Have confidence in your leaders 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.
This is a tough verse for me to comment about; I was in church leadership for roughly 20 years, and I doubt I ever once quoted it unless I was teaching Hebrews 13. We live in cynical times…
Over the years, there have been great leaders in the church; there have also been some who were not so great. Leaders can suffer from the same issues that everyone else may suffer from. Some may be in leadership for all of the wrong reasons, some may think that being a leader in the church makes them a big shot or an important person, and yes I have met a few like that. In my experience, many church members are critical of their leaders, no matter what those leaders do, but I must tell you that in my experience, that sort of criticism said much more about the critic than the leader.
This simple verse has two points to it. First is the injunction for us to submit to Biblical authority within the church. Dear reader, if we cannot do this, there will never be unity in our churches. The second is that leaders must understand that they will give an account for their leadership tenure, for it is a heavy responsibility. It occurs to me that I should say that when I speak of leaders in the church, I refer not to leaders within a denominational structure somewhere, but rather at the local congregational level, and this is because these are the ones this verse refers to, not denominational authorities. I can say this because at the time of writing, there were no denominational structures or authorities.
To be a leader in the church is not for everyone. It means that you become the servant of all. It involves making sacrifices that few will give you credit for, few will ever even know about. It means that you will be unfairly criticized by those you serve, it will result in many sleepless nights and lots of prayers for guidance. In short, it is possibly the most wonderful experience anybody can have on the earth… but it isn’t for most people.
It is a whole lot easier if people complain and criticize less and focus on Jesus Christ more, that’s for sure.
Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.
Please read these 2 verses carefully, and you will detect a heart that yearns to be with the people of the church, apparently a church in which the author has served as a leader. In verse 18 it is clear that he fully comprehends the responsibility of leading, the parental love he feels for his people, and in verse 19 you can easily see his longing to return to them in these difficult times of testing through which they are travelling. I can tell you from experience that this is how it “feels” to have been a leader in the church.