Elders and Congregation in Concert

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Pastors and churches don’t always have healthy relationships. Sometimes leaders fail to lead, and other times congregations do not follow. The author of Hebrews writes clearly about this as he closes the letter (see Hebrews 13:17-19). 

Let’s look at what he says to the leaders first.

Leaders are People Who Lead

There is no shortage of training, books, and seminars on leadership, but sadly there is a lack of godly leaders in the church—leaders who lead humbly and selflessly like Christ. 

The author points out three characteristics of a godly church leader: 


Hebrews 13:17 says church leaders keep watch over their congregation’s souls. 

The picture here is of a shepherd who is vigilant as he sacrificially watches over the flock. The elders/pastors of the church are to primarily focus on the spiritual growth of the church. 

What does that look like practically?

  • Watch against false doctrine.

This is more than teaching the truth; it is also ensuring that people are not veering off into false doctrines (See Acts 20:28-30). 

The enemy has always tried to twist the truth and infect the church with false teachers. The elders are to stand united in the truth as they proactively guard it. 

  • Watch against deceitful behavior.

In 3 John, John warns the church about a man called Diotrephes (3 John 9).  Evidently, he was a man who loved the power of leadership and was full of pride. The church has always been susceptible to men and women who take advantage of position. The elders are called to expose and root out such behavior. 

  • Watch against divisive behavior.

Splits and factions in the church caused by divisive people will always be a challenge for leaders to identify and confront (see Titus 3:10-11). This divisiveness doesn’t just affect one or two people, it affects the whole church. 

  •  Watch for spiritual growth.

The elders are to keep alert and diligent for the spiritual development of the church. We all have a responsibility to be growing in our faith and knowledge of the Word. The elders’ role is to keep people moving forward. 


Hebrews 13:17 says that Christian leaders will be called to give an account for how they performed their duties (see Hebrews 13:17). This is a sobering reminder for anyone in Christian leadership. 

This accountability is two-fold: 

  1. To the church.

Churches should expect that the pastor/elder maintains a Christian walk that sets an example for the believers. 

2. To the Lord. 

One day we will all stand before the Lord, and he will judge us based on our calling and the gifts that he has given us (see James 3:1). Church leaders should expect to give account for their leadership of the flock. 


Hebrews 13:18 reminds us that the behavior of the leader must set an example for the church. 

Pastors are ranked based on their skills in preaching, administration, counseling, and others.  But how highly do we rank their character?

The way a spiritual leader behaves in private and public must never waiver from his Christian convictions (see 1 Timothy 3:2). The history of the church is littered with men who have lived double lives and brought shame and destruction on the church. Character matters more than skills. A Christian leader whose character matches their convictions should be commended. 

Congregations are People Who Follow

What is the response of the congregation?

Faithful leaders need faithful congregations who are committed to the mission of the church. 

Sadly, in our entertainment saturated and individualistic society, we have many people who view the church as simply a convenient societal construct that we can attend or participate in as it suits us.  

But the gathering of the Body of Christ is powerful and vital for all believers. This was tested during the COVID season in 2020 (see Hebrews 10:24-25). 

We are called to stir one another up, holding each other accountable in areas of spiritual disciplines. This cannot happen if one attends church once a month. 

As we come closer to Christ’s return, we must regularly encourage one another by meeting together. The days of passive church semi-attendance are over. We don’t value church because it has become too much of a convenience and not an essential priority when in fact we should prioritize gathering together over sports, schoolwork, family events, etc. 

What characterizes a faithful congregation?


Hebrews 13:17a tells us that obedience is required. This phrase conjures up pictures of authoritarian leaders forcing their subjects into submission, but this is not at all what is taught here. 

The church is to obey and submit to the leaders as they see the leaders taking the responsibility seriously for caring for their souls. Servant leadership compels people to submit out of love. It is the model Jesus gave us. 


Hebrews 13:17b tells us that it is to our advantage when we follow our leaders in unity.How we respond to leadership in the church affects the whole church. We are a family that is sometimes messy and sometimes challenging, but we are a family drawn together by the Spirit of God. We labor, learn, and share joy and grief together (see 1 Corinthians 12:26-27). 

When the church walks together in unity, despite differences, it produces fruit that is profitable for the whole church. 


Hebrews 13:18 tells us to pray for our leaders. As leaders pray for the church, the church should pray for them. What if, instead of focusing on our leaders’ deficiencies, we prayed for the Lord to bless them? 

Kent Hughes writes, “How different the modern church would be if the majority of its people prayed for its pastors and lay leadership. There would be supernatural suspensions of business-as-usual worship. There would be more times of inexplicable visitations from the Holy Spirit. More lay people would come to grips with the deeper issues of life. The leadership vacuum would evaporate. There would be more conversions.”

If we are to move forward in health as a church, it begins with the prayer meetings. The gathering of the church to pray is the most important meeting of the week.

 Will you commit to follow our church’s leaders in unity and pray for us?

Healthy Church Leadership 1

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As the Apostle Paul came near to the end of his life, he traveled around to the churches he had planted on his missionary journeys to encourage them, telling them that they would not see him again (see Acts 20:36-37).

One of these churches was the church in Ephesus in a region that influenced most of Asia Minor. Paul had invested years in this region, and he had a deep love and passion for this church. He called the elders of the church together and gave them a farewell speech.

But who were these men and what was their role in the church in Ephesus?

The Calling of Elders

The early church grew rapidly and so did the need for godly men to lead the churches. They appointed elders to care for the spiritual health of the church. While Jesus is the head of the church— he is the Good shepherd—he calls under-shepherds to tend the flock of the church (see Ephesians 4:11-12 and 1 Timothy 3:1-7).

Paul, speaking to the elders in Ephesus in 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.”

Jesus valued his church in Ephesus. And he values the representation of his body here at Grace Point. It is his, bought with his own blood. And it is because the church is precious to Jesus that he calls men to shepherd it.

The Role of Elders

Paul continues, warning the elders in verses 29-30, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”

The early church was under constant persecution for the first four hundred years. But there were also internal challenges from false teachers and leaders who sought to manipulate the church for their own profit.  Paul warned the Ephesian elders of “fierce wolves” who would infiltrate the church, as well as those from within who would distort the teachings of Christ. Jesus used the same imagery in Matthew 7:15.

False teaching takes various forms, but Satan’s tactics have remained consistent throughout history. Some common signs of false teaching include denying the divinity of Jesus, rejecting the resurrection, challenging the authority of the Bible, or diminishing the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement. These are explicit deceptions. More subtle false teachings might encourage salvation through works, striving to earn God’s favor, or promoting extra-biblical revelations.

Elders play a crucial role in safeguarding the church from false teaching. Their primary responsibility is to nurture and feed the flock with the Word of God. John 6:35 illustrates that Jesus is the “Bread of Life,” and elders are tasked with ensuring the church is nourished by the Word. It’s the Word of God that sustains and grows the church, not marketing or management strategies.

The Plurality of Elders

Elders are also sheep, and as such need accountability and shepherding as well. This is why a church needs more than one elder. Having more than one elder in the church strengthens the church and guards against strong personalities that might slowly begin to introduce false teaching.

Biblical leadership principles emphasize plurality in leadership. While we may use terms like “senior pastor” or “associate pastor,” the New Testament emphasizes a team of elders who pray, study the Word, and provide spiritual guidance together. Plurality ensures a healthy balance of leadership, preventing any one individual from potentially leading the church into false teaching. John MacArthur wisely points out, “their combined counsel and wisdom helps assure that decisions are not self-willed or self-serving to a single individual. In fact, one-man leadership is characteristic of cults, not the church.”

The Nature of Elders

The term “shepherd” might have been perplexing to the first-century church. Shepherds were not held in high esteem; instead, their role was one of humility and sacrifice. Similarly, elders within the church are called to be spiritual shepherds, and by nature, that means three things

1: Shepherding is spiritual work. 

Shepherding sheep was not flashy work; it was humble, sacrificial work with no shortcuts. Similarly, the growth of the church is not driven by worldly methods or quick-fix strategies. It’s a spiritual endeavor that requires spiritual leadership.

2: Shepherding is hard work.

Just as being a shepherd in the ancient world was dangerous and challenging, shepherding the church involves spiritual warfare, discouragement, and many other challenges. The elders of the church must be prepared to commit to pray, fast, and serve the body of Christ.

3: Shepherding is answerable work.

Shepherds answered to the owners of the sheep; they were responsible for the care of the sheep they had been entrusted with. Elders are accountable to the Lord for the health and spiritual growth of the church. The church belongs to God, and they are stewards of His people (see Hebrews 13:17).

The Church and Elders

You might be reading this asking, what does this have to do with me?

I encourage you to commit to the church. Become a member of the church if you haven’t already and be an active member of the Body of Christ by praying and using your gifts to serve. This goes far beyond our gathering on a Sunday morning; that is just a springboard for the impact we can have on one another and our community today and for generations to come. As the elders – shepherd and the sheep commit through serving and praying, the whole church is strengthened.

In this age we live in, being part of a church will require active engagement. The season for passivity is over. Being a follower of Jesus is not for spectators. Jesus is building his church and raising up elders to oversee it; will you engage with him in it?

Will you commit to the church?

Be Joyful

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I believe that one  disservice that churches throughout the centuries have committed is confusing solemnity for holiness. A grim attitude and hushed silence is appropriate for a funeral, but a person who acts this way in church is not more holy than the next person. 

Now, I am not in favor of gross disorder, but we could do with a bit more joy in our church services—and here is why: we are a chosen and redeemed people who have been set free from the bonds of sin and death. Why then are most churches filled with seemingly emotionless people? Of all people in the world, Christians have the most reason to be joyful.

Joy and Happiness

There is a difference between joy and happiness. 

Happiness is dependent on external factors. We experience happiness because of things that happen to us, things outside of us that we see or experience. Thus, happiness is not really a choice we make.

Joy, on the other hand, is a purposeful choice, and it is much deeper and more significant than happiness. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit that flows out of a relationship with Christ Jesus as Lord of our lives (see Galatians 5:22-23). 

In Matthew 13, Jesus tells a one-verse parable in verse 44. This parable is about a man finding the treasure of the kingdom of God. He finds the Gospel and realizes that in order to gain the reward of the kingdom of heaven, it will cost nothing and everything at the same time. He goes joyfully to sell all he has. As followers of Jesus, we are called to sacrifice by dying to ourselves, giving up our dreams and submitting our lives to the lordship of Jesus. But it is not a burden, because as Jesus taught in this parable, there is greater joy in the kingdom of heaven than the earth. This world is not a joyful place. But the joy of the Lord is a joy that no one can take away. It is a deep-seated peace with God, founded on faith in God and His eternal promises. 

Joy and Fruit

During the last meal that Jesus shared with his disciples, he shared many things, including the call of God on his followers to be joyful. Being joyful is directly connected to bearing fruit. In John 15, Jesus describes himself as the vine, the Father as the vinedresser, and his followers as the branches that are pruned and called to produce fruit. According to verse 5, this fruit comes from abiding in Jesus.  

Abiding in Jesus is walking with Jesus. It impacts and incorporates our whole lives. Abiding in Christ affects where we go, what we do, and what we think about. We are called to abide in Christ and bear fruit in every dimension and aspect of our lives. We cannot expect to abide with Jesus for one hour a week and then produce fruit!

So what fruit are we to bear for Christ? Our minds might immediately go to the task of soul winning and discipleship. But what if that kind of fruit is really the byproduct of the real fruit? I would suggest that the fruit that Jesus is talking about in John 15 is the fruit of the Spirit, which Galatians 5:22-23 tells us is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. What if people were drawn to Christ and to Christlikeness because of the fruit of the Spirit we display, specifically the joy we exude?

Joy and Prayer

In John 15:7, Jesus makes a promise that has been grossly misused by believers all over the world, saying, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” In fact, Jesus repeats a similar phrase six times in chapter 14,15, and 16.  

When Jesus said, “whatever you ask for in my name”, he’s not giving us a formula for getting whatever we want; rather, he’s laying down a principle of aligning our desires with God’s. As we pray in Jesus’ name for the kinds of things Jesus himself would pray for, things that will honor God and bring glory to His name, God will give us what we ask so that He receives the glory (see John 16:24). 

James explains this in James 4:3, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

As you abide in Jesus and pray in his name, you will be filled with joy (see John 15:11). 

Joy and Sin

How many times have you heard in church that joy is the key to overcoming sin? Unfortunately, probably not very many. Sadly, we are given the impression that the best way to overcome sin is to live a monastic lifestyle and never enjoy any of the blessings that God gives us. That is willpower religion, and it does not produce life or fruit. Trying to live the Christian life separated from the vine, hoping to be good enough to produce fruit on our own, is dead religion, and the result is what we read in verse 6—it leads to being cut off from Christ. 

In truth, the joy that comes from abiding in Christ is what gives us victory over sin and temptation in our lives. As we taste and see that the Lord and His ways are good (see Psalm 34:8), our affection for lesser things will fade.

Losing and Choosing Joy

This is a difficult conversation with Jesus because we so easily lose our joy. We are too easily pleased by the happy things of this world. God designed you and I to rejoice in Him. That is what we were made for; do not settle for a lesser joy. 

In order to have joy, we must be born again. Without Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we will have fleeting moments of happiness but lack the deep-seated peace with God that allows us to experience joy. 

But even after we are saved and filled with the Holy Spirit, there are circumstances that cause us to lose our joy. We might lose our joy through sickness, suffering, and depression, or by being overcome by the cares of the world. Psalm 55:22 is a great promise for these times, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

We can also lose our joy through unforgiveness, unrepented sin, anxiety, and fear. When we bring these to the cross of Jesus in repentance, we can once again know the fullness of joy that Jesus promised. 

Where have you lost your joy today? You can regain it by abiding in Christ.

Finding God in the Mundane

The past weekend we had a wonderful church retreat. The theme of the retreat was, “Walking with God.” One of the sessions we looked at a topic called, “finding God in the mundane”.

The original meaning of the word, “mundane”, refers to something that is of the world or common. And the antonym of mundane is extraordinary or supernatural.
Most of our days are lived in the mundane activities of life, so how do we find God in the mundane, or the ordinary day to day life? How do we experience God in the shopping runs, the post office lines or the busy highway?

We are really good at compartmentalizing our lives.  We create “God” times and then we have mundane times, where we live the “real” life. The “God” times are the personal devotionals, the church or prayer meeting attendance and the ministry times. Whereas the “real” times are the times spent behind a desk or workbench, exercising, eating, doing chores and the like.

We experience special moments with God in different worship settings or times alone with God, but what happens on Monday morning when God feels far off, and you don’t have those exciting feelings of being in His presence? Does it mean that God is not there when we don’t feel Him?

We know that God is always there.  He is always near and as a believer we have the presence of the Holy Spirit within us whether we feel it or not. Our feelings do not determine the nearness of God.
Paul Tripp writes, “If God doesn’t rule your mundane, then He doesn’t rule you. Because that’s where you live.”

Dramatic, life-altering moments come only a few times during our lifetime, and the rest of our lives are lived in the common, ordinary, the mundane. We must always remember that it is our faith that overcomes the world and not our feelings (1 John 5:4).
The Bible is filled with promises of God’s presence with us, (for example, Psalm 16:8, Psalm 145:18, Jeremiah 23:23, and John 15:15).
What if we were able to change the way we view our mundane activities? What if we viewed everything we did from an eternal perspective?
Mother Teresa once said, “Wash the plate, not because it’s dirty, nor because you’re told to wash it, but because you love the person who’ll use it next.”

We must be careful of the “next big thing” mentality. Attending conferences, going on mission trips, or hosting big church events, as the way we gauge the health of our Christian life. But what if the next big thing in your life was serving someone by sweeping the room?

While we often encounter the Lord in special times, sometimes it is in the monotony and the mundane that God shows up. God can speak to you while you are doing the fifth load of laundry or sweeping the kitchen floor.

Jesus said in John 15, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5.
Abiding is living day-in and day-out in the presence of the Lord, whether it is a routine day or an extraordinary day. As you love those around you by folding laundry, scrubbing dishes, and searching for mismatched socks, remember that there He is with you.

When we live with an eternal perspective, we will always live in the supernatural and extraordinary.

Sin is Serious

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Jesus spoke frequently about money, hell, and sin. In Mark 9:42-50, he speaks about sin in a way that many churches today would prefer to overlook. We could sum up Jesus’ point in three words: sin is serious.

Leading Others to Sin

It is possible that Jesus was holding a child in his arms while speaking in verse 42, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”

Jesus is not simply talking about little children; he is talking about all of his disciples. Woe to anyone who misleads a fellow Christian, causing them to sin. We must be constantly on our guard to be careful not to cause anyone to sin. We can be guilty of misleading someone unintentionally. What we condone and what we talk about can easily be a stumbling block for someone else.

Leading Ourselves to Sin

Jesus then highlights three body parts as avenues for sin. Using shocking language of amputation and disfigurement, Jesus calls his followers to respond radically to the presence of sin in their lives.  

Hands (v. 43)

Our hands can be used for theft, fighting, and murder. With our hands we can make dishonest trades or give and receive bribes. We can be guilty of withholding help by keeping our hands closed. Our hands need to be consecrated to the Lord, using them for good works, diligent work, and life-giving activities.

Feet (v. 45)

Our feet can also be used to sin. With our feet we can walk towards an argument when we should walk the other way. Like the Levite and the priest in the parable of the Good Samaritan (see Luke 10:25-37), we can sin by walking away from a need. Our feet can lead us into sin by going to establishments where a child of God should not be. Our feet must be consecrated to the Lord. Walking with God is not a theological concept; it is a way of life.

Eyes (v. 47)

Jesus teaches in Luke 11:34-36 that the health of the eye has an effect on the whole person. If your eye is good—if you look at and dwell on pure and holy things—then your body will be filled with light. But when you look at impure and unholy things, your body will be full of darkness.

Psychologists are beginning to study and document the terrible effects of pornography on the human body and brain. It leads to darkness. There is a brain fog and a darkness that comes over someone addicted to pornography. In the same way, mindlessly watching social media videos can lead to depression and a dull mind.

What we see can also lead to covetousness. When we covet something, we are expressing that what God has given us is not enough. Covetousness is an ever-hungry idol.

Eyes consecrated to the Lord can witness and dwell on beauty and worship the Creator. A good eye sees things the way God designed them to be. Consecrated eyes bring light and life to our bodies and lives.

A Radical Response to Sin

What does Jesus tell us to do with our hands, feet, and eyes when they cause us to sin? Cut them off and gouge them out!

While Jesus never intended for this teaching to be applied literally, it gives us a dramatic picture of how seriously we need to view sin. The verses have a sense of surgical removal; there is a finality to it.

Remove It

When we identify the sin in our lives, we need to be aggressive in removing the temptation to sin.  We can be tempted to grade sins in order of destructiveness. We all agree that murder and violence are bad, but we domesticate other sins, cultural and “acceptable” sins that we allow room in our lives. No sin should have any part in our lives. Jesus wants us to aggressively remove them all.  

Hate It

The problem is that we don’t value holiness and purity enough to be aggressive with the sin in our lives. We accommodate, we compromise, we justify, all the while living in darkness, far from the joy and the peace that Jesus has for us.

We wonder why there is no answer to our prayers and no victory in our lives, but we are compromising with the world.

Do we hate sin enough to remove the thing that enables us to sin? It might be our cable service, our smart phone, or our shopping habits. It may be our job or our friends. Whatever is tempting us to sin needs to be cut off and permanently removed. Hate sin enough to take drastic action.

Sacrifice It

The Christian life inevitably involves sacrifice (see Romans 12:1. Jesus is talking about this sacrifice when he discusses saltiness in verses 49-50. In ancient times, salt had impurities that could cause it to lose its flavor, thus rendering it useless. Once a Christian loses the character of Christ, because of impurity, we become useless in the kingdom.

This is not about losing one’s salvation but one’s effectiveness. A Christian who compromises with the world has lost the ability to impact the world for the kingdom of God. Compromise creeps in slowly and infects the body.

There is no corner of our lives that we should not invite the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit to inspect and to convict us of sin. Ambition, pride, lust, greed, covetousness, gossip, slander, laziness, an angry temper, and more must be exposed and brought into the light if we are to live fully alive and effective for Jesus Christ.

Confess It

But there is incredibly good news. Jesus took our sins and paid the price that enables us to live in the light. When Jesus went to the cross, he went to be the perfect and final sacrifice for our sins.

Romans 2:4 reminds us that it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance and for all who repent of their sins, we are promised forgiveness and cleansing from all our sins (see 1 John 1:9).

Confession is the key. Confession needs to be part of our daily spiritual disciplines.

Sin is serious, but forgiveness, freedom and peace are available through Jesus Christ.