Leadership is a popular topic. Just do a quick search on Amazon and you will find hundreds of books that have been written on the subject. Within the church we see that leadership is an important subject as well. God appointed various roles of leadership within the nation of Israel in the Old Testament. In the New Testament we see that God has also placed elders and deacons to provide leadership to the local body.
In Hebrews 13 the author addresses the local church and calls for them to obey and submit to their leadership. Now for some, these words can land with a heavy thud. The idea of obeying and submitting does not sit well in their mind. And to be honest, they at times have a good reason. It only takes one or two bad examples of leaders to ruin it for the countless many that are doing well in their role as a leader in the church.
And yet, as we come back to Hebrews 13, there it is still, the call to obey and submit. So, what does the author intend with these words? The word he chose for obey is actually not the typical word that could be used. It carries the idea of obeying not based on a position or title but based upon relationship and trust. It carries the idea of persuasion. The intent is that the author is calling his readers to follow the leadership of those who are living a life worthy of imitation. A life of character and passion for God. A life that is worth following. Their love for God and His church persuades others to follow.
Furthermore, the call to submit is a call to understand that the authority the leaders possess is not due to their own title or ability. It is endowed to them by God. Their authority is a gift not a right or a privilege.
The relationship between a leader and the church body reminds me of what Paul describes within a marriage relationship in Ephesians 5. He calls the wife to submit to the spiritual leadership of the husband. And then, he commands husbands to love their wives as Jesus loves the church. This creates a beautiful partnership in which the wife is loved, cherished, and honored as Jesus does His church. Therefore, submission to that type of love becomes easy.
If we take this image and translate it to the realm of leadership I think we will see a similar result. If leaders seek to emulate the qualities listed in the New Testament (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1; 1 Peter 5) and live a life worthy of their calling I believe this will result in a church body that is eager and willing to follow.
And so, Hebrews 13 leaves us with the opportunity for a commitment. For the leaders that read this will you commit by God’s grace and power to live a life worthy of following? For those who are being led, will you commit to support, encourage, and pray for those who are leading you? As each party seeks to do these things the church is able to move forward to accomplish incredible things for the glory of God.