Pastor and People

Among the final instructions the writer of Hebrews includes in his epistle are commands that his readers follow their church’s leaders. These leaders were earlier described as those who spoke the word of God to them whose faith the people were to follow (Heb.13:7). Here in verse 17, he once again exhorts them to follow their leaders and to yield to their leadership. Taking these two verses together, the pastor is to lead the church through the preaching and teaching of the Word of God, and by his example in following Christ. It is in the ministry of the word of God that the pastor has authority. He watches out for the flock lest the sheep wander away from the truth and godly living, and must admonish and correct those who fall into sin. Because he must give account to God for his ministry to the flock, the writer of Hebrews exhorts his readers to submit to church leaders so that they may accomplish their ministry with joy and not grief. The pastor experiences grief when the people disobey the word of God, but as John wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 1:4). The writer warns that failure to submit to the pastor’s ministry of the Word would not be profitable because in essence they would be disobeying the Lord.
“Thus, the leadership exercised by elders is very important and should be obeyed by the church, though not uncritically or apart from congregational input” (John S. Hammett, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches, pg.165). The authority of the pastor is not seen in his making all the decisions for the church, but in teaching the people and thus leading them through the Word to make wise decisions in accordance with their responsibility as demanded by congregational government.