Hebrews 13:17 — Obey those who have the rule over [oversee] you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as those who must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief — for that is unprofitable for you.
Honoring church leadership seems to be a lost art in our day, but quite frankly, God commands it – including obedience to them.
I understand that there are abuses. I went through the Shepherding Movement back in the 70’s and early 80’s, and experienced its extremes firsthand. Yes, some church leaders are control freaks. But a lot of them aren’t.
Life in the Spirit is about freedom, not bondage. “… Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17). We have to balance between not permitting controlling people to enslave us and humbly submitting ourselves in accountability to godly leadership.
In order to rightly discern whether someone is “controlling” or whether we are the ones with the issues, we must understand what’s going on inside of us personally. I’ve seen good pastors who were not control freaks be accused of that — but the real problem was that their accusers did not want to receive much-needed correction. Know your own heart before you paste labels on your leadership. But if you are in a control environment, you don’t have to stay there. Find the church where God wants you to be, under a godly shepherd who knows how to honor his congregation.
1 Timothy 5:17 — Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.
The literal meaning of “double honor” in this verse is concerning finances. Corporately, the local church should honor good leadership by paying them well for the hard work they do. Individually, we honor them by giving generous offerings to support their ministry. If you don’t tithe and give offerings in your local fellowship, you are dishonoring your pastor. You will inevitably put your money where your heart is.
What we say about our church leaders is a strong indicator of whether we honor them in our hearts. Having the pastor for lunch — shredding who he is and what he preaches at the dinner table — is not acceptable in God’s sight. Numbers 12 is the story of Miriam and Aaron having a grumbling session, because they did not like some of the things Moses was doing. God made it quite clear that He was not happy with their behavior. I don’t think any of us would want God to deal with us similarly.
Our leaders are going to make mistakes — lots of them. But give them grace. Support them. Love them. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
Honoring God-ordained leadership by receiving their correction, embracing their vision, supporting that vision with our finances, and pulling alongside them in oneness of heart brings God’s favor upon us, while bucking their authority, withholding finances, and speaking disrespectfully of them thwarts our ability to come into the full destiny that God intends for us.