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Behind Every Great Pastor is a Great Congregation

Hebrews  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  25:14
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This Sunday is the last Sunday we will be in the book of Hebrews. Next Sunday, Rev. Kelly will be preaching and the following week I will begin our fall series from the books of 1 & 2 Thessalonians. As I was considering what portion for Hebrews 12 or Hebrews 13 I should preach on, I decided to preach on the topic of a congregation’s relationship with their pastor. There are three reasons I chose this topic.
Hebrews 13 contains the most concentrated teaching on this topic. Other books cover this topic, but none cover so much in such a small space.
The recent moral and doctrinal failing of many pastors and priests is in the news. What role do congregations play in these failures?
I want to be a better pastor and I am convinced by Scripture that you play an important role in this. It has been said, “Behind every great man is a great woman.” This text teaches that, “Behind every great pastor is a great congregation.”
The first exhortation is found in Hebrews 13:7:
Hebrews 13:7 ESV
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
Thus, the first way a congregation can make a pastor great is:

Remember Your Leaders

Most commentators believe that when the author of Hebrews is saying, “Remember your leaders,” he is referring to the first generation of pastors, missionaries and apostles who had first brought the gospel to Rome, but who were now dead.
We are now almost 2000 years in the future and we can look back not to just one, but many generations of faithful leaders! Let us never forget that these faithful ministers of the gospel were Christ’s gift to His church.
Ephesians 4:11–12 ESV
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
As we look back and think about these men we are to Consider the Outcome of Their Way of Life.
As we look back on a person’s life we realize that it is the sum total of that life, not individual parts, that define the significance and value of that life. This is so easy to forget when we look at a living person. Everyone has their flaws and it is easy to focus on their flaws. So much so in fact, that we miss all their good qualities and more importantly we miss the bigger picture. Isn’t it sad that we often don’t appreciate the people in our lives until they are gone?
As a family we were talking about this text and one of my daughters made the comment that she would not have liked Martin Luther if he were her pastor. Martin Luther had a quick temper and a biting tongue. I am sure he offended and hurt every member of the congregations he served, but he passionately loved the congregations he served and most importantly he preached the Word of God faithfully to them. That God could use a man with such flaws illustrates that the outcome of our lives has more to do with God then with us.
This should be a great encouragement to all of us, by trusting in Christ, Christ by His Holy Spirit is able to make the “outcome” of our lives fruitful.
Isn’t this just what Christ taught us—fruitfulness is about Him, not about us.
John 15:4–5 ESV
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.
No wonder the author of Hebrews concludes verse 7 with this exhortation: “imitate their faith.” The faith of abiding in Christ is what will make you a great congregation and I as your pastor a great pastor!

Obey and Submit to Your Leaders

The second exhortation is found in Hebrews 13:17:
Hebrews 13:17 ESV
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
In light of the recent pastoral abuse scandals that have rocked by Protestant and Roman Catholic churches, this seem like an unwise, if not unsafe commandment, but here is where remembering our past leaders is so helpful. Look at verse 7 again:
Hebrews 13:7 ESV
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
It was those leaders who faithfully preached and taught the Word of God whose lives had a good outcome. Conversely, it was those who either departed in doctrine or practice from God’s Word of whom the outcome of their lives and ministries was unfruitful.
The authority of a minister comes from Christ and His Word, not from his office or charisma. If I don’t faithfully preach and teach God’s Word, I will have to give an account to God someday.
This is why expository preaching is so important. This morning’s sermon is an expository sermon. I think you can clearly see that all my main points are drawn directly from the text. Going home today you have a choice of whether or not you will obey and submit to the message you have heard. If I have done my job properly, make no mistake, the person you are ultimately obeying and submitting to is God.
On the other hand, if you can’t clearly see that the minister’s main points come from the text, you would be wise to exercise caution. Again, think about the recent scandals. If people would have obeyed Scripture, rather than covering up these abuses, the harm caused by these men would have been much less.
This means that a congregation has a great responsibility to know and obey God’s Word. It is a great burden on a pastor’s soul when a congregation resists God’s Word. This is what sucks the “joy” out of the ministry because a pastor knows that sooner or later wolves will come in and devastate his flock. No wonder the author reminds his readers that resisting the Word of God as it is preached and taught by their pastor is of “no advantage” to them.
Greene Valley has been blessed by godly, faithful pastors. Don’t waste this heritage by failing to obey and submit to their biblical teaching and preaching.

Pray for Your Leaders

The third exhortation is found in Hebrews 13:18-19:
Hebrews 13:18–19 ESV
Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner.
The reason the author asks the congregation to pray for him is, so he can be “sure that we have a clear conscience and act honorably in all things.” Again, I am amazed at how timely this exhortation is in light of the recent scandals. The Devil is out to destroy every believer and he has thousands of demons at his command! However, unlike God, his power is limited. This is why he must concentrate his resources where he can do the most harm. This means pastors, missionaries and theological teachers are his primary targets. No wonder the author of Hebrews is asking this congregation to pray for him that he might have a clean conscience.
Please pray for me. As your pastor I have the more potential to do this congregation great good or great harm than anyone. Going back to the first point of this message, in remembering our past leaders and the outcome of their lives it is abundantly clear that their fruitfulness came from abiding with Christ. Are you praying that I might abide in Christ? If not, what are you thinking will make my ministry effective? It is clear from what Jesus teaches us in John 15 that there is nothing else. So, if you are not praying for me do you just not care about this church?
The great Reformed Baptist pastor Charles Spurgeon credits the success of his ministry to the prayers of his congregation. Just consider the outcome of his life. He died over one hundred years ago, yet I am able to use him as an illustration this morning. Why, because he still so well known. His preaching was so powerful that it is still changing lives today! I am no Charles Spurgeon, but if you will obey and submit to this message today, who knows how God will bless the outcome of my life and ministry? Perhaps someone will come to Christ one hundred years from now because:
You Remembered Your Leaders and the Outcome of Their Lives.
You Obeyed and Submitted to Your Leaders Biblical Preaching and Teaching.
You Prayed for Your Leaders.
You see, Behind Every Great Pastor is a Great Congregation.
Let us pray.
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