Q: What does Hebrews 13:17 mean to you? How does it affect your church?
Hebrews. 13:17 states, “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.”
The author of Hebrews recognizes the weight of responsibility that comes along with leadership and so encourages people to “not be a burden” to leaders. The author also recognizes that leaders often make difficult decisions that require trust, that a leader has an unequal amount of influence and therefore responsibility. The verse ought to give every leader pause about their grave responsibility. There is a weight of burden that comes with leadership and the author encourages people not to add to that burden.
However, I would be cautious with any church leader who wields this verse against people.
If you have questions about a decision or direction, and rather than providing insight, the leader uses Hebrews 13:17 to say, “you must trust us, you are under our authority,” I would recommend proceeding with extreme caution. Some leadership decisions are of course confidential (personnel matters, for example), but a leader worth following ought to be authentic and open, providing perspective and insight for people, which leads me to….
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” Eph 4:11,12
This is the passage that most affects Discovery. No doubt, leadership is a grave responsibility and we take Hebrews 13:17 seriously, but our task as leaders is Ephesians 4:11,12.
A good leader will see their primary relationship to church members as that of “equipper” so that all people can “do works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” A good leader ought to open a process to people, invite people in to participate and contribute and help people see their vital contribution.
If a church leader continuously replies to a legitimate inquiry with “you should trust your leaders who have authority over you,” without providing context, insight, or clarity, I would caution you about the wisdom of staying under their authority.