Jesus tied all authority in the community to service, one to another. Genuine spiritual authority is to be found only where the service of listening, helping, forbearing, and proclaiming is carried out. Every personality cult that bears the mark of the distinguished qualities, outstanding abilities, powers, and talents of an other, even if these are of a thoroughly spiritual nature, is worldly and has no place in the Christian community of faith; indeed, it poisons that community. The longing we so often hear expressed today for “episcopal figures,” “priestly people,” “authoritative personalities” often enough stems from a spiritually sick need to admire human beings and to establish visible human authority because the genuine authority of service appears to be too insignificant. Nothing contradicts such a desire more sharply than the New Testament itself in its description of a bishop (1 Tim 3:1ff). None of the magic of human talents or the brilliant qualities of a spiritual personality is to be found there. Bishops are those unpretentious persons who are sound and loyal in faith and life and who properly carry out their ministry to the community of faith. The authority of bishops lies in accomplishing the tasks of their service. There is nothing to admire in the person himself. [sic] Ultimately, the craving for inauthentic authority reasserts its desire to reestablish some kind of immediacy, a commitment to a human figure in the church. Genuine authority knows, however that all immediacy is disastrous, particularly in matters of authority. Genuine authority knows that it can only exist in the service of the One who alone has authority. Genuine authority knows that it is bound in the strictest sense by the words of Jesus, “You have one teacher, and you are all brothers.[students, NRSV]” (Matt 23.8). The community of faith does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus and of one another. It does not lack the former, but the latter. The community of faith will place its confidence only in the simple servant of the Word of Jesus, because it knows that it will then be guided not by human wisdom and human conceit, but by the Word of the Good Shepherd. The question of spiritual trust, which is so closely connected with the question of authority, is decided by the faithfulness with which people serve Jesus Christ, never by the extraordinary gifts they possess. Authority in pastoral care can be found only in the servants of Jesus who seek no authority of their own, but who are Christians one to another, obedient to the authority of the Word.”

—Diettrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together