Our pastors will give an account to God

I didn’t attend seminary. My pastoral training was informal and minimal. Church elders threw me into the pulpit and told me to preach. If God were calling me into the ministry, everyone, including myself, they said, would know sooner or later. I was still preaching after two years, so the elders ordained me.

A year and a half later, I was preparing a sermon for the church of which I was now the full-time lead pastor. Preaching was what I knew best. This is what pastoral ministry is all about, I thought. I’m locked in my office for hours, studying for the next message. I’ll deliver it on Sunday and start all over again on Monday. Happily, this is my calling.

Cracks formed in my confidence, however, when my eyes fell upon a passage in Hebrews. I shuddered as I read the following:

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 13:17)

I lack many things, but a healthy fear of God is not one of them. I was terrified to think about God holding me personally accountable for the souls under my leadership. Was I even leading? I could prepare the weekly sermons without breaking a sweat, but preaching and leading aren’t necessarily the same. Furthermore, as I would eventually learn, shepherding a flock involves more than a sermon or two a week.

For the first time, I was uncertain whether I knew how to be a pastor. Thankfully, though, I did know where to turn for help. I voraciously consumed every word the Bible had to say about the matter. I also read Spurgeon’s Lectures To My Students and a few others for good measure. I was determined to learn my role for the church’s sake and mine.

If nothing else, I now know better than to take pastors for granted. They bear the weight of our souls as they strive to lead the church faithfully. While they carry the tremendous responsibility of preaching the word, they also live under a microscope. The author of Hebrews says, Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith (Heb 13:7). They are leaders in every sense for which they will have to give an account before God (Heb 13:17).

Remember this,” Hebrews stresses (Heb 13:7). Obey your leaders and submit to them (Heb 13:17). The least we can do is help them accomplish their God-given task with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to us. Their burden is our spiritual welfare. Obey their biblical teachings, submit to their authority, pray for their work, and support them with frequent encouragement for our own good and theirs.