Pastors and churches don’t always have healthy relationships. Sometimes
leaders fail to lead, and other times congregations do not follow. The author
of Hebrews writes clearly about this as he closes the letter (see Hebrews
Let’s look at what he says to the leaders first.
Leaders are People Who Lead
There is no shortage of training, books, and seminars on leadership, but
sadly there is a lack of godly leaders in the church—leaders who lead
humbly and selflessly like Christ.
The author points out three characteristics of a godly church leader:
Hebrews 13:17 says church leaders keep watch over their congregation’s
The picture here is of a shepherd who is vigilant as he sacrificially watches
over the flock. The elders/pastors of the church are to primarily focus on the
spiritual growth of the church.
What does that look like practically?
1. Watch against false doctrine.
This is more than teaching the truth; it is also ensuring that people are not
veering off into false doctrines (See Acts 20:28-30).
The enemy has always tried to twist the truth and infect the church with false
teachers. The elders are to stand united in the truth as they proactively guard
2. Watch against deceitful behavior.
In 3 John, John warns the church about a man called Diotrephes (3 John
9). Evidently, he was a man who loved the power of leadership and was full
of pride. The church has always been susceptible to men and women who
take advantage of position. The elders are called to expose and root out
3. Watch against divisive behavior.
Splits and factions in the church caused by divisive people will always be a
challenge for leaders to identify and confront (see Titus 3:10-11). This
divisiveness doesn’t just affect one or two people, it affects the whole
4. Watch for spiritual growth.
The elders are to keep alert and diligent for the spiritual development of the
church. We all have a responsibility to be growing in our faith and knowledge
of the Word. The elders’ role is to keep people moving forward.
Hebrews 13:17 says that Christian leaders will be called to give an account
for how they performed their duties (see Hebrews 13:17). This is a sobering
reminder for anyone in Christian leadership.
This accountability is two-fold:
1. To the church.
Churches should expect that the pastor/elder maintains a Christian walk that
sets an example for the believers.
2. To the Lord.
One day we will all stand before the Lord, and he will judge us based on our
calling and the gifts that he has given us (see James 3:1). Church leaders
should expect to give account for their leadership of the flock.
Hebrews 13:18 reminds us that the behavior of the leader must set an
example for the church.
Pastors are ranked based on their skills in preaching, administration,
counseling, and others. But how highly do we rank their character?
The way a spiritual leader behaves in private and public must never waiver
from his Christian convictions (see 1 Timothy 3:2). The history of the church
is littered with men who have lived double lives and brought shame and
destruction on the church. Character matters more than skills. A Christian
leader whose character matches their convictions should be commended.
Congregations are People Who Follow
What is the response of the congregation?
Faithful leaders need faithful congregations who are committed to the
mission of the church.
Sadly, in our entertainment saturated and individualistic society, we have
many people who view the church as simply a convenient societal construct
that we can attend or participate in as it suits us.
But the gathering of the Body of Christ is powerful and vital for all believers.
This was tested during the COVID season in 2020 (see Hebrews 10:24-25).
We are called to stir one another up, holding each other accountable in
areas of spiritual disciplines. This cannot happen if one attends church once
As we come closer to Christ’s return, we must regularly encourage one
another by meeting together. The days of passive church semi-attendance
are over. We don’t value church because it has become too much of a
convenience and not an essential priority when in fact we should prioritize
gathering together over sports, schoolwork, family events, etc.
What characterizes a faithful congregation?
Hebrews 13:17a tells us that obedience is required. This phrase conjures up
pictures of authoritarian leaders forcing their subjects into submission, but
this is not at all what is taught here.
The church is to obey and submit to the leaders as they see the leaders
taking the responsibility seriously for caring for their souls. Servant
leadership compels people to submit out of love. It is the model Jesus gave
Hebrews 13:17b tells us that it is to our advantage when we follow our
leaders in unity. How we respond to leadership in the church affects the
whole church. We are a family that is sometimes messy and sometimes
challenging, but we are a family drawn together by the Spirit of God. We
labor, learn, and share joy and grief together (see 1 Corinthians 12:26-27).
When the church walks together in unity, despite differences, it produces fruit
that is profitable for the whole church.
Hebrews 13:18 tells us to pray for our leaders. As leaders pray for the
church, the church should pray for them. What if, instead of focusing on our
leaders’ deficiencies, we prayed for the Lord to bless them?
Kent Hughes writes, “How different the modern church would be if the
majority of its people prayed for its pastors and lay leadership. There would
be supernatural suspensions of business-as-usual worship. There would be
more times of inexplicable visitations from the Holy Spirit. More lay people
would come to grips with the deeper issues of life. The leadership vacuum
would evaporate. There would be more conversions.”
If we are to move forward in health as a church, it begins with the prayer
meetings. The gathering of the church to pray is the most important meeting
of the week.
Will you commit to follow our church’s leaders in unity and pray for