bits from bob....

The Members Have a Responsibility

by Robert J. Young
©, 2002, Robert J. Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account.... (Heb. 13:17)

While this text is most commonly used to add another item to the list of elders' responsibilities, a careful reading shows that the Hebrew writer was not addressing elders, but an audience of Christians tempted to depart from Christ. It is goo to know what elders ought to do (especially if one is an elder), but proper Bible study makes personal application. What does this text say to us as Christians?

1. Christians are to "obey" (listen to, comply, be persuaded by) and "submit" (yield, as to authority or admonition). Of another subject in another context, John suggests that we cannot love God who is not seen if we cannot love brethren who are seen (1 John 4:20). Perhaps this focuses our problem. We have trouble obeying God because we have trouble obeying our leaders who serve as under-shepherds. Ideally, every Christian should be spiritual strong, desiring to grow even stronger. Our experience, however, is often that of the "Hebrews" audience. We lose heart, we give up, we forget, we wander, we forsake.

2. When the elders take the lead in evangelism and visitation, the members ought to "listen to" their example, and follow in obedience. Consider the following questions who appeared in another church bulletin: If church membership were decided by annual election, with the major factor being our accomplishments, would we be reelected? If a long waiting list existed of those wanting to get into the church when vacancies occurred, would we protect our position more carefully? If there were regular accountings where we were called upon to explain why our names should be kept on the roll, would our activities and service be our defense or our prosecution?

If you were an elder, responsible for giving account for souls, and some of the souls entrusted to you rebelled and refused to obey and follow and were never present for worship, and refused to be "shepherded," what would you do? The elders I know pray, and cry, and wash their "togas" to take the message to folks who hunger and thirst after righteousness.

I believe the great problem in most churches is not elders who are unaware of Hebrews 13:17. The greatest problem in most church is members who disregard Hebrews 13:17. Let us prod and encourage one another (Heb. 10:24). Let us more carefully consider how little lessened commitment is necessary before the Bible brands it "forsaking." Let us obey and submit to our leaders in attendance, yes, but also in building relationships, church growth, neighborhood outreach, missions, and every work for the King and his Kingdom!


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Last updated January 2, 2002.