By Steven Mock
What can you do to be a blessing to your pastor and make his job easier? We’ve already looked at how you can love him, pray for him, and serve him. My final answer to this question is that you can submit to him.
The writer of Hebrews instructs believers to behave a certain way in relationship to their church leaders. Hebrews 13:17 says to obey and be submissive to them. If you want to be a blessing to your pastor and help ensure that he does not have the worst job in the world, then you can do that easily by obeying his counsel and submitting to his directions.
Before we go any further, let me make a disclaimer against potential abuse of this passage. Your pastor is not perfect. He isn’t God. And he doesn’t know everything! So it is more than likely that your pastor can and will make a lot of mistakes about a lot of different things (like building programmes, interior decorating, ideas for fun youth activities, etc.). So this passage is not demanding complete and totally “blind” allegiance to everything that comes out of your pastor’s mouth. Obviously if I counsel a church member to murder her obnoxious neighbour, she has the right to appeal to God’s clear teaching in His word (“Thou shalt not murder!”) that will always supersede everything that I say. Let’s be clear—this passage is not trying to make any pastor into a tyrannical despot!
But what this passage is teaching is that you must be very, very careful not to nonchalantly dismiss your pastor’s counsel and disregard it as utterly insignificant. The major thrust of this verse teaches you to trust your pastor. You should want to and be willing to submit to him every chance you get.
Why should you have this kind of attitude and response? Because it is your pastor’s great joy to watch out for your soul! It is your pastor’s calling to help you grow in grace and in the knowledge of your Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He is like a diligent shepherd who feeds the sheep and faithfully protects the sheep. But this is not only his delight. It is also his awesome responsibility. He will have to give an account for how he has watched for your soul. Think of that! And so your pastor doesn’t take his role lightly.
You are encouraged to let your pastor watch for your soul with joy, and you are promised that if he is able to shepherd you joyfully that it will be profitable for you. How will you know if your pastor is able to do this joyfully or not? By whether or not you are obeying and submitting to him.
If I had the time I could tell you several stories of people in my church who were facing major life-changing decisions. As I tried to fulfil my role as their shepherd, watching for their souls, I would give them sound biblical counsel as to what would and would not be pleasing to God. And to my great grief they would not obey or submit to my watch-care for them. They assumed they knew better than me and that they had liberty to decide what they wanted to decide. I wish I could put into words the sorrow their rejection caused me. Not because they were going against me but because I could see their spiritual lives were in danger. Oh the heartache caused because they would not obey or submit to their pastor who loved them, gently confronted them, counselled them, pleaded with them, and prayed for them to do what was right!
As hard as it may seem to have this kind of response to your (fallible) pastor, I would focus your attention and trust to Almighty God. Can you trust God to lead your pastor to lead you?
How serious is this matter? Let me try to explain it this way. Did you ever have a babysitter watch you when you misbehaved like a devil? If you did, do you remember what it was like when your parents returned home and your babysitter gave them a report of your behaviour? Uh oh.
You see, your pastor is not the final judge. But one day, according to this verse, your pastor will stand before the final Judge and give an account of how he watched out for you. What kind of report will he give about you?
I trust the Lord will give you a submissive heart and that as a result your pastor will have great joy in his ministry and be graciously spared from the worst job in the world.
P.S. Maybe if you have other ideas that will help your pastor not have the worst job in the world you would like to tell us about them. I’d love to hear about any stories of how God has used you to encourage your pastor.
Steven Mock is currently pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in Cairns, Australia. Steven and his wife, Cristy, moved to Cairns in July 2003. The Mocks have two children and one on the way.