“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” - 2 Tim. 3:16-17
“No concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.” - 1 Cor. 16:12
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” - Eph. 5:21
I was commissioned by our church to evaluate our children's ministry curriculum. I had just read an article on gospel-centered children's ministry and I was ready to come against all that Christ-less virtue driven children's ministry stuff with a vengeance. I was a 27-year-old campus pastor and I knew my stuff! I did the work and made my suggestions. This was pre-Gospel Project, so options were very slim for good children's ministry material. We ended up going with my third option. I was not happy. Then it happened.
I remember it like it was yesterday. My mentor, who remains my mentor to this day, was the executive pastor of the church. He took me out and explained to me the ins and outs of the meeting we were walking into later that day. We were going to let the children's ministry director know there was a curriculum change coming. If you don't know, that is a really big deal! My mentor was clear with his instruction: “Don't say a word!”
A couple of hours after our meeting, we stepped into the meeting. Things started well, but got worse. The conversation was not as gospel-centered as I wanted it to be. I felt my insides getting hot like Elijah's must have, and I just couldn't sit on my hands anymore! My goodness, this meeting needed my interjection and some gospel-centered help! “Our church was at a crossroads and kids lives and futures were at stake!”
I interrupted and the room grew silent as they listened to my prophetic utterances! Finally, someone was bringing truth and clarity! And then - the explosion. Tears. Anger. Frustration. The room didn't respond as it did in the movie going on in my head. My mentor? Calm on the outside, red-hot on the inside. The meeting ended in flames. All of it, I mean all of it, was my fault. It was flat-out insubordination.
The next day, everyone had cooled off a bit. I stepped into my mentor's office not knowing I was about to learn a lesson I would never forget. He looked at me and said:
Jared I trust you. I want you in every meeting like the one we met in yesterday. But I want you to hear me. I want you to promise me you will never forget what I am about to tell you. Leaders have to know their place. If you want to lead well you must first know how to follow. You must learn how to submit. Don't ever let what happened yesterday happen again. Got it?!
I responded, “Got it.”
My mentor was firm and gracious. I haven't forgotten his words. Pastoral ministry requires submission. The pastor must lead the way in humble submission. Here are three specific ways the pastor is called to submit:
1. Submission to the Word
The pastor is called to submit to God's Word. After all, we are commanded to preach the word not preach our word. The pastor is a man who daily submits to Jesus through submission to the Word. The pastor is first a Christian and all Christians are called to this task. Paul says in 2 Tim. 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” I am forever called to submit to the authority of the word!
2. Submit To Other Pastors
Paul, although not a pastor at a local church, models submission to Pastor Apollos. Consider 1 Cor. 16:12: “No concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.” Notice how Paul did not get his way. He didn't guilt Apollos or manipulate him. He didn't strong-arm Apollos even though he strongly urged him. Paul submitted to the will of another godly man. Pastors must lead the way in this kind of generous submission.
3. Submission to the Congregation
In Ephesians 5:21, Paul tells the church to "submit to one another our of reverence for Christ.” Pastors were among the recipients of the letter to the Ephesian church. When Paul gave this directive, it was not as an arrow to the congregation void of Pastors. It was a command to the church. Pastors are church members before they are pastors. Did you know that? It is important that you do. So the pastor/church member must submit to others out of reverence for Christ.
I am forever thankful for my mentor and what he taught me that day. I will never forget it. Learn from my mistake. Pastor, learn how to submit. Know your place and it will go well for you.