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C.J. Mahaney on the relationship between Elders and the Flock

CJ MahaneyOn Sunday I preached a sermon on the relationship between Elders and the Flock. On Monday, I came across a sermon by C.J. Mahaney on Hebrews 13:17, a passage I referenced for three of my sub points. humilityHere is Hebrews 13:17…

Hebrews 13:17
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch overliving the cross centered life your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

His sermon is called, “The Happiest Place on Earth.” You can find out more about C.J.Mahaney here. There is a link on the right hand side to his sermon on Hebrews 13:17 (if you can’t find the link to the sermon from that page, here is a direct link to that sermon).

Here are a few things that stood out to me:

First, he speaks of how pastors are reluctant to preach on this text and ones like it (ones that speak of the church member’s responsibility to submit to their elders). I concur. Some pastors avoid teaching on the role of the wife to submit to her husband for nearly the same reason. It’s hard to preach it! Who wants to hear it? Who likes submission?

For obvious reasons, it’s even harder for a pastor to teach on the responsibility for people to submit to him. I must admit my knees shake. God give me grace and strength!

I am afraid people will judge my motives: “He really likes to be in charge.” “We’re not surprise he decided to preach a whole sermon on this!”

So, why did I preach on this?

a.) If the sheep don’t obey and submit, it is unprofitable for them. Look up at Hebrews 13:17 again. I want you to profit!

b.) If the sheep don’t obey and submit to their shepherds, God is opposed to them. God is opposed to those who are proud – those that don’t put on the apron of the slave toward one another. See 1 Peter 5:5. I want you to be on God’s side! I want you to receive grace!

c.) It is a clear teaching of Scripture, and every word of Scripture is beautiful! Every word of Scripture is as sweet as honey!

d.) If I avoid teaching God’s Word, that means I am afraid of man and ashamed of God. What a horrible thought! God help me!

Why did I preach on this now? Because people have been divisive? NO! Because gossip about the elders has been going around? NO! Because we, as elders, want to see programs start faster and succeed more fully? NO!

I taught on this now because we, right now, encountered God’s command to “be subject to your elders.” My job is to explain what that does and does not mean so that the people of God understand the Word of God so that the Spirit of God can change us into the image of God. See 2 Corinthians 3:18.

Second, Mahaney says repeatedly, “The effectiveness of pastoral ministry depends on a proper response to pastoral leadership.” If the congregation doesn’t obey and submit to their pastors, pastors are unhappy. If they are unhappy in their shepherding due to the “unresponsiveness” of the congregation, it will not be profitable for the congregation.

Third, he says repeatedly, “God wants happy pastors.” He said he thinks most pastors in this country are unhappy pastors. Unhappy pastors misrepresent God.

Fourth, he clarifies what it means to “obey your leaders and submit to them.” Here are his four points.

  • There should be a joyful agreement with and responsiveness to the doctrine and teaching of the church.

I spoke of doctrine in my sermon trying to show how it relates to submitting to the pastoral team, but I didn’t emphasize the “joyful agreement” aspect of it all. I think it is significant. Submission to the elders means the congregation is pulling in the same direction. The congregation must do more than simply “stay out of the way.” They must study the truth with the pastors, learn the truth with the pastors, and proclaim the truth with the pastors.

Though Mahaney didn’t speak of it, there is room in here for differences on certain doctrines. The example I mentioned was the doctrine/teaching of God’s creation in six literal days. Other examples, I think, could include varying views on spiritual gifts and the timing of the rapture.

  • There should be a joyful decision to trust and protect the pastoral team. He addresses slanderous speech. He says the enemy would like to halt or hinder the advance of the gospel through a local church by having the sheep distrust their shepherds.
  • There should be a joyful participation in the appropriate meetings of the church.

I hinted at this with my example of the hypothetical person who disagrees with a particular emphasis of the ministry. I mentioned our philosophy of youth ministry, home fellowships, involvement in the community, and methods of outreach.

Some demonstrate an unsubmissive heart when they do not attend particular meetings of the church. (That is not to say that a person is unsubmissive simply because he does not attend a particular meeting of the church. We, CCC Shepherds, do not make this assumption.)

  • There should be specific joyful service in and for this church. If you are not involved, the pastors can’t watch over your soul.

A lack of service in the church. I didn’t really mention this. I wish I had. It’s important.

I commend Mahaney’s sermon to you. Listen and be edified. This week, I intend to share more on this topic.

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