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Responsibility to Church Leaders

26 Jan

We seem to have a love/hate relationship with leadership. We want to be led, but we don’t want to follow. We want leaders to provide clear direction and vision, but we want the freedom to pursue our own agendas. One of the prevailing values of our culture is individualism. And nothing and no one better get in the way of me pursuing ME!

Our emphasis on individualism means that we chafe against the command in Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them.” And yet, the passage explains that there are benefits for the leader and the individual when we follow this command. As the author explains in Hebrews 13:17-19, Submitting to church leaders makes their job easier and more enjoyable, and we enjoy the benefits as well.

It would be easy for me to skip over this passage out of fear of being perceived as an autocratic dictator or the criticism that might come my way. Whether you shoot the messenger or not, please understand that God speaks clearly about this issue of obedience and submission to church leaders.

Obey your church leaders (17). Since the context of Hebrews 13 is corporate ministry and religious issues, it is evident that the leaders he has in mind as pastors and elders in the church. The author indicates that the aim of church leaders is the benefit or profit of the congregation, especially the good of their souls.

We need to recognize that “Obey your leaders and submit to them” is a command rather than a suggestion. It involves a voluntary subordination, followed by a desire to do what the leader suggests. Rather than focus on the possible exceptions, focus on the clear teaching of Scripture. Keep in mind that submission is only an issue when you don’t agree with what the leader is asking for. Then, you have to make the choice whether or not you will submit.

The author gives several reasons why we should obey and submit. One reason is that pastors and elders maintain a constant watchfulness over the spiritual health of the congregation. A second reason is that God will hold the leaders accountable for how they carried out this task. A third reason is that ministry can either be a joyful exercise or a draining burden depending on how the congregation responds. We can either make the leaders’ task easier or more difficult.

Obey

Resist

Submit

Demand a voice

Support vision

Personal agendas

Make task easier

Make task harder
Joyful leaders

Groaning leaders

Personal growth

No benefit

Pray for your church leaders (18-19). While the author of the book has a clear conscience about his life and ministry, he also recognizes he is just as susceptible to temptation as those he is warning. So he asks his readers to pray for him.

How will you respond to these instructions? Let me encourage you to obey your church leaders and pray for your church leaders. Submitting to church leaders makes their job easier and more enjoyable, and you will enjoy the benefits as well.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on January 26, 2020. It is part of a series of expository sermons on the book of Hebrews. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

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