A certain young man cried out recently. He had issues with his wife and she ran to her Pastor to seek counsel, he asked her to leave her husband. Her husband wasn’t abusive, he wasn’t battering her, it was the usual misunderstanding arising from two people which no matter how heavy it appears, is normal. The young woman left her husband based on Pastor’s instruction.
After a while, her husband got her into a discussion and they talked about her return but she said “I will ask my Pastor. If he permits me, I will return home.” As at the time of writing this, she isn’t back home yet, she wants to but Pastor has not spoken and she believes that loyalty to pastor supersedes loyalty to her husband which puts her loyalty to God under serious questioning.
To what extent does a Pastor have authority over members? Does being an organisational leader in itself signify that one is even worthy of submission? Is it God’s will that we submit absolutely to Pastors in a way that nothing is questionable? To understand what Christian leadership is and the limits in leadership, you may need to read some previous teachings I’ve done on that. They include
- Leaders, Not Superiors
- Our Loyalty | To Christ, Not to Men
- Your Guide | The Holy Spirit, Not Your Pastor
- Spiritual Fathers | How About That?
- PASTORS | Do We Need Them?
- To Lead is to Serve
- Pastor | Not Necessarily A Life Coach
There are so much more but I carefully selected these ones.
With regards to the story above, how much authority do pastors have or are supposed to have over their members? Do members have a say? One of the popular quotes I’ve heard in the Christian circle over the years includes “you didn’t choose your Pastor, God did!” This statement is always used to cage people into unhealthy loyalty since it was God who made the choice for them.
First, let me say that God didn’t likely choose your Pastor for you, you did! They can be God’s will for you, they can also never be His will for you. Such a Pastor that destroys marriages isn’t God’s will for the woman, God obviously didn’t choose him for her. God has given us the ability to make choices including the choice of a Pastor especially when we don’t have one or when we find ourselves in ungodly and unhealthy pastoral care. The essence of being under the care of a minister, especially a Pastor is to learn and grow. The works of a Pastor ends in teaching you and encouraging you with God’s word. When it comes to your relationship with your pastor, here is what you must know and do.
1. REMEMBER YOUR PASTOR
Your Pastor is obviously someone who labour to bring God’s word to you. In some cases, they led you to Christ and in some cases, you submitted because you are hungry for the word. Anyone who isn’t bringing you God’s word isn’t your pastor, he may be a denominational leader but if you aren’t being taught by him, he isn’t your Pastor. Always have your Pastor in mind which may include honouring him with substances. The Bible says in Hebrews 13:7a (AMP)
“Remember your leaders who brought you the word of God.”
To remember means to keep an image in mind, to withhold yourself from forgetting something. In context, the writer of Hebrew was saying “always put into consideration and never forget those who labour to bring you the word.” Appreciation is one great way to express that we remember our Pastors. Appreciate those who labour to teach you the word, not just in words but in substance.
Don’t follow a man just like that! You must consider the conducts of your Pastor, is it worthy of emulation? Is it worthy of his office? Now, I am not saying that every mistake of a Pastor is an indication that he is false but a Pastor should largely and strictly lead a godly life. Every result of their conduct has to be examined, their words have to be examined and their stand has to be examined.
When a Pastor brings words to you, it is your duty to consider if those are the words of God. When men of God speak to you or even instruct you on something, it is your duty to discern and know when it is the mind of God for you. The Bible says in Hebrews 13:7b (AMP)
“CONSIDER the result of their CONDUCT”.
3. IMITATE THEIR FAITH, NOT THEIR FLAWS
Pastors are human, they are like you and they have desires just like you. A pastor can make mistakes even though the office of the Pastor requires extra efforts. The mistakes of a pastor aren’t enough reason to withdraw your commitment to him, it is not enough reason to brand him evil! However, never imitate his mistakes and never glorify it.
The only thing permissible of imitation in ministers of the gospel and leaders is their faith! In context, this means their “zeal, commitment and absolute reliance on God”. This was why Paul wrote, “imitate me as I imitate Christ.” This means that as we follow our Christian leaders, we shouldn’t follow them into error! The Bible continues in Hebrews 13:7
“IMITATE their FAITH” – HEBREWS 13:7 AMP
4. OBEY AND SUBMIT TO THEM
Obedience and submission go hand in hand. What does it mean to obey and submit? First, without obedience, you cannot reap off the fruits of your Pastors, their words will be like seeds planted on the rock. Disobeying them means hardening your heart and making it less fertile for their teachings to take effect.
To submit means to willingly recognise their authority and affirm it, not as hype but with sincerity. You must understand that as a believer, you need a Pastor, God works with them to ensure you are matured. As long as we live on earth, maturity isn’t complete which means as long as you stay in this world, you need a Pastor.
If you want to get the most out of any leadership, you must willingly obey and submit. The Bible says in Hebrews 13:17 (AMP)
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and continually guarding your spiritual welfare as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief and groans, for this would be of no benefit to you.”
The major reason you should submit and obey your pastors is that it makes discipleship very easy, how can a teacher teach you with grief? When your Pastors don’t Pastor you with joy, you won’t benefit anything from them. However, obedience in this sense simply means giving heed to the word of God and godly counsel that they bring to you.
As a Christian with the Holy Spirit in you, you need discernment to know when it’s God speaking. When the words of the Pastor is not in alignment with the truth of God’s word, you’ve got to obey God. When obeying your Pastor means disobeying God, you’ve got to obey God.
For example, the Bible instructs us to honour our father and mother but it is clear that honour here is to be in accordance with what God permits. We were warned against worshipping the false gods of our parents and threading the wrong paths they took! In our story, we see a woman leave her husband because Pastor asked her to but God definitely wouldn’t want that in all ramifications. Obedience to her pastor, in this case, is disobedience to God. This isn’t the kind of submission God permits. Our submission to others is to the extent of what God permits.
There are times God would ask you to do something specific and it is possible that even your pastor will not encourage it. It is not wrong to have certain convictions that your pastor doesn’t welcome, you aren’t a robot who has no understanding of its own.
5. PRAY FOR PASTORS AND MINISTERS
A lot of pastors want to do what is right but find themselves taking sides with the flesh because it seems to promise instant gratification. To this regard, a pastor can make mistakes. Your duty is to pray for them in earnest.
To pray earnestly means to devote a considerable degree of time in praying for your pastor in all seriousness. They have a lot of battles going on in their lives, sometimes they are pressured to please people, they are pressured to please self, they are pressured to enjoy what isn’t forthcoming and they are faced with lots of temporal challenges resulting to sacrifices they have made.
To be a pastor is not an easy feat, don’t just look at what a Pastor seems to be enjoying now, look back to when they started! I have been privileged to pastor young people, I understand what it feels like to be there. People usually thought I was enjoying money because I always dress fine, smile, listen to everyone and never talk about my problems. I was single-handedly footing the ministry bills, I couldn’t raise a single fund because I didn’t have the audacity to do that! It would have been worse if I didn’t have a job then.
I remember the criticism I faced even from elders. Most of my good intentions were grossly misunderstood, I have my own share of pressure including a time I nearly lied just to raise some money for the ministry. This and many more are the reasons you should always pray for your pastor. The Bible says in Hebrews 13:18-19 (AMP)
“Keep praying for us, for we are convinced that we have a good conscience, seeking to conduct ourselves honourably in all things.”
Don’t just pray for your Pastors, also pray for ministers and ministries all over the world. Pray for me too and call me by name in your prayers.