Should We Submit to Our Church Leadership?

Biblical Authority Devotional: Authority and the Church, Part 9

by David Wright on February 2, 2011

David Wright, AiG–U.S., explains that believers are instructed to submit to their church leadership.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:17, (NASB))

Today’s big question: should we submit to our church leadership?

In short, the answer to this question is “Yes.” Of course, this would only apply if the church we attend is one that follows the Bible as the ultimate authority. Hebrews 13:17 makes it quite clear what we must do. So let’s take a closer look at this verse and unpack it.

The first thing this verse tells us is to obey our leaders. What does it mean to obey our leaders? Well, if leaders of our church are following the precepts of Christ, it is as if we were obeying Christ Himself.

The Great Commission is something every pastor and church member needs to take seriously. And the second part is often forgotten. In the second half of the Great Commission, Jesus instructs His disciples to teach their followers “to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20, (NIV)). So He commands all His followers to make disciples. We are also supposed to teach believers to obey the commands of Christ. And so the duty of our pastors and other church leaders is to ensure that the congregation is indeed following the Great Commission.

If our church leaders follow in the footsteps of Christ, then their teachings should not be burdensome, because the commands of God are not burdensome (1 John 5:3).

In the next part of Hebrews 13:17, the author tells us to submit to our church leaders. Simply put, we are not to rebel against them and cause division within the church. Even though there may be times we do not agree with them completely, we still must learn to trust their judgment and decisions. If we believe they are in sin, then we must follow the biblical guidelines to resolve the situation set forth in Matthew 18:15–17, 1 Timothy 5:19, and other places.

Our church leaders must always keep in mind that they are charged by God to watch over our souls, and He will hold them accountable for their ministry. This is a huge responsibility, not to be taken lightly. Surely this responsibility weighs on their hearts day and night.

It is also profitable for the congregation to make sure that those in our leadership enjoy what they do. Although we may not profit in a material sense, we will profit spiritually from the joy they take in leading us. When the leader is joyous, so also will be the followers.

Today’s big idea: be submissive to your church leaders.

What to pray: ask God to help your church leaders honor Him and to assist you in your submission to their leadership.

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Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.