Dear Brother KP,
Over the years while at GFA, I’ve been pondering some of weightier matters regarding Christian life and ministry. And all the more now, while I transition to the next phase of my life and seek the Lord’s direction. As you know, I never was able to talk with you about some of these issues, but I really think it would be to both of our benefit if you help me come to a correct understanding about one in particular.
One of the issues which I believe is at the heart of many of the misunderstandings at GFA is the issue of spiritual authority, and specifically who is a spiritual authority, and to what extent does their authority go. As you read this, please be gracious with me if I’ve misunderstood you because I honestly want to know what you believe about this.
Over your employees you certainly have the authority granted an employer. They must do as you say regarding their work, or you can fire them. If an employee in a workplace conscientiously objects to something his boss asks of him, it isn’t sin on his part. His employer does not have authority over his personal life. The employer’s authority is limited to the workplace, and is not binding – the employee can leave whenever they wish.
Can you show from scripture how you, as an employer and ministry leader, are specifically a spiritual authority over your employees, and have say in their personal lives and families? I’ve read your book and I don’t see a clear case that an employer or ministry leader has been granted spiritual authority in addition to their normal authority as an employer. I do agree with the book that we are to submit to the established authorities, in government (laws and officers of the law), church (elders) and family (husbands, parents) according to the domains of their authority. We are also to recognize that Christ is the head of all authority and as His children we are to submit to Him first and above all. When any authority would cause us to sin, by doing something we are convinced in our conscience in wrong, that is a line we are prohibited from crossing, for it would place them on a higher level than Christ. Instead we should seek wisdom on the matter and if we’re sure about it, we’re to respectfully decline to do it. For example it isn’t the government’s place to dictate how parents should teach their children. So when the government mandates that parents teach their children something, the parents may object to do it because it isn’t the government’s domain to dictate that. However, in respect of the government they may also do it as long as it isn’t sin for them to do so. It is still their choice. Based on the higher authority of Christ and His Word, they may not do anything the government tells them which would be sin.
My understanding is that you would consider it sin for your employees not to cede authority over their own lives to you in any respect you wish to exert it. This is based on a prayer meeting in which you said that if you asked an employee to move to Burma to do ministry there, that it would be sin for them to say “I’ll pray about that.” In other words you expect an absolute, without-question “yes” over this decision that would affect their entire personal life even beyond their occupation. If they would first pray about it, that would show that they consider it a possibility that God wants them to do something different than what you asked of them. Thus in your mind, God would never want them to consider this. This makes you infallible as your employees are concerned, and though you wouldn’t claim infallibility in an absolute sense, you would say that the employees are not going to be held accountable for a wrong decision if you asked them to make that decision and they followed you. Of course this again assumes that God expects employees of a para-church ministry (or even a church – or perhaps even a business run by a Christian) to unquestioningly follow their leader and abdicate their right to a say in the matter.
Along those lines it would seem to follow that you also expect all church congregants to do as their pastor says, even as regards their personal life, regardless of how well that pastor himself is following the Lord, since you would consider a church pastor just as high a spiritual authority as yourself, if not higher since you’re not the pastor of your employees.
This is only my understanding of your teaching on spiritual authority. Can you tell me where your understanding differs from mine, and how scripture defines your authority over your employees?
Again, please be gracious with me if I’ve misunderstood you because I honestly want to know what you believe about this. I do think it would be to both of our benefit if you help me come to a correct understanding about it.