F. F. Bruce on the Importance of the Local Pastor

While working on a project on what is taught about the church in Hebrews I came across this quote from F. F. Bruce (in his commentary). He is discussing Hebrews 13:17, the verse which provides the name for this site. This is a great comment:

“There would always be a tendency throughout the churches for visitors who came purveying new and esoteric doctrines to be regarded as much more attractive and interesting personalities than the rather humdrum local leaders, who never taught anything new, but were content with the conservative line of apostolic tradition.  Nevertheless it was those local leaders, and not the purveyors of strange teaching, who had a real concern for the welfare of the church and a sense of their accountability to God in this respect.”

Bruce’s comment and the verse in view stress the importance of loyalty to and submission to one’s own pastors. This assumes that these pastors, in Bruce’s words, have “a real concern for the welfare of the church and a sense of their accountability to God in this respect,” or, in the words of the text, keep watch over your souls knowing God will hold them accountable for it.  If this is not true of your pastor, all you have is a traveling preacher who shows up regularly.  No matter how good a speaker he is or how good the programs are, you need a shepherd who will watch over your soul.

Then, if you have such faithful pastors, take heed to them. Bruce here is speaking of unorthodox, travelling speakers, but the principle applies to other orthodox preachers as well. It can be useful to learn from other preachers, but they are not the ones who “stay awake at night” (sense of the verb “keep watch”) concerned for the sake of your soul.  Give heed, submit to those who demonstrate that they labor to care for you with a deep awareness that they will answer to God for this task.

And pastors, be this sort of leader. Carefulness in oversight will trump cleverness in speaking.

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