Cultivating Spiritual Leadership

Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”—Hebrews 13:17 (NIV)

Towards the end of Hebrews, we’re reminded of the importance of submission to leadership. So, let’s break down today’s verse and gain a deeper understanding on how this applies to spiritual leadership . . .

Have Confidence And Submit:
The NIV translation is interesting because it brings out another aspect of the word submit that’s often translated as “obey.” Instead of just commanding obedience, the author seems to plead for our heart’s buy-in along with our actions. It means “to trust, believe, and yield to.” It’s a lot easier to obey someone we believe in and trust. And if you consider yourself part of a local church, you should have confidence in your leaders there; you should be bought in to the vision God’s given them. 

From past experiences, we all know people will let you down. So why should we put our confidence in a leader who is, after all, merely human? Because God appointed them. We must remember that God calls us to submit to those in spiritual leadership over us, as long as they’re submitted to God. As Matthew Henry said, “It is not an implicit obedience . . . only so far as is agreeable to the mind and will of God revealed in his word.” If you can’t have confidence that your leaders are living in submission to God, then you likely won’t submit. And if you can’t submit, you must either 1) talk to them or 2) pray about whether God is calling you to find a church with a vision and leader you can submit to.

Give An Account:
This actually gives me a giant sense of relief. Sometimes I find myself operating as a leader, and other times in a place of submission. When I was teaching a small group, there was a verse that convicted me to take the role seriously: “It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin” (Luke 17:2 NLT).

Our spiritual leaders are like caretakers who’ve been given the responsibility to raise God’s children. So, you better believe they’ll be held accountable for the care they give and the way they lead. 

Not A Burden:
Finally, we’re called not to burden them. Estius wrote, “It is a perilous responsibility for a man to have to give account for others' deeds.” It’s a great responsibility that requires a lot of sacrifice and heavy weight. Let’s not add to the burden through rebellion, entitlement, and disrespect. One Bible commentary says, “Grief in your pastors is unprofitable for you.” Why? Because it takes a toll on their spiritual wellbeing, which in turn can impact yours.

DIG: What does it mean to submit to spiritual leaders over you?

DISCOVER: What is your current attitude towards your leadership?

DO: Pray for those in leadership and try to find ways to express your gratefulness or to alleviate some burdens. 

About the Author

Kelsey Curran