Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:17)
In II Timothy 3:16, the apostle Paul wrote that all scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for the Christian’s instruction in righteousness. Everything we learn in scripture helps to outfit us for our lives of service to Christ. Because the place for Christian service has always been in and through the church, there are many scriptures that deal with the behavior of God’s people in relation to their fellowship with other Christians. One of the most important, if not the most important, is the attitude that members of the church have towards their leaders. Good order in the church requires that godly leadership should be respected and followed.
The writer of Hebrews reminds these Christians that leadership must give an account to God for the way they have conducted their ministry. The pastor especially is given the responsibility of watching out for the welfare of the souls that are under his charge. There are various ways this is done. It may be through prayer, through counseling, and even through discipline. However, the most important way the pastor labors for the membership is through the instruction of God’s Word. The Word itself is described as profitable; it is the Word that reveals what God expects, and it is through the Word that we are drawn closer to the cross of Christ.
A very important aspect of the teaching of Hebrews 13:17 is that the membership has its own responsibility towards the pastor. The membership must also labor to make the pastor’s ministry effective. It must strive to make his shepherding less strenuous by responding favorably to the Word that is preached. It is also the duty of members to pray for the pastor and to help by lifting him up with words of encouragement. The scripture says his ministry should be joyous and not one that is filled with grief.
You will notice the writer says that making the ministry hard for the pastor is unprofitable for the membership. You may wonder how this is so. The answer is in the consideration of the ownership of the church and who the work is for. We labor for the cause of Christ and He is the head of the church. If the Christian does not support the pastor, if he or she derides the pastor and complains to others about him, it is an assault upon the headship of Christ. It disrupts the ministry and stunts spiritual growth. There is no profit for the person that engages in such activity.
It is also the duty of others that encounter any kind of slander against the pastor to defend him. If he meets spiritual qualifications and is walking and teaching according the Word, he is to be followed and respected properly for the work. If this is not the case, there is a proper protocol for correcting a pastor. He is a member of the church as well as others and should be approached by the Matthew 18 principle and particularly the instruction of 1 Timothy 5:19. The pastor is not to be tried in the forum of private gossip.
When the membership of the church follows these principles outlined in scripture, the ministry of the pastor becomes a joyful one. There is nothing more satisfying than to see God’s people respond to the Word and grow thereby. Remember that your pastor is a co-laborer for Christ. A good pastor does not seek to be lord over the people. He wants to work beside them in the mutual love and respect for the ministry of Christ.
Pastor V. Mark Smith