The Authority of Pastors and Elders
By Mason Beasler
Imagine you’re a young adult, say 22 years old, and you’re at your cousins’ house. The four of them are all considerably younger than you, and you have been given the task of watching over them all day, while their parents, your aunt, and uncle, go on a day trip.
The second their parents leave that house, it becomes your responsibility to feed those children, to clothe those children, to make sure they don’t touch the stove, fall down the stairs, or attempt the Mona Lisa with crayons on the living room wall. They are your unique responsibility.
Because of this responsibility you now possess, you also have an authority that comes with it. The parents would be quite foolish to call you over to the house to watch their children, and then as they walk out the door, turn and say to the four young ones, “Ok have fun! Do whatever you want, and we’ll be back tonight!”
On the contrary – any wise parent would admonish the children, telling them to obey their cousin. If you take away the authority, the responsibility goes with it. If the cousin was somehow restricted from controlling the little ones, how could he be held responsible for their actions?
I know we’ve heard it a million times. You need to submit to authority.
However, I wonder if many of us are aware of why we submit, why we bring ourselves under the guidance and direction of parents, pastors, elders, etc. We know full well that they don’t mean us any harm. We know that, for the most part, their intentions are pure and they try to love us as Jesus did. People get so caught up in the what, that so often we don’t take the time to examine the why. I’d like to show you the why today.
God has placed pastors and elders in our lives for a reason. The existence of the positions they hold is completely biblical. God speaks at length about pastors and elders, as well as the relationship they have with their flock, and the responsibility that comes with that leadership.
Acts 20:28 says, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”
1 Peter 5:1-2 says, “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed. Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them…”
The Lord thinks of pastors and elders as shepherds and has charged them with overseeing, protecting, guiding, and helping the flock of the Lord.
God also speaks to the flock He has entrusted to each pastor. This is about 99% of people on earth. Most won’t grow up to stand behind a pulpit; they’ll be sitting in the pews. However, this position is also significant. You make up the flock, the body of Christ, and you too have a job to do.
God says in Hebrews 13:17, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account.”
This job, being a pastor or elder, is not like any other job. Someday, your pastor will have to give an account of you because you were in his flock, a group of people that the Lord entrusted to his care. God charges the shepherd with taking care of the flock, watching over them and guiding them in their walk with the Lord, and He charges the flock with submitting to the shepherd’s guidance.
If both parties live out their lives following the Word of God, the result is beautiful harmony, a picture of what God intended for His church: The children of God walking in His will for their lives, faithfully following a leader who is blessed and empowered by God.