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Leadership reflections: Use authority with care

Leadership Reflections 007

Over the last few years we have all heard and processed news of leaders who have fallen short of the high standards that are laid out in the Bible. For many of us these instances have been upsetting, painful and heartbreaking. We share those feelings of pain at the abuse, ill treatment and hurt that has been experienced around the Church.

It’s caused Debby and me to reflect again, with some of our team, on the leadership lessons we can learn in this moment; lessons for our own churches and those across the wider Vineyard family here in the UK and Ireland. 

This series of Leadership Reflections contains some teaching and lessons which we have shared with Vineyard Senior Pastors over the last few years.  As we continue to listen and learn from this season, we wanted to open these resources up to anyone who would find them helpful by publishing them publicly.

Our prayer is that you might find these helpful and by the grace of God, together we can create churches that are safe, Kingdom-centred communities for us all to call home.    

John & Debby Wright

National Directors

Vineyard Churches UK & Ireland


Authority is a good thing commensurate with the responsibility we carry in church leadership. But as we have seen sometimes, that authority can be mishandled.

As Pastors, we need to be very aware that there are inevitable power dynamics at play. Our role may result in us being perceived to be more powerful when interacting with others. Mishandling this dynamic can result in hurt or coercion. We need to be aware of this possibility and to ask ourselves ‘How are we handling the authority which has been entrusted to us?’ 

Mishandling this dynamic can result in hurt or coercion.

Don’t resort to manipulation

People rightly submit to the authority of their leaders, but as Jesus said, far from lording it over others, we are to serve humbly. There is a danger that in order to get something done, even without realising it, there is a temptation to resort to manipulation. 

There are ways to get people to do things, through appropriate persuasion and vision casting, and there are inappropriate ways, through our use of words, applying pressure, and emotional manipulation, which can appear to get a similar result, but are ultimately a mis-use of the authority that God has given us.

Good fruit is not the same as getting results

It may be that your area of ministry seems to be thriving and your team is growing. There is evidently some good fruit there. But if people feel coerced in some way to serve, the fruit is not entirely positive. We need to be so aware of our influence, especially when asking people to join a team or serve in some way. 

The greater your responsibility and authority in leadership, the more your whisper can be heard as a shout. Your words carry more weight than you may think. We do well to be careful in our use of words and be aware of different ways they might be perceived depending on the type of authority that we carry.   

Your words carry more weight than you may think.

It’s great, for instance, to encourage people you lead to tell current stories of how the Lord has used them. But I have seen instances where that has been felt as excessive pressure, and people have exaggerated their stories in order to gain approval from the leader.

Navigating how we use the authority that God has given us is a true test of our character and our leadership. As leaders we need to be conscious of the power dynamics at play no matter what level of leadership we carry. That we are able to operate in the way that Jesus intended, as gentle kind shepherds of his precious church. 

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