“Have confidence in your leaders (Pastors) and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” Hebrews 13:17 (NIV)
I had the pleasure of speaking at my Pastors James Ellis Jr and Claudette Ellis annual appreciation service at New Beginnings Christian Fellowship. The original topic was “Leading With Joy”, however I changed it to keeping watch, because ultimately our souls (and theirs) are at stake. I want to share these words with you because Christians are being led away from Gods truth in the Church. If these 4 ways aren’t being met by your Pastors then something is wrong!
Americans (as most humans) have a love affair with being an individual and do not like being told to submit to anyone. We are prone to be very wary about leadership and the call for submission. However, the New Testament is unmistakable in its teaching that the local church should have leaders.
Spiritual leadership in the church is mainly the salvation of the soul. And that salvation is not seen in the book of Hebrews as a one-time decision, but a life-long battle against temptation and unbelief.
The job of our Pastors and leaders of the church primarily is to help us persevere in faith and be saved through Jesus Christ. Accomplishing this goal happens through the teaching, modeling, admonishing and correcting of faithful Pastors and leaders in the church. Mark 13:13 says, “The one who endures to the end will be saved.”
In short, this is the message of Hebrews.
Let’s discuss 4 ways that our Pastors keep watch over your soul…
- Pastors watch the word of God
- Pastors watch Christ
- Pastors watch their conduct
- Pastors watch their people.
Pastors watch the word of God
This is the main function of leaders: they lead by the word of God, not their own word. They are men under authority, not just with authority. How many of you can actually say that you read Gods word on a daily basis? I must admit that I too have a hard time! We make daily goals and tell ourselves, “today is the day (God forbid) that I’m going to start!” Well – starting never happens!
I know we all mean well and make a daily effort to commit to God and ourselves, but somehow we never get around to it right? Kudos to you if you do! Now, what if our Pastors did that? How could they lead us in the ways of the Lord if they knew nothing about it? How could they rightfully tell us about Jesus Christ as the only Lord and Savior of this world – if they never read about him?
Guess what? I’m going to surprise you by saying that they could. You know why? Because of the evil one. Satan has convinced many leaders and Pastors to preach about everything else besides Jesus. They have jumped on the prosperity bandwagon, new age religion and other false teachings to convince their followers to keep coming back so that they FEEL better – no matter the cost in the long run.
They’ve stopped teaching about the consequences of Hell only to convince those who do “good deeds” that they have an eternal place in Heaven. Unlike those leaders, Christian Pastors and leaders have to study, read, watch and teach the word of God and tell it like it is! No matter how much it hurts. No matter how much we don’t like it or like them. No matter what.
We have to recognize our Pastors authority and defer to them as needed. The job of our Pastors are to help our congregation pay close attention to the word and not drift away from it – to persevere in faith – in order to be saved.
Pastors watch Christ
After a Pastor or leader reads and studies Gods word to be true. They must watch and study Christ who is their personal Savior. Christ is what the word is about. Hebrews 1:2 says: “In these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son.” The Son is the word we need to hear most of all.
The job description for a Christian Pastor is to teach and lead others to Christ. As you know, there are countless Pastors in the world who believe in Muhammad, Buddha, Science, The Pope, The Earth, Moon, Stars, so on and so forth. You name it and there’s a Pastor for it. They spend countless years studying the person or thing that they choose to follow, in order to convince others to come along with them for the ride. And sadly, there’s a ton of people out there who are lost, following behind someone who is leading them straight to Hell. Remember Jim Jones? Don’t drink the Kool-Aid!
However, Christian leaders are to lead as Christ leads. Jesus gave countless examples of how he led his disciples when He was here on earth. He also gave examples of what NOT to do with their Jewish leaders. If our leaders want to be effective, they must follow Jesus’s teachings.
The Bible also teaches that leaders will go astray by teaching and doing wrong things. For example, in Acts 20:30 Paul is speaking to the elders of Ephesus and warns them, “From among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” The clear implication here is that some leaders will turn bad and will try to lead disciples away, and that these should not be obeyed.
We have seen this too often personally and in the news. It is tragic and Paul warns that it will happen. This also means the command to obey leaders is not absolute. This is confirmed in Galatians 1:8. Paul says that the gospel is so sacred that you should not obey anyone who comes with another message, not even an angel: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!”
The truth of God is the litmus test of all true leadership. Simply put, if a Pastor doesn’t preach God’s truth, don’t believe what they preach. That is what the apostle Paul is saying.
Pastors watch their conduct
Christian people are supposed to observe their leaders’ conduct and imitate their faith. Because of this, leaders are more accountable to God for their behavior than other Christians and must watch it! This can be tricky. Separating yourself from being a Pastor from a worldly man is tricky. Don’t get me wrong, once we accept Christ into our lives, we are new creatures. But let’s face it – sometimes we want to hang on to our old sinful baggage and ways of the world.
When a family member, friend or believer says or does something that’s not pleasing we want to lash out in anger. However, leaders are held to a higher standard in Gods eyes. You can’t say, “do as I say and not as I do” and get away with it – like our elders did. Leaders must “do as they say and do as they do!” You can’t say whatever comes to mind with hurtful intent and then say “oh well get over it and move on!” No! Our Pastors are still human, but have to watch their conduct, physically and verbally, towards their flock.
They also have to be mindful about sensitive subjects in the world that we live in today. In 1 Peter 5:2-3, Peter tells us that elders should be good examples to the flock and not use their office for sordid gain, or for the pleasures of power. “Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight . . . not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.”
This is a very important word to how the relationship of leader-follower is to work in the church. There is real leadership, and real authority, but there should not be what Peter calls “lording it over” the flock. Paul also says in 1 Timothy 4:16, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.”
Pastors watch their people
Pastors keep watch on behalf of our souls and lives. What does “they keep watch on behalf of our souls mean?” Simply put – the aim of our Pastors are for the good of the people, especially the good of our souls. They will have to render an account to God and are held responsible for us. Pastors have a big responsibility watching over their flock.
I can only imagine it to be like babysitting kids in a day care center or school classroom. “Get over here! Stop doing that! Go sit down somewhere! Where’s your homework? Did your dog eat it again? Yea, right?” God knows I couldn’t do it! But God chose them to become our spiritual baby sitters for a reason.
He knew that we would have a hard time learning and committing to the ways of the Lord on a consistent basis. God showed us in the Bible, that he had to appoint leaders with a team to oversee his flock. If God appointed leaders such as, Moses, Joshua, Daniel and ultimately Jesus over his people, then we still need spiritual leadership in our lives today!
We also can’t become a burden to our Pastors. We all have our own opinions about life and the way we want to live our lives. However we should still follow and learn from the leaders that God appoints for us. We are all on our own spiritual journeys, but if we stop complaining, challenging, nagging or coming against our Pastors, then their work will be done with joy and pleasure.
A leader who is indifferent to his joy in God is also indifferent to the benefit of his people. If Pastors do their work complaining and groaning – it’s unprofitable to us. Additionally, if they don’t believe God is real, their faith will fall and not persevere. The joy of leadership is not optional, but essential to their longevity as a Pastor.
It’s no benefit to us if our leaders are burdened and stressed out all the time. They need to be able to do this with pleasure and not with complaints about us. In the long run, it wouldn’t help, but hurt us tremendously. I know that sometimes we don’t see eye to eye or we don’t see the same vision that our Pastor does, but God knows what’s best and His will, will prevail over all!
Hebrews 13:17 is not a verse about blindly obeying our leaders. Instead it is a passage that urges us to follow the Word of God as taught by our Godly leaders. We need to be led, and trust those who are teaching us the Word of God. When the Word is taught, we need to submit to it and understand that our Pastor is watching out for our souls.
If we do not follow the teaching of Godly leaders (whether by word or example), we run the risk of being carried away by false teaching. We must also read, study and put into practice what is being taught. God called our Pastors to become caretakers over us. Not just to get people converted to Christ, but to help us persevere to the end, because Hebrews 10:36 says, “You have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.”
Yes it’s a big, tedious job to endure – but is also proof that their and our faith are real. God could have chosen anyone to lead their flock of misfits. But I’m so glad that he chose our Pastors to keep their misfits in line, moving forward as one body in Christ together!
My prayer for you – Father God I come to you thanking you for all who may be reading this right now. Bless those who are involved in a bible-based church, learning and trusting a Pastor who believes and follows your teachings.. Lead and guide those who have not found a church or leader to a home that preaches and teaches your word only. Let them be hearers and doers of your word, so they may apply it to their lives. Let them not follow behind the evil one whose not of you Lord. But let them be filled with your Spirit as the ultimate guide to the truth! In Jesus Name I pray – Amen
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