Summary: We miss out on the blessing of God if we don’t honor our leaders.
Developing a Healthy Leadership Culture
Today, I want to talk about something that we rarely speak about in church. It is an issue that people approach from a variety of ways with their personal history playing a large part in what they think. We are going to look at developing a healthy leadership culture. We’re going to wrestle with how we should respond to and interact with our pastoral leaders. Since I am a Pastor at this church this is a difficult subject to preach on. In fact I didn’t want to preach on it. But the book of Hebrews has brought us here. Hebrews 13:17-19 dives into this issue and it seemed good to the Holy Spirit that we pay attention to these verses this morning.
It’s been said that the church on its best day is the gathering of imperfect people. If you’ve been in the church long enough you’ve probably been hurt by Pastor or a leader in the church. Maybe they didn’t mean to hurt you, but they did and the hurt is real. Maybe you’ve seen a church blow up. Maybe you have bitterness towards a past Pastor. Maybe you got asked to leave your church. Many of us have been let down by someone. So the question is how could we ever trust a Pastoral leader again?
I want to be honest with you. I’ve struggled with this very thing. In Redding, CA I had a great pastor and mentor. His name is Bill. Bill took time to invest in me and Bill believed in me. After a couple years of being around Bill he started to let me down. I felt in some ways that he wasn’t being the greatest mentor, he seemed to busy. It was hard to just get an appointment with him. I began questioning some of his leadership decisions and bitterness began to build up in my heart. I didn’t realize it at the time but the source was pride. It was rebellious pride. A guest speaker came and spoke at our church one Sunday night. He spoke on honoring your spiritual leaders, your spiritual mothers and fathers as well at your biological mothers and fathers. Something broke in me that night. God hit me with conviction and showed me how wrong and sinful my attitude toward Bill had become. That night I did something hard. I went up to Bill and apologized. Bill didn’t really know what I had been feeling, but I had to apologize anyway. I had to let him know that I believed in him and I was willing to follow his leadership. It was tough, but afterwards it felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.
But I’m not alone am I? This is the story of the scriptures; this is the story of your life. Throughout the biblical narrative and throughout church history we see followers of God questioning their leaders, rebelling against them and not submitting to their leadership. In the desert the people of God were constantly rebelling against Moses and in the New Testament we see churches rebelling against and not submitting to Paul’s leadership. The thing about the bible is those stories didn’t just happen. They are still happening. They are our stories, they happen today in our lives and we need to be honest about that.
Let’s stand up and read Hebrews 13:17-19 together. “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they 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. Pray for us. We are sure we have a clear conscience and a desire to live honorably in every way. I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.”
First let me point out what this scripture doesn’t say. It doesn’t say submit to leaders who our living lives of sin, it doesn’t say to submit to leaders that aren’t following God’s word, it doesn’t say to submit to leaders who are doing something unmoral or unethical. These leaders portray themselves as men and women who give an account before God and have a clear conscience.
Scripture is clear that leaders will have to give account to God for the way they lead and how they live their lives. James 3:1 says that teacher will be judged more strictly than others. However, I think followers will also be held to account with how they responded to and treated their leaders. In fact Saul in 1 Samuel didn’t respond to Samuel’s spiritual leadership and God had some harsh words for him. It says in 1 Samuel 15:3 “For rebellion is like the sin of divination.” So it is obvious that we don’t want to be rebellious towards our pastoral leaders.