Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Right Expectations

Leslie Basham: We follow our pastors not because they’re perfect. We follow out of obedience to Jesus. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Remember that leaders come and leaders go. But there’s one leader who stays the same: Jesus, who never changes. Put your trust in Him. Follow the example of the leaders, but remember, your ultimate leader is Christ. Set your hope in Him. He’s the only one who will never fail you.

Leslie Basham: It’s Wednesday, September 28th, and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

If you’ve ever been disappointed by the failure of a spiritual leader in your life, we hope you’ll keep listening. Nancy will give us some reasons to continue to trust godly leadership because we love God. She’s continuing in a series called Follow the Leaders.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: There’s a man in my church who was a pastor for many years. We were talking recently about this subject of how we as members of a church can appreciate and encourage and support our spiritual leaders in our churches. He handed me this list that he had written of ways to discourage your pastor. I want to share some of those with you:

Fifteen Ways to Discourage Your Pastor 

  1. Listen to the Scriptures being taught, but don’t obey the teaching.
  2. Show irritation when an important point in the pastor’s message takes his sermon to 12:05.
  3. Start a gossip chain.
  4. Consistently show up to the church services five or ten minutes late. (And I would add to that: Be sporadic in your attendance. Come when you feel like it or when you can manage to get the kids up on time. Be sporadic—that will discourage your pastor for sure. Here’s another one.)
  5. Tell the pastor that the nursery is not your responsibility.
  6. Be mildly negative about most leadership decisions.
  7. Go to the lake on summer Sundays rather than to church.
  8. Pay your pastor so little that he cannot adequately support his family.
  9. Regularly fall asleep during the sermon because your Saturday nights are taken up with late activities.
  10. Talk frequently about the weaknesses of the church.
  11. Never let your pastor know that you are praying for him and his family.
  12. When the leadership mentions important financial needs, keep your billfold tightly closed.
  13. Assume your pastor’s motives are questionable.
  14. Assume that there is only one way to do things and that your way is the correct one.
  15. Disapprove verbally of the new pastor because he does things differently than the way you have been used to.

Now those are some ways to discourage your pastor. We don’t want to discourage our pastors; we want to encourage them. We’re focusing on that as we come into this Pastors’ Appreciation Month. We’re looking at several passages in the New Testament where the Scripture teaches us our responsibilities toward our spiritual leaders.

We’re not responsible for them being faithful to their task. That’s their responsibility before God. Those pastors, those leaders will give an account for how well they fulfill their responsibilities. And let me say, as a teacher of the Word, I know what an awesome sense of responsibility that is, that one day I will give an account to God. The Scripture says teachers will be held to a stricter, a greater, a higher judgment.

I carry on myself all the time the weight of the responsibility that it is to be a teacher of the Word. Assume that your pastor feels that same thing. Whether he does or doesn’t, know that he will give an account to God for his faithfulness. We’re accountable to obey God for our part, for our responsibilities toward those leaders.

I want us to look today in the book of Hebrews, chapter 13. We’re going to look at three different verses in that passage that talk to us about our responsibilities toward our leaders. Hebrews chapter 13, and we’ll begin in verse 7. The writer says, “Remember your leaders. . . .” Some of your translations will say, “Remember those who rule over you” (NKJV). Those words leaders and rulers can mean the same thing. Remember your leaders. "Remember those who rule over you, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”

Now again in this passage we see three responsibilities of leaders. What are they to do? They’re to lead or shepherd or rule over the flock. They’re to be servant-leaders. Secondly, they are to speak or teach the Word of God. That’s their responsibility, to speak the Word of God to us. Then they are to provide a faithful, godly example for the flock to follow. They’re to live a life of faith and purity and an example that they can say to us as the apostle Paul did to the Corinthians, “Follow me, as I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). So those are their responsibilities: to lead, teach the Word of God, and provide a faithful, godly example for us to follow.

Now what are we to do? Well, we are to remember these people. We are to learn from the lives of godly leaders. I think here it’s talking about not only present leaders but past ones. That’s why I sometimes take time to reflect back on leaders that God has put in my life through the years. Some of them are now with the Lord, but I remember them. I remember the example of their lives. We’re to imitate their faith. That means that we are to emulate godly characteristics in the lives of those who have taught us the Word of God.

Now the writer to the Hebrews goes on to say in verse 8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings." I think in the context this is saying, “Remember that leaders come and leaders go. But there’s one leader who stays the same: Jesus, who never changes. Put your trust in Him. Follow the example of the leaders, but remember, your ultimate leader is Christ. Set your hope in Him. He’s the only one who will never fail you.”

And that, by the way, is the protection against being carried away by false teachers and wrong doctrines—to evaluate everything you hear in light of what you have learned from God’s Word, which has been taught by faithful ministers of the Word of God.

Now move down in Hebrews to chapter 13 verse 17. In verses 17 and 18 of Hebrews chapter 13 the writer says, “Obey those who rule over you” (NKJV), or those who guide you. Obey those who guide you. The New American Standard Bible says, “Obey your leaders and be submissive . . . .” Obey them and be submissive, “for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”

Now the implication here is that spiritual leaders in the church have a God-given responsibility to lead, to guide, to rule over the flock. They have been invested with the authority of Christ, who is the Chief Shepherd. When they lead, they represent Him.

Now it’s an enormous responsibility that they have to represent Him well, to guide on His behalf. They will have to give account for how they lead or how they rule and for the spiritual condition of their flock. That’s a heavy responsibility. That’s why we need to pray for these men. They will give account for our spiritual condition. They’re responsible to watch over our souls.

But what’s our responsibility? To follow, to obey their teaching, to submit to their leadership and their spiritual authority. We will have to give account for how well we follow, for how well we have submitted to their teaching.

Now you say, “Well, that seems really obvious.” You know, if you look around today you’ll find many churches where it doesn’t work this way, where the congregation rules the leaders. That’s why I think it’s important to know that biblically the leaders are the ones who are supposed to lead. The congregation is not to rule over the leaders. That’s not biblical.

What happens in these churches where the congregation is the power core . . . in so many churches today, little churches and big churches . . . people are stubborn; they’re self-willed. In many cases I think they’re maybe not even believers. They may be tares among the wheat. But at best they’re carnal; they’re stubborn; they’re self-willed, and they have to be in charge. So they keep their thumb on top of that pastor, on top of those leaders. “You have to do it my way.”

This passage is saying, “Let the leaders lead.” Let them be the leaders. They have to give account to God. And what are we to do? To be responsive, to be responsive to our spiritual leaders, to follow their teaching.

Now we’re assuming that their teaching is from the Word of God. I’m not talking here about blind obedience. I’m not talking about a cult where you follow your leader to the point where you drink cyanide and commit mass suicide. That’s not biblical. They are responsible to be teaching from the Word of God, and we need to be searching the Scriptures and making sure that ultimately we are obeying the Word of God.

But assuming we have a pastor who is teaching the Word of God, we are to follow their teaching. We are to listen to their teaching. We are to heed their biblical counsel. When your spiritual leaders stand before God, as they will one day to give account for their flock—for your life—will they be able to do it with joy? They’re going to have to say to the Lord, “I shepherded this flock. I did it to the best of my ability.” Will they be able to do it with joy, or will they have to do it with grief, as the Scripture says?

They’re charged with watching out for your soul. Are you following in such a way that when they give account they will be able to say, “Lord, here are the souls of the people I watched over. Here’s the flock You gave me; I’m bringing them to You, and they’re in good condition”?

When you stand before God to give account, as you will one day, will you be able to say, “Lord, I followed the spiritual leadership that You put into my life—the pastors, the teachers, the leaders, the elders, the deacons and other spiritual leaders, parents, husbands?” Did you follow the leader?

Now ultimately, let me just say again that the leader is Christ. We’re not talking about blind obedience. But God has blessed so many of us with spiritual leaders who have a heart for God. They love the Lord. Are we making it easy for them to lead us spiritually, or do we make it hard? Are we supporting them? Are we lifting up their hands? The apostle Paul said of the Thessalonians, “What is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).

I want my spiritual leaders to be able to say that about me, that I am a glory and a joy to them, that I’m a blessing to them, that I make their job easy, that I make their job a joy, that I lift them up, that I respond to their teaching and respond to their leadership, and that it makes their job of shepherding a joy.

Leslie Basham: If you want to be a joy to your pastor, would you pray with Nancy Leigh DeMoss in just a minute? Would you also consider being a joy to your pastor’s wife? October is Pastors’ Appreciation Month, and we want to help you mark this important occasion. We’ve put together a Pastor’s Wife’s Appreciation Packet. It includes a signed copy of Nancy’s book Surrender. It also has a specially designed travel mug, some gourmet coffee, and a purse-sized calendar. To make this gift-giving as simple as possible, we’ll also include a gift bag, tissue paper, and a special card.

You can order the Pastor’s Wife’s Appreciation Packet online at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959. Don’t forget this important person who serves the body of Christ so faithfully.

Unrealistic expectations can cause a lot of problems in a church. We’ll hear more about that tomorrow. Now, let’s pray with Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Thank You, Lord, for Your Word and how it speaks so practically to our lives. Thank You again for our leaders. And Lord, would You show us where we may be lacking in obeying Your Word, where we may not be following the example that they have set by their lives, where we may be in disobedience or in rebellion, out from under the authority of our spiritual leaders? And Lord, help us to follow in such a way that they will be able to give an account before You with joy, and that we will be able to give account for having followed the leadership that You put into our lives. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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