Hebrews 13:17 – “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.”
Don’t Make Your Pastor Groan
Pastors are incredibly busy men. In a given week, they can prepare a sermon, perform a wedding, visit a sick member of the body, counsel another, and deliver a eulogy at a funeral, all while trying to lead his wife and children as a husband and father.
Realize the stress, the anxiety, and the weight of responsibility these men must feel when shepherding even a handful of believers in a church. Realize this and understand the added burden we bring when we do not biblically submit to them as God’s appointed leaders in the church.
Before I go further, this is not an argument for blind submission to fallible men. The Bereans were commended in Acts 17 for searching the Scriptures to see whether Paul preached to them the truth. Your pastor is not God. Your pastor is not infallible. Your pastor is a human, and so is mine.
My teaching pastor David, and my uncle Jimmy (my pastor growing up), have similar sayings when they complete their sermons. Their sentiments culminate in the statement from Uncle Jimmy as he closes his Bible and prepares for prayer, that “May God bless the truth and pardon any error.”
Pastors aren’t perfect, but we understand we are to submit to them as they live in submission to Christ.
Stop Comparing Your Pastors
There is a temptation, especially in today’s celebrity preachers and platforms, to judge your preacher by the standard of those you hear daily on podcasts, YouTube videos, and other media. Those preachers can be immensely helpful. I for one have learned and grown as a believer through the ministries of John Piper and the late R.C. Sproul. They were and are great pastors, but they are not my pastors. God did not call me to be a member of Bethlehem Baptist Church or Saint Andrew’s Chapel He called me to be here at Commerce Community Church (C3 for short). He didn’t call me to be a deacon in those large churches, He called me to walk with this small band of believers in rural Commerce, Texas.
Before you go to your favorite preacher for his answer on a tough question in Scripture, why not pull out your phone or drive over to your church office and ask your pastor what he thinks, what he is convinced of through Scripture?
Learn From Your Pastor
Soon after I joined C3 in 2012, I had taken part in several discussions and arguments over Calvinism at my local Baptist Student Ministry (most of whom held to an Arminian understanding of salvation). I stepped into the C3 office to talk with David about it, and we read Matthew 11 together. I pointed out how Christ’s prayer was all about the sovereignty of God. And it is. “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:27). But that’s where my young, restless, and reformed mind stopped reading. Thankfully, David wholeheartedly agreed about the beauty and majesty of God’s sovereignty, but he noted the beauty found in the following verses: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (v. 28-30).
He gently reminded me the doctrines of Grace should not lead us to boast in our knowledge, but to be even more humbled, knowing our low estate, and praising God for His unconditional, electing love, thanking Christ that He did not end there, but called those weary, burdened, heavy laden sinners like me, to come to Him and rest. I needed that teaching then and there to humble my heart, which was becoming prideful the more I looked down my nose at others who had not come to the knowledge of the sovereignty of God. That conversation and my subsequent humbling was a part of God’s plan. The right place, the right time.
Trust God’s Sovereign Plan
God has a plan and a purpose for every part of our lives. As Paul tells the Athenians in Acts 17 that God not only determines when you are born but also where, along with when and where you move and when and where you die. Knowing this, we should earnestly seek out biblically minded churches and eagerly submit to our pastors, understanding it was God who brought us under their leadership. And if God brought us under our pastors, we should trust in His good and sovereign plan in our lives.
God ordained you to be in the pew in which you sit, to hear the weekly sermons your pastor preaches, and to submit to them. Their work is heavy. One day we will be held accountable to the words we said and the lives we lived. They will be, too. They will also be held accountable to so much more. To be held accountable to your own soul is weight enough.
So, when your pastor proclaims the truth, thank and encourage him. When the Holy Spirit uses his message to convict you, go to him and tell him how it helped you grow in your faith. And when you think – having been convinced by the Scriptures, and nothing less, that he has preached anything false or needlessly confusing, come to him with gentleness, being humble, and willing enough to admit that you are not infallible either; it may be you who are in need of being corrected by him!
May we grasp the weighty responsibility of this weighty calling. God has given these men, and may we seek ways to aid them so that they lead us with joy and not with groaning. It is to our advantage to follow them in such a way that brings them joy when they think of leading us. Remember, God, put us where we are for a reason; that reason is for our good and His glory.