The question of the identity of your pastor may seem strange. You say, he is the man I hear preach every Lord’s Day. His name is on our church’s web site or letterhead. That is an easy question to answer! But is it really?
For hundreds of years the average Christian could easily and readily identity that person appointed by Christ to shepherd and overseer their souls. By the 1600’s many Christians however were able to read the sermons of a multitude of other people’s pastors that were being printed. They could also read the writings of well respected theologians whose writings were beginning to be placed into print. In the 1900’s writings were supplemented with radio and eventually television and cassette recordings. By the dawn of the 21st century one would be able to add to their spiritual diet, the teaching and preaching of hundreds of thousands of other pastors and theologians and conferences speakers by means of the internet and MP3’s. I imagine that there are more than a few of us with hundreds of sermons by many different preachers on our Ipods or similar devices.
Some years ago I realized that there were some folks in our church who were listening every day to sermons from a pastor in a another city. There is nothing in and of itself wrong with that, but I soon realized that it was this man and not our own eldership that was truly guiding and pastoring this family. By simple virtue of the hours spent under this man and others ministry his perspectives and theology were being shaped to such an extent that they eventually moved to sit under this man’s ministry. I also began to notice this with numerous seminary students who would visit our assembly. For them, their professors were the main source of spiritual food-the students were under the professor’s ministry for hours upon hours every week and I was with them only on the Lord’s Day. I found that they were more drawn to, more receptive of, and had far more confidence in seminary professors than in their own elders.
Now, I want to make it clear that the problem I see in this is not personal. I am glad to have God’s people read widely and to have their souls well fed by a multitude of faithful men. But I do see a biblical problem in all of this. The writer to the Hebrews wrote in Hebrews Hebrews 13:17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
There are numerous points that can be made here. The first is in regard to the word translated as, ‘obey’. The word means far more than simply listen to and follow instructions. It’s primary meaning has to do with trust or persuasion. It speaks of one who has your confidence and your heart. It can be translated as, ‘be induced to believe’. Note that this text has reference to a specific group of men-those charged with the oversight of your souls. Though I may gain much help from numerous authors and preachers contemporary and dead, none of those men will give an account for my soul. That is the task of my four elders. When Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, he said to them 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who 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.
My question is, do these men have this special esteem and this unique place in your affections. Your elders are most likely very ordinary men (unless you are a member of a church like Bethlehem Baptist or Grace Community!), whose sermons don’t travel far outside the doors of your church. Their words are not listened to by thousands, but they do have a unique role in your life and a unique accountability for your soul. They may not possess the gifts of others, but they, and they alone are your true shepherds. As much as you love and esteem other men, allow your elders to have a special and God appointed place in your heart.James Savastio Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville .