Must We Obey Our Spiritual Leaders? It depends!

Jun 21, 2021 | Dennis Heppner, Leadership, Lifestyle

Obey Spiritual Leaders

This is important to understand, considering we have both good leaders and the few rare ones who abuse and take advantage of their followers. There are believers who have been so wounded by leadership that they do not submit to any human leadership. They insist that they submit directly to God.

Where do we stand as responsible believers and leaders?

Humility and submission remain the very foundation of Christian relationships, including that of leaders. Everyone in the body of Christ needs someone to be accountable to. For most of us, it’s our pastor. There are wise and godly pastors, and there are pastors who are power-tripping and abusing their authority over the souls God has entrusted to them. Where is the balance for us?

Here are some principles of submission to pastoral authority.

Follow a leader who is in submission to authority.

They must recognize someone or some group over them in the Lord. Many leaders today say they recognize a spiritual covering, but they will not allow anyone to correct them or speak into their lives.

They have no covering.

The covering can be a denominational structure, an eldership, a mutually submissive leadership team, a board, a council, etc. But here’s the thing: if your leader is not submissive to authority, this does not justify rebellion on your part or excuse you from submission to authority. Rebellion by one does not justify rebellion by another. Find and submit to a godly leader and stay there, even if you are corrected or rebuked.

The internet is not the final authority in our spiritual house — our local church is.

Here’s a Bible verse we cannot explain away. Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy and not be a burden.”

The context of these verses teaches that we accept our pastor as the final authority in our church doctrine and teachings. If we bring teaching into our church that is not approved by the pastor, we are out of order. The internet is not the final authority in our spiritual house — our local church is.

This Scripture exhortation is about practical Christian living. Our spiritual leader has every right to correct our behavior if it is not proper and according to God’s word. The pastor has the right to correct sinfulness of any kind and expect that we live like Christians. Why? Because God expects that pastor to “watch over our souls.” He or she “gives an account” to God for the souls entrusted to his or her care. This is a solemn and serious responsibility.

Our spiritual leaders have the responsibility to encourage and press us to take responsibility and serve in our local churches. Every believer is called to serve. There should be no idle believers in a local assembly of Christians. The pastor should not have to do everything. And we should not be offended when we are asked to share the burden.

The Bible does not teach that spiritual leaders have the right to interfere with our personal choices. We can marry whom we choose. We can live where we choose. We can be what we want to be. However, spiritual leaders can and should warn you if they truly believe you are making a mistake. As a pastor, I once told two people not to marry each other. They did anyway and later came back in deep sorrow for not having obeyed.

Godly pastors should not pressure their church members to give money. The Bible teaches us to give “willingly.” If we give under duress, the blessing is gone.

When a pastor/spiritual leader is leading us towards God, holy living, and service to God, we are very wise to submit to their counsel and leadership. They are watching for our souls. They will give an account and so will we!


Are you following your spiritual leaders? Have you consistently shown humility and submission towards them? Where do you stand right now as a responsible believer?


Hebrews 13:17, Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

Reading Plan: Exodus 14-20


Heavenly Father, I commit to submit to my spiritual leaders. I choose to believe that you have placed me under their care for my betterment.

Obey your leaders always! See if you’re falling behind on anything your pastor or a spiritual leader asked you to do. Give an account of what you’ve been doing to them. Let them have the final word on spiritual matters.

#Obedience #Humility #Submission

Dennis Heppner grew up in Canada and was called to ministry as a young boy. Dennis and his wife Denie, who was also called to missions as a child, pastored 4 churches in Canada, but in 1987 the door opened to come to the Philippines as missionaries. They brought their 4 eldest children with them and the kids grew up here. In 2006 they adopted Emma Rose, a special Filipino treasure and a gift from God to their family.

Dennis has been a missionary evangelist in Asia for 25 years. He was the director of LIFESCHOOLS of ministry and pastored 3 churches in the early years of his ministry based in the Philippines. He is currently the founder and President of Developing Effective Leaders (DEL), superintendent of Church of God West Asia, and the founding and lead Pastor of the vibrant, growing Church of God Makati.

Dennis and Denie and their whole family, including Josh and Melody who live in Canada, are committed to missions, leadership, and the call of Christ.

Read more of Ptr. Dennis’ articles HERE!

Extended Bio HERE.

Help us REFRESH others with the life-giving Word of God today!

You may also like…

Take A Day Off and Rest!

Take A Day Off and Rest!

Everywhere I go, I interact with a lot of people who do not rest. This is especially true of pastors, church...

Dance Away Your Stress

Dance Away Your Stress

Stress has become ubiquitous, and if not managed well, it will affect our physical and mental well-being....

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!