We may not be on the same page about this yet. I don’t mean people in a congregation submitting to a pastor. I mean something deeper than that.
Allow me to start with an unusual verse for this topic. Paul wrote,
When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face… (Galatians 2:11).
First of all, this is the proper way to handle an issue like this. Paul didn’t talk to others, nor run to the leaders in Jerusalem, but he went one-on-one with Peter.
Consider Paul’s relationship to Peter if there was a “corporate flowchart” for the First Century Church—Peter would have been Paul’s superior. Yet, Peter not only received this correction from Paul but continued to speak highly of Paul.
Beginning in the first chapter of Galatians we see Paul’s level of accountability. He answered to God, but he also submitted to other church leaders. Not only that, but this passage (Galatians 2:7-9) tells us that other church leaders submitted to Paul.
When I know God has called me, and I am doing my work for His approval alone, and when I know God has called others, and they too are ministering only for His approval then we can mutually submit to one another.
It’s not a top-down hierarchy in the church, except for Jesus being the Head and all others are below Him. All others (clergy and congregation) in the Body of Christ are on equal standing—no one is more important than any other. Therefore, as we submit to Christ’s Headship, we can also mutually submit to others in the Body.
What keeps us from doing this? Pride! We say, “What will others think of me if I submit?” Pastors think, “If I submitted to someone in my congregation, how could I ever lead this church? People will take advantage of me! No one will ever listen to me again!”
When I am fully submitted to Christ, there is no stronger grounds for SERVANT leadership.
I don’t pastor to lead; I pastor to serve.
I’m not building my church; I’m building Christ’s church.
I’m not growing my followers; but followers of Jesus.
Holy God, help me to know who I am in You. You have called me to pastor, so I am Your servant. Help me kill my pride! Help me serve and submit. Help me to build Your Church.
UPDATE: This post was one of the seed thoughts that went into fashioning my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter.