By Collin Ross
Bob was a mountain of a man, but in a different way than most. One of the top pastors of a large congregation, he was quite tall, lanky, and in his mid-seventies. I gradually learned more about this remarkable man when I was a pastoral resident at Bob’s church. He never said anything about it, but Bob arrived at the church every morning at 5 am to walk the halls and pray. He would open every room in the large building, inviting the Spirit to cover every square inch. In the sanctuary, he would sit in various seats out in the congregation, praying for the person who would hear the gospel from that spot on Sunday. It was an absolute honor to serve under this spiritual father.
I believe that the Holy Spirit raises up Christ-like leaders for the benefit of the church—leaders like Bob, who commit their whole selves to the task of shepherding their flock through service. These men and women look to Jesus’s example of leadership as He washes the feet of His disciples and lays down His life for their well-being. Like their Lord, godly leaders pour out their lives for the sake of those under their charge as an offering of worship to the Father in heaven. They are gifts to the church.
With an eye to these saints, the apostle Peter calls on each lay person to be subject to the elders of the church. Just as he calls for church leaders to imitate the leadership of the crucified Messiah, he urges the laity to reflect the humble-heart of the Suffering Servant. In the body of Christ, we all wear the same clothing––“all of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another” (1 Peter 5:5).
When we submit to the authority of godly church leaders, we honor Christ, who has both called and equipped that leader for our benefit. When we go to these godly leaders with our burdens, struggles, and afflictions, we demonstrate our gratitude to the Father for the gift of these shepherds. When we receive their counsel and apply it to our lives, we declare our trust in the Spirit who raised up that leader for this very moment.
Mutual submission is the social dimension of the gospel. Whether we’re talking about husbands and wives, workers and employers, or citizens and government, the way of Jesus teaches that in God’s kingdom, there is no pride of authority, envy of authority, or competition for authority. In the kingdom, all are to be clothed with humility toward one another.
Bob was a gift to our church. To sit under his teaching was a blessing from heaven that shaped my life with God for the better. The place of authority that he held only increased my freedom in Christ, as I learned from his example. I urge you, find a godly leader who will speak authoritatively into your life and lead you closer to the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ.