Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. – Hebrews 13:17
Last time, I wrote about how important it is that we support our pastors, read it here. God has placed them in authority to lead, feed, protect and to equip the saints for the work of ministry. Hebrews 13:17 tells us that we should “let them do this with joy”. In this article, I want to share some thoughts on how to do that.
God’s Words: Obey and Submit
Making their job a joy begins with our disposition toward our pastors (and all church leaders, really). Our passage uses specific words, “obey” and “submit” to describe this disposition. These are strong words that our self-seeking culture detests. But God’s word commands us to submit to the civil (Rom. 13:1-7), ecclesiastical (Heb. 13:17), and domestic authorities (Eph. 5:22-23, 6:1).
It is impossible to live a God-glorifying, joyful life in God’s world without a healthy respect for and submission to these levels of God-ordained authority. Yet, it would be easy to adopt the world’s jaded attitude toward authority, including the authority of our church leaders. Biblically functioning elders are not authoritarian, but humble and gentle. And just to be clear, the command that we submit to the elders does not apply if asked to do something contrary to the clear teachings of scripture.
We Benefit When we Submit
We benefit when we submit to authority. Personally, I benefit each day that I don’t smash the accelerator as I approach a red light. I avoid all sorts of personal, legal, and moral problems when I stop and wait for the light to turn green. When I lived at home, I grew to appreciate my parents’ counsel about various life issues. Usually, things worked out well for me when I submitted to their counsel. Indeed, this is the promise to children in Ephesians 6:2-3: “Honor your father and your mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you…”
Similarly, a submissive disposition toward our church leaders makes their job a joy and ultimately benefits us. The benefit is not the main reason for submission. Love is. Indeed, Jesus taught that if we love him, we will obey his commands (John 14:15), including the command to submit to our church leaders. God’s love toward us, undeserving sinners, properly understood, should create in us a love toward God and our fellow man. But God is so good! In his plan, the effect of our submission which makes their job a joy is that we benefit.
What Submission Looks Like
What does an attitude of submission look like? Following are some super-simple things we can do that demonstrate love and personal concern that form a foundation from which submission can be demonstrated.
• When we seek to be faithful in the disciplines of reading our Bibles and prayer, both privately and corporately as a family that brings a pastor great joy.
• When we are intentional about seeking counsel and then intentional about following through on that counsel, that brings a pastor joy.
• Handwriting a personal note expressing your gratitude for their service and how you have grown in Christ as a result of their ministry is something that happens very, very rarely but means a tremendous amount.
• Take them out to lunch
• Give your pastor a gift card to take his wife out for dinner. If he has children, include child care.
• Offer to help out with administrative responsibilities
• Offer to use your home for ministry like small group or simply inviting non-believing neighbors over.
• Offer to teach a class
• Probably the biggest single thing you can do is pray for your church leaders.
– Pray for their personal needs (strong marriage, believing family, adequate finances),
– Pray for them as Paul requested: that he’d be bold in preaching the gospel (Eph. 6:19-20),
– Pray that he’d be delivered from hardships (2 Cor. 1:11),
– Pray that he’d be able to help people grow in their faith (1 Thess. 3:10).
– Pray for unity among the leaders (John 17:20-21).
These are just a few specific ways to pray for your church leaders. Be sure to tell them you are praying for them and seek an update about how things are going in the areas you’re praying about.
Our church leaders, most especially our pastors, serve unique and precious purpose in our lives. Their work is of eternal worth to us. Let us seek to guard ourselves against a disposition that would discourage them. Let us seek to make their job a joy!