Summary: In almost every church, someone eventually says "I am in Charge Here!" So - who is in charge in the church? Is it someone with a position of authority, or is it someone who has has a unique experience from God? Or could it be both?
OPEN: A young sentry was on guard duty for the 1st time, and he had orders not to admit any car unless it had a special identification seal on its bumper. About the middle of the night, an unmarked car approached his guard shack and the sentry stopped it. Inside, was a general and his driver.
When the Sentry advised them that he could not admit any car that didn’t have the special seal on it, the General became impatient and somewhat angry. Ignoring the sentry, the officer leaned forward and told his driver: “Don’t worry about it, just drive right on through.”
When the sentry heard this he looked into the back seat and politely said, “I’m sorry sir, but I’m new at this. Could you please tell me who I should shoot first - you or the driver?”
APPLY: Who should I listen to? Who has the authority to tell me what is right and what is wrong? In the story above, the sentry fully understood his responsibilities, but he was being sorely tested by a man of powerful rank and importance.
As far as the Sentry was concerned, he only had one authority - the authority of the person who gave him his orders. No one else was sufficiently important or powerful enough to override those instructions
I. There are times when people get worried about who is in charge in the Church
In some churches, the people in charge are those with positions of authority
Whether it is the Pope
Or a church hierarchy
Or church councils that have met down thru the ages to determine doctrine
Or Church Boards
There always seems to be someone who ends up saying “I’m in charge here!”
In other churches, the people with authority are the ones who have had “experiences” that intimate they have a special relationship with God
They’ll say things like “God told me to do this or that” (a couple weeks ago I encountered a man who used that very phrase several times throughout his conversation)
Or they’ll go beyond what God has said to them… they’ll tell you God has given a special message for you to them - “the Spirit gave me this message for you.”
Such people can be driven by the desire to have authority or influence in your life.
ILLUS: John Maxwell (a charismatic) tells of the time he encountered this in his church. There was a woman in the congregation who desperately wanted to sing. And she’d come up to him before the worship began and tell him that the Lord had told her she should give a special that morning. Maxwell, being a Charismatic couldn’t very well contradict her – and he let her sing.
Maxwell later commented “One thing I’m sure of – God never told that woman to sing – she was awful.”
But Sunday after Sunday, she’d approach him before the service and tell him God had told her to sing. And there didn’t seem to be a thing he could do about it… she was controlling him by claiming to have an “experience.”
Then, one Saturday night, as he was praying about this matter, a thought came to him. The next morning, when she approached him and told him “God has told me to give a special this morning,” he smiled back and said, “when God tells me to call you up to sing, you come on up.”
He said, “It’s the oddest thing… God never told me to have her come up again.”
So, there are people who try to exert authority by virtue of their position or their supposed experiences.
In fact, I even knew of one Elder that combined both of these. He believed that since he had the position of being the oldest elder in the church, he had ultimate say in what took place there
AND he had survived a life threatening experience (for which, to be fair, he gave God the glory) and he believed God had saved him so that he could lead in the church and guide its decisions. I loved this man dearly, but his intention to "rule" the church made him very difficult to deal with on occasion.
II. So… who is in charge in the church???
Who has the ultimate authority? – is it someone with authority or experience?
Well,… in case you had any doubts Paul tells the Colossians that...
There’s only one individual has the authority
There’s only one individual who has “the experience”
There’s only one individual who has the credentials required to make the ultimate decisions of what a church should do..and that’s Jesus Christ
Look at the text again with me - Colossians 1:15-18
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.