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    The Responsibilities of Church Members to Their Pastor

    by Laurence A. Justice


    "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves."

    - I Thessalonians 5:12-13

    No relationship is more important or more solemn than that of a pastor and his flock. This relationship is clearly defined in the word of God where the duties of both the pastor and his people are explained in great detail. Our text relates the duties of both but we shall major in this message on the responsibilities of church members to their pastor.

    Paul is writing to the church at Thessalonica here and he tells them that they owed certain responsibilities to their pastors. In this text Paul lovingly exhorts them to these responsibilities. Paul tells them (and us) that there are two basic responsibilities which church members have to their pastor:

    1. to know him as he states in verse 12 and
    2. to esteem him very highly in love as he states in verse 13.

    In this message we shall look closely at these two responsibilities and then we shall consider the matter of why members should carry out these responsibilities in regard to their pastor.

    The first responsibility which Paul says the members of a church have to their pastor is

    TO KNOW HIM

    Verse 12 says, "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you..." First of all Paul identifies the pastor here by mentioning three of his chief duties:

    1. Laboring among you which speaks of his studying and teaching and ministering the word of God,
    2. being over you in the Lord which speaks of his work of overseeing and governing all the work of the church, and
    3. admonishing you.

    So Paul is speaking about the pastor here and the relationship of the members of the church to him and he says that the first responsibility of the members to their pastor is to know him. Just what does it mean to know the pastor in this sense? Well, it is not just an intellectual knowledge of who the pastor is. It is much more that that.

    It involves first of all the matter of being acquainted with the pastor, making yourself known to him. The word know sometimes has this meaning in scripture. It is used in I Corinthians 2:2 with the meaning of to make known. Letís turn to it. "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." Paul means here that he was determined not to make known anything among them except Jesus Christ and him crucified. Members of the church should freely speak with their pastor and make known to him the condition of their souls. They should share the concerns and desires of their souls with him, especially in matters of difficulty and distress. This is the duty of church members according to the word of God.

    Sometimes people will say, "Well, I just donít feel like I can go to the pastor with this or that problem", so they go to someone else in the church or sometimes they will look to someone in the church as a kind of a "go-between" between themselves and the pastor. This is wrong! God has not ordained a go-between in the church between pastor and people! Rather he has given the members the responsibility to know their pastor, to make themselves and their problems known to him.

    Another thing involved in knowing oneís pastor is recognizing him as your own pastor. There are instances in the scripture in which the word know is used with another connotation. It has the thought of recognition or acknowledgment.

    Turn to Luke 13:27 for an example of such a meaning . Here the Lord Jesus is speaking to unsaved professors of religion at the judgment. "But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity." The Lord is not saying here that he did not know about these people or that he did not know that they existed. There is nothing and no one the Lord does not know in this sense. What he is saying is, I do not recognize and acknowledge you as being one of mine! To know oneís pastor in this sense means to recognize and to acknowledge him as being your own pastor. It means being under his care and leadership and recognizing and acknowledging this fact. And this recognizing of the pastorís leadership must be practical as well as verbal. It must be something that is put into practice in the church as well as just professed with the lips.

    This recognizing and acknowledging of the pastorís leadership finds practical expression when the members submit themselves to the pastorís God-given authority and leadership and oversight of the church.

    In Hebrews 13:17 we read along these same lines, "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."

    Few lessons are harder for the average Christian to learn than how to be a good follower, how to submit themselves to those whom God has placed over them in the church. Submission to authority goes against the flesh. It is contrary to the flesh. But the word of God commands submission in this.

    Significantly submission is one of the things which characterizes persons who are filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul makes this clear in Ephesians 5:18-24 where he says that Spirit filled Christians submit themselves to one another, wives submit themselves to their husbands and church members submit themselves to Christ. Church members should not resent the pastorís leadership but should submit to it. They should submit to him as he leads according to Godís word.

    The verse we just read from Hebrews 13:17 tells members to submit themselves to those pastors who are over them so that those pastors may do their work with joy and not with grief because when they have to do it with grief it is unprofitable for the members. Itís very difficult for a pastor to do his work with joy when he feels his leadership is not recognized, when he feels his leadership challenged or when he feels pressured by some who lead the church themselves, when people try to maneuver and manipulate the pastor rather than seeking the pastorís guidance and leadership. And this is unprofitable for the members. It harms the pastorís spirit, it takes his mind off the spiritual good of the flock, it distresses him.

    On the other hand one of the greatest joys a pastor receives from his church, one of the greatest things a church can do for its pastor is to recognize his leadership and submit themselves to it! One of the greatest moments in a pastorís ministry is that moment when he realizes that the church recognizes his leadership.

    Now what are some practical ways we can obey this responsibility to know our pastor?

    1. Have the pastor into your home for a meal or for an evening.
    2. Make an appointment with the pastor to sit down and get acquainted with him.
    3. Stand by and support him in his trials and troubles. Too often we forget that he too is human and has trials and tribulations in life.

    The other responsibility of church members to their pastor as related in our text is that they are

    TO ESTEEM HIM VERY HIGHLY IN LOVE

    Verse 13 says, "And to esteem them very highly in love..." To esteem something means to value that something. Turn to Hebrews 11:26. Here the word esteem is used to describe how Moses valued the reproach of Christ in comparison with the great wealth he could have had by staying in Egypt."Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward."

    Paul says here in our text that church members are to value their pastor and they are to value him very highly. "Very highly" is from a Greek word which means superabundantly. It is the same word that is translated in Romans 5:20 as "much more abound." "Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound..."

    So to esteem a pastor very highly means to greatly value him, to regard him as being of great worth. It is to think very highly of the pastor, to hold a high opinion of him. It is to hold such in reputation as Paul tells the people at Philippi concerning the preacher Epaphroditis in Philippians 2:29. It is very important to note the next two words here: "IN LOVE." "And to esteem them very highly IN LOVE for their workís sake..." The esteem in which church members hold their pastor is to be a sincere esteem. In other words it is to be an esteem given to the pastor out of love for him. As a matter of fact without love, esteem will not last long. There may be some respect for the pastor for awhile but it cannot last long without love for him. Itís interesting along this line that the tense of the verb esteem here is continuous. "Keep on esteeming the pastor very highly" is what the word actually says here. And as we just pointed out, without love it is impossible to do this.

    This love which church members have for their pastor ought to be obvious. The pastor should have no doubt where he stands in the hearts of his people. The world may hate him and persecute him but Godís people are to esteem him very highly in love.

    What do church members do when they have this high esteem for their pastor? How does this high esteem find expression?

    One very obvious thing which people do who hold their pastor in this high esteem is they seek his counsel. In spiritual problems and in all matters relating to the Lordís work the pastorís counsel should be sought and his advice given great respect. The pastor is the one to consult about your spiritual needs and problems. Heís the one God has set aside to study and pray and to counsel the Lordís sheep. Thereís no need to have a pastor if the sheep seek the counsel of others in the church or of other pastors. I once pastored a church which had a very domineering deacon who sought to get the people to come to him with their spiritual needs and their questions about spiritual things. He cultivated and encouraged them to do so. This is wrong! And something is seriously wrong when a member of one church seeks the counsel of a pastor of another church than his own.

    Another thing people do when they hold their pastor in this very high esteem is they support him in his adversity. From time to time people rise up in opposition to the pastorís leadership doing evil and speaking perverse things. When this happens those who esteem the pastor very highly in love support that pastor rather than forsaking him or leaving him to his own adversity. They are like Onesiphorus whom Paul commended for his concern and support when all men had forsaken him in his troubles. Read about it in II Timothy 1:16. I know of a certain church in which one of the members and his family rose up in opposition to the pastorís leadership. When the showdown came and it was clearly demonstrated that that man was in the wrong, a vote was taken but the Godly people in the church just sat on their hands. They didnít vote against the pastor. They just didnít vote for him. Thus they failed in their responsibility to support their pastor in adversity.

    A third thing church members do when they hold their pastor in the very high esteem which Godís word requires is, they show proper concern for his welfare and safety. This involves providing for the pastorís material needs, keeping his mind free from anxiety over money and other material things.

    Paul speaks to this matter in Galatians 6:6 when he says, "Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things." In other words he that is taught in the word of God should communicate or literally share his material goods with him who teaches him.

    I Corinthians 9:14 is talking about paying the preacher when it says "Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel."Paul does not say here that they who preach the gospel can survive by the gospel nor that they that preach the gospel should barely get by on the gospel. He says they should live of the gospel.

    I Timothy 5:17-18 is also speaking of paying the preacher when it says "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The laborer is worthy of his reward." The word honor here means pay and this is where we get our word honorarium. It means pay for the preacher.

    This scripture says that if a pastor faithfully and diligently studies and preaches Godís word the church should double his salary. Now this is not for preachers who play golf and go fishing several times a week. It is for those who labor in the word and doctrine, who study and pray and prepare and have some food for their sheep each week.

    Those who hold their pastor in high esteem are constantly concerned about his financial situation. A church ought to review its pastorís financial situation at least every year whether it raises his salary or not. If they hold him in high esteem they will be concerned enough to check on his livelihood on at least an annual basis.

    One time I pastored a church for nine years. They gave me a small raise after I had been their pastor for one year but after that they never said another thing about my salary.

    Iím so grateful for our church, the Victory Baptist Church of Kansas City, Missouri because every year at the fall business meeting they ask me and my family to leave the room while they talk about my salary. I have told them several times that I could make it without getting a raise next

    year but they have always given me at least a cost of living raise to help me keep up with inflation. Even if they vote not to raise my salary I would be greatly encouraged because it is obvious that they are concerned about me to the point that they are thinking about my financial situation, reviewing it to see where I stand.

    The other thing involved in showing concern for the pastorís welfare and safety is guarding the pastorís character and reputation. One who esteems his pastor very highly in love seeks to protect him from whispers of criticism which Satan instigates from time to time. What do you do when someone begins to criticize and run down the pastor? Your response reveals how highly you esteem him.

    Finally church members who hold their pastor in the very high esteem which Godís word commands pray for the pastor. Hebrews 13:7 says for Godís people to "Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God..." And one who truly holds his pastor in the very high esteem and love of which Paul speaks here will pray for him and not just in a general way but for his many specific needs.

    He will pray for the pastorís personal progress in spiritual things; in prayer and patience and all spiritual things. He will pray for his study and preparation. He will pray that the pastorís study time will not be sapped by other things. He will pray that the Lord will give him greater understanding of the word and of the needs of his people. He will pray for the pastor to have courage and boldness in declaring Godís word. He will pray that he will preach in the mighty power of the Holy Spirit. He will pray for the Holy Spirit to bless his ministry with success, in that memberís own life and in the lives of others. He will pray for himself that he will profit and progress from his pastorís ministry, that the Lord will change his own life through the pastorís ministry of the word.

    "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves."

    The final thing we want to consider in connection with this text is the matter of

    WHY CHURCH MEMBERS SHOULD KNOW AND ESTEEM THEIR PASTOR LIKE THIS

    Let us consider five reasons as given in our text, the first being that church members should esteem their pastor very highly for his workís sake. "...esteem them very highly in love for their workís sake" the scripture says in verse 13. We are not to esteem the pastor highly because of any earthly titles or degrees he may have. We are not to greatly value the pastor because of any natural abilities he might have nor for his personal charm or charisma.

    Rather we are to greatly value and hold the pastor in reputation for the sake of his work. Paul says of the apostles in I Corinthians 4:1 what certainly applies to all the Lordís preachers in every age: "Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ..." It is his work itself that is honorable. The work of the pastor tends to the salvation of Godís people so it is indeed worthy of such high esteem.

    Next members of the church should know and esteem their pastor this way because God has placed the pastor over them in the church. Verse 12 of our text says "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord...". The pastor is over the church and he labors in it, he rules over it as Christís servant. Christ the head of the church places the pastor over it. In Acts 20:28 Paul is speaking to pastors at Ephesus and he speaks of "...the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers..." No Bishop or denominational group or officer places a pastor over a New Testament church. No one forces a pastor on a congregation. The Lord appoints him. The Holy Ghost makes him the overseer and the congregation freely invites him to be its pastor. Therefore he should be known and highly esteemed for his workís sake.

    Thirdly people in the church should know and highly esteem their pastor as Paul says here because peace in the church depends on it. Notice the last phrase in verse 13 of our text. "...And be at peace among yourselves." This phrase is not something which is just tacked on here with no relation to the subject under consideration.

    Dissension in the church, especially between the people and their pastor, hinders the spiritual growth of the church. Giving the proper honor and respect to the pastor is an important means of preserving peace in the church. The members of the church at Corinth honored some of the preachers and did not respect and honor others and they ended up with strife and factions in the church. (I Corinthians 1:10-13.) The peace of the church depends to a great extent on the carrying out of these two responsibilities of members to their pastor so we should very carefully observe them.

    A fourth reason as to why church members should know and highly esteem their pastor as the scripture says here is, and this is a reason not specifically stated in the text but which is very important nevertheless, because if they do not do so the pastorís ministry will not be profitable to them. If a person doesnít know and think highly of his pastor, that pastorís ministry will not be of much use to him. A pastor really canít do his people much good until he has their affection and their confidence. The members will not likely give proper heed to what the pastor preaches and teaches if they do not have this high regard for him and for his work.

    The final reason church members should have such a high regard for their pastor probably should have been listed first and that is simply because Godís word commands them to do so. Thatís good enough reason to do anything! "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves."



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