Parker J. Palmer in his book The Courage to Teach talks about the authority of a teacher.
External tools of power have occasional utility in teaching, but they are no substitute for authority, the authority that comes from the teacher’s inner life. The clue is in the word itself, which has author at its core. Authority is granted to people who are perceived as authoring their own words, their own actions, their own lives, rather than playing a scripted role at great remove from their own hearts. When teachers depend on the coercive powers of law or technique, they have no authority at all.
Parker Palmer couldn’t be more right; authority, real authority, comes from what is already within the author. But let’s take this a step further. What is within every believer, guiding actions, lives and the very words they speak? If the “author” is led by the Spirit of Jesus, as they should be, the Spirit of Jesus is leading the believer, and he himself can become the author.
This is the secret of how Jesus leads a gathering of believers. Every believer has the Spirit of Jesus living within them. When they gather (the meaning of “ekklesia” the Greek word for church) Jesus is among them. This throws new light on Matt. 18:19-20: “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Of course he is with them. He is within every believer. Every time they gather they have access to his leadership, his authority, because he can guide every believer from the core of their spirit, and therefore he can guide every meeting of believers.
This in turn puts new light on I Cor. 14:26-32.
What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.
Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.
What is going on here is at once very supernatural, yet should be very normal. Jesus is leading a group of believers. He is doing this through the gifts of the Spirit; how he chooses to manifest himself in individual believers. What the church is doing is looking for, and discerning, the authority of Jesus as he manifest himself in different believers; sometimes through inspiring a song, other times through a prophecy, other times through teaching. In every manifestation they are asking themselves, is this coming from Jesus? Wise churches look for the authorship of Jesus in each instance; each individual contribution. In doing so, they allow Jesus to lead each and every church gathering.
- How is this different from humans leading from positions of power?
- Is this the first time you have thought of authority coming from the “author”?
- Have you ever been in a church meeting where Jesus is leading?
- Why isn’t this normal practice in churches nowadays?
- Does this seem impractical to you? Why?
 Parker J. Palmer, The Courage to Teach (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1998) p. 33.