Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Hebrews, Day 52: Heb. 13:7 & 17 - How Can We Love Our Leaders?

How Can We Love Our Leaders?
Hebrews, Day 52

Audio Version

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

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 13:7 & 17, ESV

Leadership is lonely, but it's not supposed to be - at least, not in the church. The old saying about how lonely it is at the top really shouldn't apply to church leadership for two reasons:

1. Church leaders should not see themselves as being "at the top" of anything, but rather as called by Jesus to serve the church.

2. Church leaders should not lead alone, but should always be part of a team, a fellowship of elders and deacons. 

We can see clearly the idea of a plurality of leaders, and not a one-man rule, throughout the New Testament. In today's verses, the reference is to "your leaders," a plural reference to a group of servant-leaders.

Still, while leadership in the church is not supposed to be lonely, it often is. Leadership teams often don't function the way they should. Even when the leadership teams are cohesive and mutually supportive, leadership is hard, in any context. Just look at the hard time Moses had with the Israelites, and he was "more humble than any other person on earth." (Numbers 12:3)

How can we love and support our leaders and how can leaders lead faithfully? We get several practical points of Gospel application from these two verses in Hebrews 13:

1. Remember your leaders. In Bible language, when you "remember" someone, you remember to pray for them and to support them. In your day-to-day life, remember to pray for your pastor, elders, and deacons. Take time to encourage them, too, as you're able. 

2. Imitate their faith. Leaders are called to their office within the church because their faith has been fruitful in their lives. They have been trusting in Christ, and it shows in their character, conversation, and conduct. So, imitate the faith of your leaders. Don't imitate them in everything, as if they were super-heroes or idols, but imitate their faith, their trust in Jesus as they follow Him.

3. Obey your leaders. Leaders have the difficult responsibility to make decisions as they seek to shepherd and serve the flock of God under their care. Support them as they do so, by obeying their decisions.

4. Bless your leaders. Hebrews says to ensure that your leaders can lead you "with joy and not with groaning." This means we should seek to bless and encourage our leaders. Thank them, help them, encourage them, bless them.

So, what about leaders? What do these verses say to them? Well, the verses don't directly address leaders, but we can draw three conclusions from them:

1. Leaders, have a faith worth imitating. Keep your eyes on Jesus, trust in Him, and follow Him. That way, when people look to follow your example, they will be following Christ.

2. Leaders, watch over the souls under your care. Remember your primary responsibility is to serve and care for people and for their spiritual well-being. Programs, budgets, and facilities are all necessary means, but they are not the goal of leadership. 

3. Leaders, remember that you will be called to give an account to the Lord for your leadership. This is sobering and should help leaders keep a level head and a clear focus. The Lord is watching you lead, and you will give an account to Him for the stewardship of leadership. 

Together, under-shepherds and sheep can work together to make life in the church a blessing for all, for those who are called to serve and lead and those who are called to be led well. When we love each other and work together, God is glorified and the whole church is blessed!

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