The following series of articles comes from David Cloud and gives us some helpful insight into how to really make the most of being a member of a church. I am so grateful for the church that Jesus Christ loved and gave Himself for, and I want to have a right relationship with the church, which is his body, his bride. I would not agree with every point he makes, but I think there is alot of good truth in what he writes. Check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5 as well.
6. WE MUST UNDERSTAND AND ACCEPT PASTORAL AUTHORITY
Another crucial key in fruitful church membership is a right attitude toward pastoral authority.
“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” (Heb. 13:7).
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:17).
We have looked at the emphasis God has placed on the local church. That emphasis is woven into the very warp and woof of the New Testament and is undeniable. It is God’s will that every Christian be a faithful, fruitful, contributing member of a sound church. That being the case, it is not surprising that we are exhorted to obey those who have the rule over us. The verses quoted above are strong; we are to obey our church leaders. They are not to be dictators; they do not have unlimited authority; they are not to be obeyed unquestioningly; but they ARE rulers. Hebrews uses plain language, and I believe it means exactly what it says. Not all Christians have equal authority in this world. Some are rulers and the others are to obey those rulers.
The pastors of a church have the major responsibility before the Lord for the teachings, practices, and direction of that church.
The Bible warns that the church leaders watch for our souls and that we must not cause them grief for that is unprofitable for us. I believe that this points to the judgment seat of Christ. If I am a grief to my pastor, it will result in grief for me at Christ’s judgment bar. THE NOTABLE EXCEPTION TO THIS, OF COURSE, IS IF THE PASTOR HIMSELF IS RESISTING THE WORD OF GOD OR IS FAILING TO OBEY THE WORD OF GOD OR IS LEADING CONTRARY TO THE WORD OF GOD IN SOME AREA OF HIS MINISTRY AND IS GRIEVED AT ME SIMPLY FOR MY STAND FOR GOD’S WORD. (In the article “Unquestioning Loyalty to Pastoral Leadership Is the Mark of a Cult” I have dealt with the abuse side of pastoral authority. This article is in the Church section of the End Times Apostasy Database at the Way of Life Literature web site — http://wayoflife.org/~dcloud).
Thus I must find a church that is following the Word of God, and I must then obey and be a blessing to my leaders in that church; I must support that church in every way possible. That is the will of God for every Christian. The leaders, in turn, will give an account to the Lord for their teaching and decisions. THEY HOLD THE GREATER RESPONSIBILITY, AND I, AS A CHURCH MEMBER, WILL NOT GIVE ACCOUNT FOR EVERYTHING THAT GOES ON IN THE CHURCH.
Obviously, this does not mean we are to close our eyes to false teaching and sin, but it DOES mean that I am not to try to impose my views in all matters upon the church and its leaders. I must remember that I am not the pastor of the church; I therefore don’t have wisdom, the unction, or the responsibility for that. I must submit to those who are the pastors, and I must allow them to make decisions with which I might not agree, submitting myself because God has told me to do so.
The church member will never find a pastor with whom he agrees 100%. Think about it. This would be impossible. The only one with whom I agree with 100% is myself, and sometimes I disagree with myself! We all know this in theory but the practice of it is often a difficult matter. I must recognize that if I am ever to submit to a pastor, it will be to an imperfect one.
Is it not reasonable to believe that God can guide the man he has placed over the church? Who am I to try to impose my views upon him? I must understand this if I am to learn to get along in a church and to be a fruitful member. God works in this world through our imperfections. This, of necessity, is the way He works in a church.
The friends who wrote to me that they were separating from a fundamental Baptist church said that the pastor holds what they believe to be a weak position on divorce and remarriage. By this, they meant that the pastor allowed a divorced person to work in the bus ministry. The thing to keep in mind is that this is an extremely difficult matter. I take a strong position personally against divorce and remarriage, and I believe we must preach boldly against divorce. I don’t believe a divorced man is qualified to be a pastor or a deacon, but I don’t believe it is wrong for a divorced person to work in the bus ministry. There are difficulties with any position one might take on this issue, and the more perverted our society becomes, and the more fragmented our families become, the more difficult it will be to deal with problems in this area.
The problem with divorce and remarriage is not so much whether a pastor believes divorce is wrong; practically all Fundamentalist pastors believe this. The difficulty comes in how we treat those who are divorced. Do we allow them to join our churches? I know of one Fundamental Bible church that does not allow divorced people to be members. Does the pastor perform the weddings for those who are divorced? If so, under what conditions? Do we allow divorced people to serve in the church? If so, in what capacity? Can they be Sunday School teachers? Can they be ushers? Can they work in the bus ministry? Good churches differ in these matters, and I believe this is an example of something in which a church member can submit to his rulers, leaving it in the hands of the Lord.
The pastors will answer to God about these things, and there are many matters like this. I might disagree with my pastor over his teaching on giving, for example. I know Fundamentalist Christians who don’t believe tithing is for the New Testament. I don’t agree with them, but this is what some believe, and these will disagree with a church that teaches storehouse tithing.
I might disagree with some of the music in my church. Some Christians don’t like any “canned” or recorded background music to be played during the services; others don’t like guitars to be used; others don’t like gospel quartets. In my estimation, none of these things are wrong in themselves; it is the character of the music that is performed that makes such things right or wrong. I have heard some spiritual recorded music, and I have heard some unspiritual recorded music. I have heard guitars used in a spiritual manner as well as in a carnal manner. I have heard spiritual quartets and unspiritual ones. The point is that there is some room for variety in the music program of the church, and I probably will not agree with all of the decisions that are made.
I might disagree over the standards my church has for workers, thinking the standards are too strict, or not strict enough. I might disagree over whether or not a pastor has a TV and whether or not he preaches against this. (We would never encourage someone to stay in a church that has low moral standards for workers and teachers, if they listen to rock music, for example, or wear immodest clothing, and in which the pastor and leaders watched wicked television programming. I am merely saying that my exact standards might not be enforced by the pastors, and that alone does not mean that they are wrong or that I should leave.)
I might disagree with how my church conducts its business meetings. My home church, for example, doesn’t include women in the business meetings. The women can attend if they choose, but do not make motions or vote. The men conduct the business. Imagine such a thing in this feministic society! I am sure there are many who would not agree with this.
I might disagree with some of the missionaries the church supports.
I might disagree with some of the ways the church finances are used.
I might disagree with the kind of materials that are used in Sunday School, about whether or not promotions are used, about whether or not puppets and such things are used, about whether or not there is a bus ministry, or with the way it is operated.
I might have problems with what is or is not said and done at Christmas, or about how the missions program is conducted. I might not like some of the special speakers that the pastor brings in. I might disagree with my pastor over his involvement or lack of involvement in political and social issues. I might disagree with the pastor regarding his dealings with erring members. He might seem too patient, too soft, or too harsh.
I’m simply saying that there are many things that we must leave in the hands of the pastors, and this is never an easy matter. In every church I’ve been a member of I’ve disagreed with some things. There is a time to leave a church over things that we believe are wrong, but we must also learn to put many things into the hands of the Lord and do what He has told us to do: submit to the church leadership and be a blessing. The pastors must be the pastors. They will answer for things that I will not answer for, and they have an authority that I do not have. This is not shirking responsibility; it is obedience to the Bible; and it is wisdom and blessing.