November 18: “A Pastor and His Congregation”

Today’s Bible Reading:

1 Chronicles 11-12
Hebrews 13
Amos 7
Luke 2

Today’s Bible Verse(s):

Hebrews 13:7, 17 (CSB) “Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith. … Obey your leaders and submit to them, since they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”

Reflections on Today’s Bible Verse(s):

This year will go down as the most difficult year of many people’s lives. With the pandemic, the economy, the U.S. elections, the riots, the divisions, and so much more, so many of us are looking forward to saying “good-bye” to 2020. The anxiety has elevated to unhealthy, even dangerous levels.

It has also been one of the worst years of ministry for many, many pastors. There are certainly the outliers who have done well this year. But a vast majority of pastors are tired, emotionally drained, and desperately needing to get away for awhile to get recharged. The anxiety is running dangerously high with many men of the cloth.

But as I have pastored full-time for the past 18 years, and as I have had heart-to-heart conversations with many pastors during those years, it is a foregone conclusion that much of a pastor’s heartache isn’t what happens outside the church. Generally speaking, the things that put pre-mature wrinkles on a pastor’s face and take years off his life is what happens inside the church. Sometimes, a pastor and his wife become convinced that people outside the church are nicer, more relational, and more cooperative than the people in their own congregation.

The verses that I have chosen for today speak into this issue. They tell us how a church is to respond to their pastor.

Hebrews 13:7 (CSB): “Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith.”

The readers of Hebrews were called to “remember.” This simply meant that they were to keep in mind the guys that were about to be described. Almost certainly, this meant at least to remember them in prayer.

The first designation is “leaders.” The guy who was the spiritual leader (a.k.a. pastor) wasn’t to be a figurehead. He was given the responsibility and authority to lead for the betterment of his congregation and for the exaltation of Christ’s glory. Make no mistake, the pastor isn’t simply to preach and visit. He is to be the leader of the church, serving under the authority of King Jesus.

The second description is that pastors “have spoken God’s word to you.” A pastor must be a man of the Word. A call to pastor is a call to study so that the Word of God can be proclaimed, explained, and applied.

The third, unspoken, quality was that these men were to take their pursuit of holiness seriously. Why? Because the congregation was to see them as examples, to “carefully observe the outcome of their lives, (and) imitate their faith.” A pastor who is known for not practicing what he preaches shouldn’t be a pastor.

Then, ten verses later, we read the following verse that also refers to pastors.

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

These men, according to verse 7, are leaders, they preach God’s Word, and they take their pursuit of holiness seriously.

What is the congregation’s response? “Obey your leaders and submit to them.” This means that as they are pursuing Christlikeness, knowledgeable of God’s Word and proclaiming it, and are leading the church to do what they believe the Lord desires, the congregation should follow.

Does this mean that if the pastor states what color carpet he wants or some other sort of thing that the congregation doesn’t have a voice? Nope. I take verse 17 to refer particularly to the sermons and leadership directions that enable the church to grow in their knowledge of God’s Word and application of it. That’s why we read the very next phrase in verse 17.

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

Simply put, as a pastor, I am going to be held responsible for much more than my own life. Hebrews 13:17 says that I will also be held responsible for the spiritual well-being of the churches I have pastored.

So, as a pastor feeds and lead’s God’s flock, he should be able to do it unhindered so that serving as pastor can be done “with joy.” That verse says that pastors ought to carry out their tasks, and it ought to be a source of happiness for them.

Yet, all too often, pastors would say (in private to a highly trusted friend) that they aren’t happy. They are worn out. They are severely discouraged. And it’s primarily people in the church that are making it so difficult.

So, my friend, pray for your pastor. Pray for God to give him strength, and wisdom, and courage, and anything else he needs as he leads your congregation through the remainder of this year and into the next.

Do you really want to bless him? Then love his wife. Send them a card or note and write what they mean to you and your family. Tell of how you have been blessed by the Lord, under the leadership of His undershepherd. Almost certainly he will keep that card close by for quite awhile.

* * * * * * * * * *

Lord Jesus, these are difficult days. So much is going on around me that it is so overwhelming. I find that when I attend church, I can breathe again. I am reminded of the hope of salvation. I am reoriented to a Christ-centered way of thinking rather than allowing the stress all around me to consume my mind. But, in order for my church to be healthy, it must have a pastor who is emotionally healthy, spiritually mature, and so much more. So, I pray for my pastor, his wife, and his family. I pray that You would bless them and enable them to stay the course and keep their eyes on You in these dark days. I pray this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Photo by Jeremy Kuehn on Unsplash

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I have an incredible wife that God gave to me on May 10, 1997. Since then, the Lord has blessed us with three wonderful boys. I am also the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Polk City, Florida.

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