This writer grew up in an era where respect for others was taught and demanded. We never addressed our parents by their first name. We were taught to always use the title “Aunt” or “Uncle” preceding a relative’s first name. A teacher was always referred to as “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” or “Miss” preceding their last name. A doctor or pastor was never referred to without his title. In the 1960’s, Aretha Franklin had a hit song with lyrics that said: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me.” The Lord instructs us to show respect to church leaders, and it is important for each of us to find out what that means to Him.
Just as we are privileged to have elders and pastors lead our local assemblies today, the Jewish churches in the Acts era did too. They were instructed: “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the Word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation” (Hebrews 13:7). It may surprise many, but God’s work was never intended to be a democracy! Citizens in the U.S. exercise limited voting rights, but congregational voting is an inherent mistake in the local church. God’s design for every assembly has always been to use multiple men who are “apt to teach” (I Timothy 3:2), and skilled enough in the Scriptures to “…have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). With the demonstration of spiritual strength, biblical wisdom, and godliness, leaders are to “rule over” (Hebrews 12:7; I Thessalonians 5:12) the local assembly with a humble servant’s attitude. But the people are to “obey them that have the rule over you [in the church], and submit yourselves, for they watch for your souls…” (Hebrews 13:17). Paul states the same principle, saying, we are to “…esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake…” (I Thessalonians 5:13). Hebrews 13:7 states believers are also to observe their godly “conversation,” or manner of life, and follow their example. In the context of a church, God’s definition of respect is to embrace the rule of elders and pastors, appreciate their ministry with the Word, obey, or submit, to their leadership, and imitate their godliness. Nothing less is acceptable.
One test of our spirituality is whether or not we will obey difficult instructions from the Lord. Will you choose to embrace biblical church government and demonstrate proper respect to church leaders?
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