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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.

Hebrews 13:17

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.

Hebrews 13:18-19

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.

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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15 Responses to Leaders

  1. Meredith says:

    I agree with you. Something that will ring true to you is something my dad said. “We don’t criticize our pastor. If is something is wrong, God will take care of it, not our words.”

  2. This is such needed wisdom in the body of Christ today…thank you for sharing it!

  3. Do you think this also applies to leaders we are under in the secular world? Makes sense, right? If they already have authority over us, being a burden to them is really of no benefit to us iether.

  4. paulfg says:

    Seeing as their are so many church leaders about, I opted to pass on commenting. Then came back to see what had been left. And on reflection – and in context – this short passage links with the “stay true” message throughout this letter. Yet …

    In a “today” context, it is not any different from the “love one another” in the body of Christ – and beyond. There is no “us and them” – or shouldn’t be. We all contribute in different ways – don’t we. And as someone else commented recently on these blogs – the “head” (and soul) of the church is never “the earthly leader”.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Of course the head is Christ Himself. And, yes, we all contribute in different ways, and yes, it really is about loving one another; you are quite right on all three counts. Even so, many have a tough time with this subject, particularly in these times!

  5. scythewieldor says:

    A big problem comes when men want others to yield to the authority of the writer in this case when they, themselves, have never yielded to the authority of other New Testament writers concerning the path to leadership. Specifically, if one takes a path into leadership that circumvents Tit. 1:6-9 & 1 Tim. 3:1-13, one has begun the process presumption- if not rebellion. We reap what we sow.

  6. vwoods1212 says:

    I strongly believe in praying for the leaders of the body of Christ; just as Christ prayed for us and is still doing; ought we not to be charitable with our prayers? But to take it further; a God ordained leader is a trap to many Christians who wants to criticize and don’t realize they are reaping harm upon themselves. Take the case of David and Saul for examples. A lot of believers haven’t learnt that what they speak give the adversary ammunition and maybe we should just shut our mouths and pray. That is authority in the spiritual realm. vw

  7. Elaine says:

    Some great wisdom in these words!

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