. The children obey my directives not because I command them but because they know I know what is best for them to learn gymnastics. I do not yell at them or get angry with them because they know my good intentions towards them. This is true spiritual authority.
So, when the Bible tells us who is qualified as overseers of the church of God, it is those who already love the people of God. Those who are passionate for their welfare, not their own exaltation. People are not blind. They can see who actually cares about them, and those who are using them.
When blindness does come upon them it is because of the brain washing from the pulpit that confuses them with the top down management of the world system. But in their hearts they all know that something is wrong. In their hearts they know that true spiritual authority comes from the bottom up.