29th December 2022
Read (Hebrews 13v7, 17-19)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
What is the relationship between a Christian and the leaders of their local church? Perhaps this isn't a question that you have ever given much thought to, but it is a concern of Holy Scripture and therefore it should be something that concerns us. So what should our relationship with our church leaders be like?
Firstly, we are to remember them (v7). This isn't a call to think about them occasionally but instead to pray for them (v18). Brothers and sisters, how often do you pray for the leaders in your local church? May I be so bold to ask you to pray for your leaders every single day of 2023? That may seem excessive but I can assure you, I am a weak and imperfect leader and I value and need the prayers of the saints. Ask specifically that your leaders will act honourably in all things so that we may be blessed by a clear conscience (v18). In other words may we not meet slander with slander or lies with lies. May our conduct bring glory to Christ as we serve Him in His church.
Pray for the practical concerns of your leaders too. Paul wanted to be with the Hebrews in person and so asks that they would pray earnestly for his rapid return to their fellowship (v19). Brothers and sisters, pray for your leaders as they travel to and from hospital visits. Pray that your leaders won't forget their own families. Pray that they would have time to enjoy rest and a round of golf. Pray for them continually, specifically, earnestly and practically in 2023.
One area in Edengrove that falls upon my shoulders is the speaking of the word of God (v7b). Please remember me in this work. You would be surprised at how often the preparation time for the preaching of the Bible is squeezed by other things in the life of our congregation. I'm not belittling those other activities I'm merely reminding us all that the preaching of God's Word is essential to the health of a local fellowship. Pray for the Word read and especially preached and the men called to undertake this work.
Secondly, we are to consider our leaders lives and imitate their faith (v7b). This is a high and heavy challenge to the leaders of any fellowship. I pray two things in this area...that we leaders would walk rightly before the Lord setting an example in all things and that church members would be prepared to humbly follow the example set. This requires diligence from church leader and church member alike. To the leader I humbly ask - is your example worth following? To the member I humbly enquire - are you teachable and prepared to follow your leaders?
Thirdly, we are to obey and submit to our leaders (v17a). This is easy when our leaders make decisions that we agree with but much more difficult when we question the path that we are being asked to walk. But brothers and sisters, please seek to obey and follow your leaders as a matter of urgency. They are called to watch over your soul and will one day give an account to the Lord for their work (v17b). Church leaders should not be tyrants who run churches as their own personal kingdoms. Instead they are to be wise, prayerful and zealous for the things of God. Obey and submit to such leaders.
Finally, we are to make sure that the work of our leaders is a joy and not something that causes them to groan (v17b). I think that this is perhaps the most challenging and difficult of all of Paul's exhortations in these verses. In my life I speak regularly with other church leaders and unfortunately the spirit of the age seems to be one of constant discouragement. Are church leaders always complaining over nothing? Perhaps. But what if the modern church has forgotten what she is supposed to be and instead has become Tesco with a Christian veneer? Just like in Tesco we are happy if everything is in stock but we are always prepared to give the checkout operator a piece of our mind when things go wrong. Brothers and sisters, we are not Tesco or just another service provider in your life. We belong to the most glorious body on earth, the church of Jesus Christ. Therefore make the work of your leaders a joy. Pray for them, talk to them, encourage them, listen to them and show up for the joyous leader is a tremendous advantage to the church (v17b).
So brothers and sisters, what is your relationship with your church leaders? May the answer reflect the call of today's verses - for the sake of Christ and His Bride the Church.
Q36 What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification? The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.