What is Spiritual Authority?

Much has been written on authority and how it relates to leadership. In the last few decades we’ve witnessed time and again a general lack of respect for authority and the crumbling of structures in which these authorities have operated. We’ve also generally been taught that those who reject authority are under condemnation. But is it also possible that those who claim authority are actually not “in authority” at all? And if that is the case should one seek out another spiritual authority?

Just last week I came across Watchman Nee’s Ten Commandments of Spiritual Authority. As a student of leadership I found his insights fascinating. I’ll make comments after each one.

1. One who learns spiritual authority as the power base for ministry must recognize the essential Source of all authority: God.

While many rely on their position granted to them by another human being, true spiritual authority can only stem from God. Positional leadership will always be limited in its power; people ultimately respect and follow the influence of one who is anointed with authority from above.

2. God’s delegated authority does not belong to the person exercising it – that person is just a channel.

Perhaps Andy Stanley says it best when expounding on a passage repeated four times in the book of Daniel (4:17, 4:25, 4:32, 5:21): “Leadership is a stewardship, it is temporary, and you’re accountable.” Nebuchadnezzar learned it the hard way but at least he “got it”! A later king—Belshazzar—treated his predecessor’s most important life lesson with contempt and lost everything including his life.

3. The channel of delegated authority is responsible to God for how that authority is exercised.

As often seen in the Biblical narrative, authority wrongly exercised by one, leads to another raised in his stead. Moses failed by not speaking to the rock and Joshua replaced him. As Saul became power hungry and consumed with self-preservation a young worshiper named David began his ascension to the throne.

4. A leader is one who recognizes God’s authority manifested in real-life situations.

A person who has spiritual influence is one who not only knows God but has also experienced God. His or her wisdom is derived from seeing God’s finger in the “normal stuff” of life and responding rightly to the means and methods of Sovereignty.

5. Subjection to authority means that a person is subjected to God Himself and not to the channel through which the authority comes.

Perhaps you’ve seen leaders who start out well with a desire to please only God, yet end up serving a system that God has seemingly withdrawn from. “Ichabod” (see 1 Samuel 4:21) is clearly written over the institution as it has become self-serving and no longer reveals the glory of God to its constituents. Instead of serving “an audience of One”, the leader now serves the structure or hierarchy that granted him his perceived position of authority.

6. Rebellion against authority means that a person is not subjecting himself to God, though it may appear that the person is rejecting some impure manifestation of God’s authority through a human channel.

Just this morning I was reading in Numbers 16 about the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and On. They believed that Moses and Aaron had set themselves above everyone else apart from God’s authority. While Moses and Aaron were certainly human and thus prone to sin and failure, these rebels failed to understand that it was God’s authority they were questioning. They were struck down because they “treated the Lord with contempt” (16:30). Incidentally, not long after this event both Moses and Aaron also failed to subject themselves to God’s authority (20:12) and forfeited their privilege of entering the Promised Land.

7. People who are under God’s authority look for and recognize spiritual authority and willingly place themselves under it.

A centurion with great authority and power in the Roman world recognized Jesus’ Sovereign authority and humbly noted that he was undeserving of having audience with Him (see Luke 7:1-10). Jesus commended this man for his tremendous faith—something He could not say about His own people who should have recognized Him for Who He truly was.

8. Spiritual authority is never exercised for one’s own benefit, but for those under it.

The greatest model ever of this is Jesus of Nazareth. Entering our world as a vulnerable little baby and choosing poverty for circumstances rather than a palace, Jesus demonstrated that He wouldn’t take advantage of His heavenly position (Philippians 2:6). He instructs His disciples on authority in Matthew 20:25-28: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

9. A person in spiritual authority does not have to insist on obedience – that is the moral responsibility of the follower.

When a leader has to remind followers to obey his or her authority it may be a sign that the leader is no longer in authority. True followers who submit themselves to God’s authority will remove themselves from the influence of those who are simply blowing their own trumpet and seek out another leader where’s God’s authority is clearly evident. The men who followed David did that. And David removed himself from Saul’s authority as well—though perhaps more so for the preservation of his life than anything else.

10. God is responsible to defend spiritual authority.

When one who has spiritual authority is rejected it is not his or her responsibility to defend that authority. This principle is clearly seen in the Numbers 16 story alluded to earlier. In God’s words: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay” (Deuteronomy 32:35, Romans 12:19).

Luke Kuepfer | May 3, 2011
  • Kaye May 3, 2011 at 4:27 pm
    A fascinating list indeed. I get snagged a bit on #6; it feels almost out of synch with the others. If true authority comes from God, if it can be abused and lost, if authority & power can be removed from one person & given to another, if leaders can stray from their original anointing & end up serving a system, and if underlings are to look for & recognize spiritual authority and willingly place themselves under it, well then, what about Korah & his buds? They seemed to think that Moses had strayed & should no longer be followed. Obviously, they turned out to be mistaken. We would be wise to learn from their error, but I don't see any easy way to discern who is right & wrong. The answer doesn't seem to come in numbers; they had a bunch of people going along with their complaint. Nor does it come from human wisdom or perspective; they (Moses & Korah) accused each other of the SAME thing - having gone too far. The only safeguard that I can see is humility - which might be translated as "not being too sure that you are right" in your assumptions about the other guy. Followers might be wise to take a step back when we've decided the other person is wrong - & maybe check our own motives another time or two. Leaders, too, must seek God's perspective on our attitudes. God showed up on the side of Moses & Aaron this time, but is it possible that Moses allowed a bit of cockiness to sneak in that eventually tripped him up in chapter 20? It is written that "not many should presume to be teachers..." Could it also be written that not many should presume to know the heart of our opponent? Perhaps God is the one qualified to do that. Thanks, Luke, for your good insights.
    • thetruthmadesimple May 3, 2011 at 5:14 pm
      I think you're right...the discernment process is not easy...one ought to take time...and only in a spirit of humility is one safe from making selfishly motivated calls.
  • Jeanette Elliott June 1, 2011 at 7:50 am
    This is so interesting...and so timely. Thank you for posting it. I have been studying how authority is defined in the NT, (just using my Bible and concordance). I've been surprised to find that the NT usually speaks of authority as civil. In Acts, the chief priests gave Paul authority to kill Christians, in Corinthians it says Christ will destroy all authority and even calls it Christ enemy. In Timothy, prayer was needed for kings and authorities, who at the time were killing (sometimes butchering) Christians. (Nero was king) In Revelation the dragon gave the beast his authority. Romans says we need to submit to authority, because they give full time to governing. Only at certain times did God give someone authority to go complete His will. (the disciples, Paul) I'm sorry this is so long here, but I am digging. All my life I was taught that certain leaders are my authority, but now I am trying to find where that comes from. And I dare not take this info to just anyone cause I am pretty certain I would be labeled as rebellious and unsubmissive to authority :-] Which is the exact opposite. And for the record, I have a husband that I absolutely adore and a dad who I am crazy about ;) I've talked with both of them about this and we're all sort of scratching our heads! Thank you for this article.
    • thetruthmadesimple June 1, 2011 at 4:02 pm
      Thanks Jeanette for weighing in! You shared some great Biblical examples of civil authority I hadn't considered before.

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Contact MeContact Me

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I’d love to connect with you via email or phone. Snail mail can be sent to the address listed below.

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333 East Margaret Drive, Wilmore, KY 40390

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(+1) 269.625.3400

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Select me as your speaker, and I will give you my best effort. See me as a catalyst or facilitator that will help you achieve the goals you’ve set for your event. When you win, I win. It’s as simple as that. I’m here to serve you in life’s journey!

Venue

A venue for the event should be chosen with the target audience in mind. All-day or half-day workshops are ideally hosted in rooms where food can be served and participants can gather around tables for group dialogue and breakout sessions (click on links for preferred room setup: round/long tables). All venues should be suited for multi-media presentations and wired for sound.

Once a date and presentation topic have been confirmed for an event, the venue name and address along with a contact phone number should be submitted for advertisement purposes. I can provide advertising media for all events including online registration if needed.

rosedale

Equipment

A room featuring a multi-media projector with 3000 lumens or greater is preferred for all events. I will use my own projector when one is not available. Please note that for most presentations and workshops I need my laptop at the front of the venue from where I’ll be speaking. My system can accommodate VGA/HDMI cables. I can also supply an Apple TV for systems that require wireless projection from the front. Most of my presentations are designed for widescreen (16:9).

For audio I prefer a lapel or Countryman microphone. For presentation/video audio I can supply my own speaker for groups under 100 people. For larger groups I need a mic cord (to plug into my direct box) or an audio cable (3.5mm mini stereo) that plugs directly into my laptop.

Replace lecterns and pulpits with a small table or stand on which to place a laptop. Standard telescoping music stands are ideal.

For workshops, have a flip chart or white board available with markers in several colors.

An eight-foot table should be available on which to place books, CDs, DVDs, and other resources for sale. Cash, checks, and credit cards are all accepted.

Fees

I do not charge a set fee when speaking at non-profit events. However, donations are welcome to support my family, cover bills, and feed my Puggle. Suggested donation amount is $500/day plus travel expenses. If I’m within 8 hours of an event I will drive (suggested reimbursement of $250), otherwise I typically fly (if within the USA, $500). I fly out of Lexington, KY and typically purchase my own tickets; a reimbursement check made out to “Luke Kuepfer” can be mailed to 333 East Margaret Drive, Wilmore, KY 40390.

cnx2016

I’d be delighted to come to your event and speak. I typically keep my events within a 1-3 day time period due to commitments to my family; anything over this length of time is generally reserved for international travel. Workshops can be facilitated as whole-day or half-day events. My multi-part series can be easily held over a weekend, beginning Friday night and ending Sunday morning or beginning Sunday morning and ending Monday evening.

About MeAbout Me

Speaker, author, and life coach.

Born in Ontario, Canada, I moved to El Salvador at age 4 to live as a missionary kid for three years. At age nineteen I moved to Alberta, Canada where I taught school for three years. After leading several short term teams to Asia focused on unreached people groups, I married my sweetheart Amy and lived in Northern Indiana for a year and a half. In 1997, we moved with our infant daughter Brittany to Thailand where I served as director of Global Tribes Outreach. During our ten-year stint in Southeast Asia, God blessed us with two more children—Courtney and Jamin. In 2008 we moved back to North America and bought our first house in Kentucky, USA. I acquired a Masters in Christian Leadership from Asbury Seminary in 2014 and now travel both domestically and internationally to develop leaders.

As a leadership developer and life coach I help non-profit and business leaders understand how to maximize their God-given potential to lead and serve others. I am the author of A Serving Leader’s Devotional and the President of the Reverb Network.

I’ve spoken broadly on personal & global mission, leadership, team building, and numerous Biblical subjects over the last 20 years on four continents and numerous states and provinces in the USA and Canada.

I am committed to a Biblical worldview and dedicated to motivating the church toward missional thinking and practice in all areas of life. I believe that everyone has a God-given purpose to love and serve others like Jesus. I firmly believe that having our thinking challenged is not enough; it must be translated into change.

MY STORY

I have heard from other staff members who agree with me, this was one of the best/productive workshops we've attended.

Dan Domer
Staff Member, Covenant Church, Winterville, NC

Your talk rocked my world.  

Qian Wang
Perspectives Student, College Station, TX

Luke Kuepfer’s high-energy presentation of the material was delightful, articulate, and profound! If you are looking for a fresh and life-changing look at Jesus’ servant leadership model, look no further! Give Luke a call!

Don Showalter
President, Hearts Alive!

Luke is a dynamic speaker with the gift of clearly articulating Biblical truths in an easy-to-understand manner. He speaks in humility but with authority, and injects his message with the experience and global perspective gained from living abroad as a missionary for many years.

Santosh David Poonen
Elder, River of Life Christian Fellowship, Loveland, CO

Luke’s enthusiasm and passion for the local church and its impact in the community is inspiring. I highly recommend his teaching and ministry!  

Clarence Miller
Deacon, Sharon Mennonite Church

“Transformational” is the one word I would use to describe the seminar. Luke has a true gift in communicating God’s truths with clarity and passion.

Joe Bacher
Pastor, Foothills Fellowship Westminster, SC

Luke is enthusiastic and knowledgeable, presenting the interactive material creatively. It is a unique presentation unlike the usual “leadership seminars” taught from the front. Luke presents it with expertise, fun, and interest in each attendee.

David Livingstone
Regional Manager, North-East & Mid-Atlantic Region, The JESUS Film Project

Luke really has an incredible way of captivating everyone’s attention and making a seminar meaningful. He speaks from his heart and lives what he preaches. As a result of this Encounter we’re taking our family to Southeast Asia on a two-month mission trip with the possibility of moving there long-term.

Lloyd & Mary Ellen Esh
Pastor, New Covenant Mennonite Fellowship New Holland, PA

REVIEWS

SKILLS

Years Lived Abroad
0
Countries Visited
0
14-ers Climbed in CO
0
Places Lived
0
2014 - 2018

SPEAKER, COACH, & LEADERSHIP DEVELOPER

Presentations and workshops in both non-profit and business venues around the world on leadership, people skills, and life purpose.

2011- 2013

STUDENT @ ASBURY THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

Masters Degree in Christian Leadership.

2009 - 2010

STUDENT @ THOMAS EDISON STATE COLLEGE

Bachelor’s Degree online in Liberal Studies.

1997 - 2008

DIRECTOR @ GLOBAL TRIBES OUTREACH

Founded and served as Field Director of Global Tribes Outreach (GTO), a non-profit organization based in Southeast Asia committed to church planting and social work.

1994 - 1996

WORKER IN CONSTRUCTION AND AGRICULTURE

Floor finishing in concrete construction and equipment operator on a cash crop farm.

1990 - 1993

TEACHER @ PRAIRIE CHRISTIAN SCHOOL

Taught elementary through high school students in a self-directed learning environment.

Contact MeContact Me

Let's Connect

I’d love to connect with you via email or phone. Snail mail can be sent to the address listed below.

Address

333 East Margaret Drive, Wilmore, KY 40390

Phone

(+1) 269.625.3400

Booking InfoBooking Info

Logistics and Details

Select me as your speaker, and I will give you my best effort. See me as a catalyst or facilitator that will help you achieve the goals you’ve set for your event. When you win, I win. It’s as simple as that. I’m here to serve you in life’s journey!

Venue

A venue for the event should be chosen with the target audience in mind. All-day or half-day workshops are ideally hosted in rooms where food can be served and participants can gather around tables for group dialogue and breakout sessions (click on links for preferred room setup: round/long tables). All venues should be suited for multi-media presentations and wired for sound.

Once a date and presentation topic have been confirmed for an event, the venue name and address along with a contact phone number should be submitted for advertisement purposes. I can provide advertising media for all events including online registration if needed.

rosedale

Equipment

A room featuring a multi-media projector with 3000 lumens or greater is preferred for all events. I will use my own projector when one is not available. Please note that for most presentations and workshops I need my laptop at the front of the venue from where I’ll be speaking. My system can accommodate VGA/HDMI cables. I can also supply an Apple TV for systems that require wireless projection from the front. Most of my presentations are designed for widescreen (16:9).

For audio I prefer a lapel or Countryman microphone. For presentation/video audio I can supply my own speaker for groups under 100 people. For larger groups I need a mic cord (to plug into my direct box) or an audio cable (3.5mm mini stereo) that plugs directly into my laptop.

Replace lecterns and pulpits with a small table or stand on which to place a laptop. Standard telescoping music stands are ideal.

For workshops, have a flip chart or white board available with markers in several colors.

An eight-foot table should be available on which to place books, CDs, DVDs, and other resources for sale. Cash, checks, and credit cards are all accepted.

Fees

I do not charge a set fee when speaking at non-profit events. However, donations are welcome to support my family, cover bills, and feed my Puggle. Suggested donation amount is $500/day plus travel expenses. If I’m within 8 hours of an event I will drive (suggested reimbursement of $250), otherwise I typically fly (if within the USA, $500). I fly out of Lexington, KY and typically purchase my own tickets; a reimbursement check made out to “Luke Kuepfer” can be mailed to 333 East Margaret Drive, Wilmore, KY 40390.

cnx2016

I’d be delighted to come to your event and speak. I typically keep my events within a 1-3 day time period due to commitments to my family; anything over this length of time is generally reserved for international travel. Workshops can be facilitated as whole-day or half-day events. My multi-part series can be easily held over a weekend, beginning Friday night and ending Sunday morning or beginning Sunday morning and ending Monday evening.

About MeAbout Me

Speaker, author, and life coach.

Born in Ontario, Canada, I moved to El Salvador at age 4 to live as a missionary kid for three years. At age nineteen I moved to Alberta, Canada where I taught school for three years. After leading several short term teams to Asia focused on unreached people groups, I married my sweetheart Amy and lived in Northern Indiana for a year and a half. In 1997, we moved with our infant daughter Brittany to Thailand where I served as director of Global Tribes Outreach. During our ten-year stint in Southeast Asia, God blessed us with two more children—Courtney and Jamin. In 2008 we moved back to North America and bought our first house in Kentucky, USA. I acquired a Masters in Christian Leadership from Asbury Seminary in 2014 and now travel both domestically and internationally to develop leaders.

As a leadership developer and life coach I help non-profit and business leaders understand how to maximize their God-given potential to lead and serve others. I am the author of A Serving Leader’s Devotional and the President of the Reverb Network.

I’ve spoken broadly on personal & global mission, leadership, team building, and numerous Biblical subjects over the last 20 years on four continents and numerous states and provinces in the USA and Canada.

I am committed to a Biblical worldview and dedicated to motivating the church toward missional thinking and practice in all areas of life. I believe that everyone has a God-given purpose to love and serve others like Jesus. I firmly believe that having our thinking challenged is not enough; it must be translated into change.

MY STORY

I have heard from other staff members who agree with me, this was one of the best/productive workshops we've attended.

Dan Domer
Staff Member, Covenant Church, Winterville, NC

Your talk rocked my world.  

Qian Wang
Perspectives Student, College Station, TX

Luke Kuepfer’s high-energy presentation of the material was delightful, articulate, and profound! If you are looking for a fresh and life-changing look at Jesus’ servant leadership model, look no further! Give Luke a call!

Don Showalter
President, Hearts Alive!

Luke is a dynamic speaker with the gift of clearly articulating Biblical truths in an easy-to-understand manner. He speaks in humility but with authority, and injects his message with the experience and global perspective gained from living abroad as a missionary for many years.

Santosh David Poonen
Elder, River of Life Christian Fellowship, Loveland, CO

Luke’s enthusiasm and passion for the local church and its impact in the community is inspiring. I highly recommend his teaching and ministry!  

Clarence Miller
Deacon, Sharon Mennonite Church

“Transformational” is the one word I would use to describe the seminar. Luke has a true gift in communicating God’s truths with clarity and passion.

Joe Bacher
Pastor, Foothills Fellowship Westminster, SC

Luke is enthusiastic and knowledgeable, presenting the interactive material creatively. It is a unique presentation unlike the usual “leadership seminars” taught from the front. Luke presents it with expertise, fun, and interest in each attendee.

David Livingstone
Regional Manager, North-East & Mid-Atlantic Region, The JESUS Film Project

Luke really has an incredible way of captivating everyone’s attention and making a seminar meaningful. He speaks from his heart and lives what he preaches. As a result of this Encounter we’re taking our family to Southeast Asia on a two-month mission trip with the possibility of moving there long-term.

Lloyd & Mary Ellen Esh
Pastor, New Covenant Mennonite Fellowship New Holland, PA

REVIEWS

SKILLS

Years Lived Abroad
0
Countries Visited
0
14-ers Climbed in CO
0
Places Lived
0
2014 - 2018

SPEAKER, COACH, & LEADERSHIP DEVELOPER

Presentations and workshops in both non-profit and business venues around the world on leadership, people skills, and life purpose.

2011- 2013

STUDENT @ ASBURY THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

Masters Degree in Christian Leadership.

2009 - 2010

STUDENT @ THOMAS EDISON STATE COLLEGE

Bachelor’s Degree online in Liberal Studies.

1997 - 2008

DIRECTOR @ GLOBAL TRIBES OUTREACH

Founded and served as Field Director of Global Tribes Outreach (GTO), a non-profit organization based in Southeast Asia committed to church planting and social work.

1994 - 1996

WORKER IN CONSTRUCTION AND AGRICULTURE

Floor finishing in concrete construction and equipment operator on a cash crop farm.

1990 - 1993

TEACHER @ PRAIRIE CHRISTIAN SCHOOL

Taught elementary through high school students in a self-directed learning environment.