“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. . . . 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” (Hebrews 13:7, 17).
Remember and obey your leaders… why? Not because of themselves, but because of the Word God has given them as overseers/elders/pastors in your church.
They Preach from the Scriptures
Each Sunday morning (or at whatever appointed time a local church gathers), a pastor stands up to preach either from an actual Book, or a tablet, or from a screen–but the content comes from the God-breathed Scriptures which makes the man of God equipped and competent for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). In 2 Timothy 4:1-5, the apostle Paul charged Timothy to preach from these very Scriptures:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV).
The readiness of preaching stems from the gravity of the charge of the apostle Paul, but also effectual nature of the Scriptures themselves, empowered and inspired by the Spirit of God Himself. So those who receive this call do not pigeon-hole their preaching simply at an appointed time of, say, a worship service. If God provides other opportunities to preach, the Spirit’s compelling fuels, not for the sake of celebrity, but for the sake of the Gospel!
The aspects of preaching and proclaim the Word as a herald in the neighborhood of God’s people and in our community has a threefold shape of “reprove, rebuke, and exhort.” To reprove comes from the root of conviction of sin. Thus, preaching deals honestly with the Word, and that will often come against the way we may look at matters which are away from God’s design. To rebuke is that of ordering and charging something (like Jesus ordered the winds and the waves to be still), and so those who are pastors charge stringently for the flock to turn from sin and turn to Christ as disciples! To exhort is that of comforting and encouraging; in this case, to not simply reprimand for something done wrong, but to encourage as disciples to move toward Christ!
They equip from the Scriptures
To expand on 2 Timothy 3:17, which says, “… that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Pastors exist not to do all of the work of the ministry, but to also equip those in the congregation to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12). They equip through the Word that is not only preach but modeled. Hebrews 13 tells us to remember the leaders who preach the word to us. But there’s also the aspect of imitating their lives. One of the great ways to learn how to preaches to preach. One of the great ways to learn how to evangelize is for pastors to come alongside to show how to evangelize, and then work to give their proteges opportunities under that supervision to evangelize. The best way to equip others to make hospital visits and counsel and care is to model these things and then give them the opportunities to execute those things as well.
The Scriptures equip pastors for every good work, therefore the Scriptures must be the primary textbook by which they are equipped. No shortage of books regarding preaching, pastoring, evangelism, discipleship, ecclesiology, and leadership exist giving all sorts of helps and tips in moving the church or organization forward. Sadly, many works appear to use the Scriptures to bolster their ideas rather than making sure their ideas conform to the ways of Scripture.
They Care for the Flock
Pastors are, as the term indicates, shepherds of a flock. The apostle Peter reminds us not only that pastors are to be shepherds, but some basics on what shepherds should embody:
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed; shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight; not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory (1 Peter 5:1-4).
The nature of the pastor’s oversight embodies a willingness, an eagerness, and as an example. What it must not embody is outside compulsion from others, a love of money, and bullying. Our compelling comes from Christ (2 Cor 5:14); our eagerness comes from His call, not from how money talks; and our leadership comes from love for His flock, not leveraging our position for control.
The idea of how pastors stand as examples connects with Hebrews 13:7 in a call for Christian to imitate the lives of the pastors who are led by Christ and His Word. Paul alluded to this in his final talk with the Ephesian elders:
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock, and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore, be alert (Acts 20:28-30a).
So care for the flock is not simply for their physical needs to make sure they are comfortable; pastors also for their spiritual growth and protection. Some may come from the outside, but some will also rise up from within the fellowship of believers. Caring for the flock means an alertness and attentiveness to this all-important aspect of their discipleship.
Peter told the Jerusalem congregation that the spiritual leaders of the church need to focus on “prayer and the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4). A great exercise on the study of prayer is to go through the book of Acts and count how many times the church prayed–specifically, what caused the church to pray, the nature of their prayers, and how God responded to those faithful pray-ers.
We are all servants of Christ, part of the body of Christ which composes the church of Christ. Regardless of the gifting or calling to which God has called, we all submit to the will of God in Christ. So even as leaders, we are followers of Jesus, disciples who chase hard after Christ and run hard away from sin. Prayer is the key to connecting with Christ, leaning into humility in reliance on Christ, and recognizing that the way to understand and apply the Word is by this connection, humility, and love toward Christ.
We are all broken sinners in need of a Savior, but God calls those to shepherd the church as servant leaders. They will have to give an account. Praise God Christ promised to never leave any of us alone (Matthew 28:20).