The topic of eldership and leadership is often discussed and explained, whether through written articles, from the pulpit, conferences, websites, etc. I believe it is necessary that this information is brought to our attention through these resources.
But I have noticed very little, if at all, do we discuss the responsibility of those who are under the authority of the elders (That statement might have already offended someone). Yes, you are under the authority of someone other than the Lord Jesus Christ, your oversight. Christ is, of course, the Head, but in the Body there are those who have been and will be appointed as elders and we (notice I am not an elder) have to be submissive to them.
Two portions of Scripture come to mind when I think of our responsibility, Hebrews 3:17 and 1 Peter 5:5
Hebrews 13:17 reads, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
Obedience to leaders
This verse commands us to obey our leaders and submit to them. The reason we are to submit to them is because they are responsible for keeping watch over our souls. They will one day stand before Christ and give an account for how they led you and me. We are encouraged to allow them to rule over us with joy and not with groaning.
A willing attitude
As a manager, I have a responsibility to lead and manage other individuals. The most difficult people to lead are those who constantly complain and are stubborn whenever something changes within the company. The most joyful people to lead are those who come in, do their job and even pick up the slack of others.
They never complain and are always willing to adapt to the changes made by the company. They are upbeat and encouraging. Are you the stubborn complainer or the upbeat encourager?
1 Peter 5:5 reads, “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders…”
In the previous verses Peter described some responsibilities of elders. I love the fact that Peter ends the exhortation to the elders with, “Hey you, the one he is leading, submit to them!” One way of translating the verb “subject” in this verse is “Submit self unto.” We have the responsibility to submit ourselves to the leadership and guidance of our elders.
A brief testimony
I can recall the first time I felt the Lord leading my family to serve Him cross culturally about 5 years ago. I walked into the elders meeting explaining how we will be leaving for Africa in a year and what MY game plan was. I could tell as they looked at me with confusion that they were not on the same page. I was not allowing them to lead me with joy at all.
Question after question they asked me, I quickly responded to and was convinced that it was the Lord’s will for me to take my family and move to Africa and anything they said contrary was wrong. After committing myself to praying and fasting, the Lord convicted me of being under the authority of my elders and that they were to lead me. As my wife and I committed ourselves to this principle, we have always been at peace with when we go, where we go, and how long we go.
Are you willing to be led?
Whenever you are faced with a life changing decision, i.e. moving away from the assembly, promotions at work, or involvement with ministries, remind yourself there is an authority over you seeking to guide you. What about when you disagree with or dislike the way you do “church,” i.e. music, format of meetings, corporate evangelism, etc?
Remind yourself they are the ones to give an account and to approach them with respect as the leaders of the assembly. At the end of the day when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, the elders will have to give an account for our souls and we will have to give an account for our behavior to our leadership.
Editorial note: we understand that there are times when elders may not be acting in the best interest of the assembly. There are situations that must be dealt with, with much prayer and guidance from godly men and women. This article is addressing the general principle of obedience, not every specific situation.