Follow the leader (part 2)
When the Scriptures give us a direction, it’s always best that we pay attention. If we observe God talking about the same subject more than once…well…then He’s putting down some emphasis that we need to linger on.
Twice in his closing statements and encouragements, the author of Hebrews mentions how the church body should be acting toward our church leaders. The second one reads as follows:
Obey your leaders and submit to them, since they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
Some days, it’s great to be the leader. You get to help people understand God and His purpose. You see the fruit of your efforts paying off as your people mature. People say ‘thank you’. Sometimes, they do something to say ‘thank you’. The sun shines and you can see God moving in the community through the work of those you lead.
Other days…being the leader doesn’t feel all that good. People who are supposed to care about each other end up selfishly hurting each other. They want you to fix it. Maybe they blame you for it happening – or they blame God and you just happen to be a more convenient place to blow up. You offer a helping hand to the community, and instead of taking it, they reject it…and you. To the surprise of many, your own family has struggles and issues. The pressure to be ‘perfect’ is constant. You are always ‘on call’ – expected to effortlessly represent God and be the calm voice of reason in any situation that happens.
As members of the church body, we need our leaders. We need them to guide us when we are walking close to God, and we need them to correct us when we are wandering (or running) away from Him. We look to our leaders for acceptance and love, even when life has gone completely sideways and we feel like a hopeless mess. Their reliance on God helps us believe that we can trust God, too.
To those who lead a church, in any capacity, God takes their role very seriously. He expects the leader to maintain His perspective, so that they can keep watch over your souls. One day, those who lead will give an account of all they taught others about Jesus – through their words and their actions. Remember how Jesus’ harshest criticisms and biggest frustrations were because of the hypocritical Pharisees? When it comes time to give an account, God is not going to be any easier on today’s leaders who take a similar, selfish path.
So, let’s be honest – Being a church leader is not an easy job, but the author of Hebrews says there a couple of ways we could make it easier on them.
First, he says to obey your leaders and submit to them. I will guarantee that your church leadership will not always ‘do church’ exactly they way you want them to. But before we go to complain, we need to check our motivations and make sure we’re not just advocating for our personal preferences. There are likely other factors influencing your leaders’ decisions, and if God is leading them – then you don’t want to be fighting against God’s direction for your church. By all means, we should feel comfortable bringing issues and concerns to our pastor’s attention; however, let’s be very careful and selective in what we find fault with.
Second, he says our interactions with our leaders should help them do their job with joy and not with grief. A leader who dreads dealing with those he is responsible for is someone who will lead others as little as possible. Certainly, a hands-off pastor would be unprofitable for you.
When we obey our leaders and submit to them, we show that we trust them to follow God’s lead. While that trust is a big responsibility, being trusted by the congregation gives our leaders confidence to do God’s work with joy and profitable to those who follow them.
So how can we support our leaders in their all-important (and sometimes draining) work? The New Living Translation of Proverbs 11:25 is a good place to start:
The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.
Let’s be refreshing to our leaders when we interact with them. Don’t bring them the unnecessary burdens of self-centered complaints. Trust them enough to obey and submit to them. If you don’t need something at the moment from them, then show/tell your leaders they are appreciated.
Let’s love on them, so that they can do this with joy.