Doctor of Ministry

Year Approved


First Advisor

Reed, Don


Church conflict harms those in the church, obscures God’s glory, and hurts the church’s witness to a watching world. Some church conflict is related to congregants’ limited ability to conceptualize and engage with pastoral authority. While secular academia has begun to explore the discipline of followership, there is a lack of research and writing in the Christian world that provides direction to congregants on this topic. That which does exist often creates confusion rather than clarity. In response to this problem, sixteen congregants and six pastors from six churches in the Washington, DC metropolitan area were interviewed about how they conceptualize and engage with pastoral authority. Transcripts of those interviews were analyzed using a modified grounded theory approach. The analysis suggested that congregants have an overreliance on a pastor’s personal authority and have an underdeveloped sense of a pastor’s role authority. A pastor’s personal authority results from the affection those he leads has for him and the expertise they believe he possesses. A pastor’s role authority is grounded in the role the pastor holds as a leader in the congregation. Drawing on the results of the field research, the relevant literature, and the Hebrews 13:7 and 13:17 biblical texts, an argument is offered to provide congregants with a practical theology of authority and submission. Several practical steps are also suggested to help congregants better conceptualize and engage pastoral authority. This includes a study of the anatomy and nature of authority, techniques congregants can utilize to develop a pastor’s personal and role authority, and methods to work through occasions when following authority is especially challenging. The study’s aim is to help congregants become followers who are well-equipped to help leaders exercise their authority in ways that create an environment of flourishing for the entire church and bring glory to God.

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

Document Type

Doctoral thesis