What should the attitude of believers be to their shepherds? Silent resentful submission? Stoical resignation to what must be? A sense of frustration and helplessness? Is this the Scriptural pattern? Are sheep to be cowed into submission and silence?
On the other hand, does Scripture envision rebellious, in-your-face opposition? Is there a place in God’s assembly for defiance and aloofness? Assuredly not! What then should be the attitude of believers to those who have the burden of leadership?
Paul exhorts the believers to know them … and are over you in the Lord … esteem them (1 Thess 5:12,13). Again he says, The elders that rule well … worthy of double honor (1 Tim 5:17). The Lord expects the believers to honor those whom He has raised up to lead the assembly. They are not perfect men. The price of wisdom is often paid in the currency of mistakes. Men and nations purchase wisdom at a great price.
Supplicate for them
Those who have the burden of decision-making are in need of the prayerful support of the assembly. Decisions are easily made by those who do not carry the responsibility for their consequences. Those whose duty it is to make the decision frequently are privy to more information than you. You were not there to observe the sneer, to hear the tone of voice, the obvious bitterness with which each word was clothed. Nor were you present to witness the tears of deep remorse and humbling of spirit. You do not know the unseen ramifications of the actions. These men need your prayers.
Submit to them
Both Hebrews 13:7 and 1 Peter 5 remind us of the need to submit to our leaders. Theirs is the responsibility before the Lord for the direction of the assembly. The Lord instructed His disciples to obey the teachings of the Scribes and Pharisees, even though they were not to follow their life-example (Matt 23:1-3). Their position and the Scriptures they handled had to be respected, even though the men were not living in a consistent manner.
Believers are not to be marked by rebellion. Remember, Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Gal 6:7). Today’s rebels may well become tomorrow’s leaders who will have to contend with rebellion as well. A man who has never learned to follow is hardly fit to lead.
Even Gaius was not told to lead a one-man insurrection against Diotrophes. The assembly is the Lord’s and He is able to right what is beyond our ability to correct scripturally. It may be that the oppressive circumstances are God’s school to teach and fit you for the future.
Speak to them
Believers must also learn that it is not only a privilege but also a responsibility to speak to the oversight about spiritual matters. Paul’s epistles were written to the entire assembly, not the oversight. Everyone in the assembly is responsible for the spiritual welfare of the company. All are responsible for the truth of God as upheld by the pillar and ground of the truth. If you disagree with a direction or decision which the leadership is taking, it is your obligation to go to them and, in a respectful manner, show what the Word of God has taught you about the issue. Then leave the matter with them. They must now answer to the Lord for what you have discussed with them. Do not make an issue out of it with others.
Seek them out
Go to them for advice, counsel, fellowship. You may be surprised at what you might learn.