If we are going to see how the church is designed to bring each member to a place of maturity, we must see what the church is and how it functions under the authority of the head, Christ. Lack of understanding in this area is usually the result of not seeing the true church by the Spirit. Many say that they see the church, but what they see is the concepts they have been taught. Others have different theories about the way the church is supposed to function. The unrest and the lack of revelation in the hearts of many cause definitions of the church to differ, and most do not see the outworking of spiritual authority because it is seen only by revelation.
The vast majority of Christians today define the church to be God's people in an area or locality, without regard to the group they belong to. This definition causes the church to embrace all who name the name of Christ. Assuming we take man's definition for the church, we are in real trouble when it comes to spiritual authority. We must then define authority to fit our definition of the local church. When we will not accept what God's Word says about division and compromise, we must set up our own standard and make God's people feel, when they will not compromise the Word, that they do not love. But love has never been that which allows us to live in sin or stay unseparated from sin.
If there is no revelation of the church, man will continue to try to be the authority because he doesn't see the real authority. But any kind of ministry that does not build and strengthen the local expression of the church is not a gift given by God to the church. You can test all ministry by what is said and done regarding the local church, yet not every group that is local is a church.
Many would say, "Don't come out of your church." The reason they say this is that they do not see the church. This is why the city concept of the church and leadership exists today. It also gives room for the discipleship and shepherding concept that is seen in so many groups. They see an authority, but not spiritual authority; however, they call it spiritual authority.
Matthew 28:18, "And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and earth.'"
Acts 13:1-3, "Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away."
Ephesians 1:22-23, "And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all."
The authority that the scriptures speak of is local authority. It is spiritual authority, working through local brethren in a place of overseership and ministry. This local church authority, in connection with apostolic authority, is the only authority revealed in Scripture.