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Discussion Forum : Articles and Sermons : Obey Your Leaders and Submit To Them (Heb. 13:17) by Zac Poonen

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Joined: 2010/2/7
Posts: 46


Brother Tom wrote,
"One thing that needs to be addressed in this discussion is the author's , [ Zac Poonen ] deeds, and de-facto doctrine about this issue. Zac Poonen is the head of his Christian organization, Church, and churches. All of the Pastors under this church, and group of churches, are directly under his rule. He owns and runs his ministry, and I would bet, upon his passing, it will be handed down to his son."

Brother, what if your presumption about the author Zac is wrong? Have you ever considered the possibility that perhaps your judgement about him could be wrong? If he is like one of those preachers who scream for money or longs for fame rather than the glory of God, you MAY BE justified in your saying. If it is not so, I really pity you. You may have to give an account for every word that you have written. You need not have to agree with what the author has written and everyone has the freedom to disagree. But to judge someone presumptuously, it is very dangerous brother. Jesus said in John 8 15 "You judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone. 16 "But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me. Can you tell like Jesus that you have the Father with you, when you wrote about Brother Zac? Did not Jesus told us in John 7: 24.
24 "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."
The danger of judging like this is verse 17.
34 "You will seek Me, and will not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come.
Jesus warned of the impending judgment on those who judge according to appearance. You will seek Me and will not find Me. What a terrible judgment. Even if such a person seeks God, with fasting, praying, reading the Bible and sacrificing much, Jesus said that such person will not find Him. Not only that, such a person cannot go to a place where Jesus is. Impossible to enter heaven. This judgment came upon the Pharisees who judged Jesus based on appearance.

 2011/9/6 2:10Profile

Joined: 2006/6/28
Posts: 3405
Dallas, Texas


Rebellion to God-installed authortiy has been one of the oldest banes in the history of man and of the church. There's just something about our nature that refuses to submit when God grants a measure of authority to a leader or group of leaders. Total submission is nothing more than a respectful adherence to directions of the leadership in a given body. If you choose to be a part of a local church, you are in fact agreeing to honor the pastor or elders in regard to their decisions as just and godly. You might not agree with every one of their decisions, but you do not rebel. You do not cause schism. You leave before that happens, and let someone else be the cause of it.

As I see it, there is nothing unscriptural in this Zac Poonen article Greg posted; in fact, I find it full of sound wisdom as in all his messages.

I currently attend an Assembly of God church with my wife and kids. I do not agree with the AG on several of their Fundamental Truths and bylaws, but at one time I held credentials and was in "good standing" with them. As long as I dutifully paid tithes, taught a pretrib rapture, and assented that glossalalia was the uniform, initial evidence of Spirit Baptism, all was good. But I soon found myself getting light on these sacrosanct and non-negotiable positions and willing to unsubmit.

I talked to the pastor of the church I attended (and who initially endorsed me to the AG). He attempted to dissuade me on these tenents, and told me he thought I was in error. We opened the Bible and did some gentle parrying. In the end, I held my ground, respectfully, and told him I could no longer be a part of the fellowship as a credentialed minister. We hugged, prayed, and I told him I would not be leaving the church. We simply agreed to disagree. He told me I could still minister in the church as long as I didn't bring up the points on which I disagreed with the Assemblies of God (in other words, don't ask, don't tell), and I promised him I would never do such a thing, as it would be ungodly and contentious...and disrespectful to his authority as a leader.

To this day we have a great relationship, he is a dear friend, an esteemed brother, and he treats me as such. Even though we have theological differences, God has given grace to continue fellowshipping and praying for each other. If and when the Lord moves us on, we will leave the church and go elesewhere, but for now, I gladly submit to his leadership and his vision for the church 100%. Again, submission does not denote agreement; it simply means I do not defiantly rebel and cause others to rebel. The Lord has installed this man in the pastorate, and not me, and despite his shortcomings and imperfections, I know he does a much better job than I could do. I would probably crumble and become disenfranchised with a pastorate in six months!

Colossians 3:23
I Tim. 5:2,3,17
I Peter 5:5

Paul Frederick West

 2011/9/6 10:07Profile

Joined: 2003/7/31
Posts: 2774
Phoenix, Arizona USA

 Re: Obey Your Leaders and Submit To Them (Heb. 13:17) by Zac Poonen

Thanks for posting this article, excellent counsel on what can be a controversial topic as the replies on this thread have shown.

Submission to authority is clearly part of the counsel of God's word, it begins in the home;

Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. (Colossians 3:20)

It continues in the workplace;

Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: (Colossians 3:22)

If we are to submit in all things to authority in these relationships how much more should we be submitted to authority in the matter of church conduct in the fellowship where God has planted us?

Zac Poonen is simply teaching the counsel of God concerning submission to authority in this article, he is not seeking to establish or solidify his own empire. In other articles he takes up the topic of the sober responsibility of those whom God has made overseers to feed the flock and protect them. He teaches the full counsel of God.

In case you are wondering, I hold no office in my local church.

In Christ,


Ron Halverson

 2011/9/6 12:46Profile

Joined: 2003/11/23
Posts: 4534


Hi Paul,

I believe that this is a very good perspective.

I was raise in several different fellowships with distinct "We Believe" lists that are binding to their respective ministers and congregations. I have not always agreed entirely upon certain details of such lists at each respective fellowship.

Sometimes, the disagreement wasn't necessarily a difference in position -- but an unwillingness on my part to acknowledge a particular position as "truth" when I wasn't entirely convinced one way or the other. For instance, I strongly lean toward the notion of a gathering of the Bride by Christ before the time of God's wrath on Earth. However, I am unwilling to say that I am convinced in a "rapture" -- because I am well aware that it is a possibility. As a result, I cannot say with total confidence, "I believe..."

Unfortunately, such specific doctrinal position statements often have become the catalyst for full fellowship or as a primer for that fellowship's description of doctrinal maturity. Sure, we can fellowship there...but not as "full" members.

This is one reason that I think that it might not be beneficial to be so widely specific in certain non-essential doctrines. Like the relationship with the pastor that you mentioned, it is entirely acceptable for two believers to hold different inclinations regarding certain non-essential doctrines.

I attended a congregation during college that was very specific in the essentials -- but mostly silent on non-essentials. There weren't any laws or bylaws on subjects like tithing or the exact manner by which eschatology will play out. It was a non-denominational congregation that was pentecostal in nature -- but there was no discussion (or requirement to believe) in regard to "initial evidence" of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Even the ages-old debate over terms of salvation were never discussed, mandated or even listed. The pastor was often quick to present various perspectives on certain issues, but never required a mandate on non-essential matters. He said that the Holy Spirit was powerful enough to lead us and guide us into all truth -- so he didn't have to try and force every last thing upon us.

While some would look at this as "spineless" (as one brother once told me), I consider it a good way to extend the hand of full fellowship to brethren without dividing up over disagreements regarding non-essential matters. As such, I have attended various congregations where I might not always agree on every matter.

Still, I would never take part in many of the little "Korah's rebellions" that take place in many congregations today. A handful of people literally see (or create) a schism and then create subtle insurrections when the powers that be do not embrace their specific ideas, ways or beliefs. They had attended the church...and even agreed upon the list of "We Believes" (sometimes, to the point of taking "oaths" by way of Church membership) -- but then create a stink when they rethink one of those beliefs (or get upset about some other matter that people ignore).

Often, I notice that many such people become "wanderers" -- and even pride themselves in such an idea -- because they feel "rejected" by other believers. Moreover, they often think that their condition has to do with their desire to follow God in an undiluted way...which causes others to reject them. Ironically, many are actually the ones who are rejecting others...based upon differences of opinions or the fact that many might not have embraced their ideas or goals (that they sincerely believe came from God).

I know of an Assembly of God congregation where a small segment of members quit over a specific doctrinal dispute. They went and formed their own congregation (non-denominational) that was nearly identical in beliefs to the A/G they just left, but with the one notable difference in regard to the point of contention. Things went well and the congregation grew...but it wasn't long before that congregation also split over a different matter. The new faction created their own congregation...before it split over yet another doctrinal matter. Ultimately, the original A/G congregation remained strong, but the various split factions each had a small handful of members who were unwilling to fellowship with one another over often petty differences that somehow became "essential" enough to break fellowship with one another.

Anyway, I do think that I understand what Brother Zac Poonen is saying. I don't think that he is suggesting a requirement of absolute obedience or compliance to anything taught by a minister or authority in a local congregation. I have heard him speak in person and have noticed that his words are often seasoned with grace when it comes to non-essential issues (often teaching different perspectives of the same topic). And, of course, he has often mentioned the fallibility of pastors -- urging Church leaders to step down if they aren't right with God or cannot oversee their own families properly.

I think that Brother Zac sums it up nicely in the final paragraph of his message:


The way of wisdom then is to distinguish between where you must submit to the elders in a church, and where you don't have to. A lack of confidence in your local elders does not mean that you are rebellious - for not all elder brothers are spiritually minded, and not all elder brothers necessarily inspire confidence. But if you end up submitting to no-one anywhere, then it is easy for you to become a law unto yourself, and thus become an easy target for Satan to knock off and destroy. May God help us all to walk in the way of wisdom at all times.

Thanks for your post. I have gleaned quite a bit from it and from what others have said in this thread.


 2011/9/6 13:35Profile

Joined: 2005/5/19
Posts: 698


Brother Tom wrote the following assumption about brother Zac Poonen:

"One thing that needs to be addressed in this discussion is the author's , [ Zac Poonen ] deeds, and de-facto doctrine about this issue. Zac Poonen is the head of his Christian organization, Church, and churches. All of the Pastors under this church, and group of churches, are directly under his rule. He owns and runs his ministry, and I would bet, upon his passing, it will be handed down to his son.

This is thus established downward, to be established within the upcoming leaders to do the same...Preach submission to the elders, who in turn press it upon the people...To keep the tithes and offerings rolling in, and the submitted elders functioning.

What Tom assumed is simply not true.
I received the blessing of sitting through a conference with the elders of all the churches that comprise what is titled CFC churches, (those churches affliated with brother Zac). I am so grateful to say that the entire meeting was directed at teaching the elders to be examples to and humble servants of their flocks. The strongest warnings were directed at the danger of being a dictator rather than a loving shepherd. Much exhortation was given to allow and encourage young believers to exercise and develop their own gifts. Everyone there was full of joy and abounding in their faith.

I can say that what bother Tom presumed was not only totally absent from the elders meeting I attended, but in all of my many personal encounters with brother Zac, I have never seen one instance of what Tom intimated.

I would encourage everyone near brother Tom to visit the fellowship he regularly assembles with. This is the real evidence that he has an understanding of what true spiritual fellowship looks like. There is a real difference in having a theory of genuine spiritual fellowship and actually enjoying it weekly and daily.


Alan and Dina Martin

 2011/9/6 13:43Profile

Joined: 2011/5/5
Posts: 112


Hmmm, reading through all of this and having experience in both ICs and House Churches, it cannot be denied that there is much more to submit to in the Institutional Church and you should be prepared to do this if this is what you choose.

There are many extra-biblical rules as Paul West attested to (things he did not agree with) and you need to be aware of what you are "agreeing" to.

It does not make any sense at all to go into any fellowship, whether it is an Institutional or House church type setting and stir up strife.

Like Paul West, if you don't like what you are being asked to submit to and don't think it is of God, have a dialogue with the elders and see where it goes from there.

Always walk in peace, even if it becomes clear to you that it would be best for you to leave.

If things are being done that go against your convictions, then don't sin against your own conscience. Let people do their thing and move on. You may not understand why people are so happy and content with the way things are, but I promise you there are many groups that are quite happy with their extra rules.

Life is short, move peace.


 2011/9/6 18:18Profile

Joined: 2007/6/26
Posts: 2094
Whittier CA USA


Brothers, I think we can miss what this issue really comes down to, and that is different beliefs regarding forms of church government. It seems that most protestant churches have a form that is hierarchical with the senior/lead pastor having the most authority and every decision having to pass through him. Other churches believe in a plurality of elders with equal authority. Still other traditional churches make decisions by congregational consensus or voting. And you can probably think of other types of church government being practiced in traditional churches.

What most if not all traditional churches seem to have in common is the way they conduct their weekly meetings. For the regular members, typically you go in, grab a bulletin, sing songs unto the Lord, listen to the preaching of God's Word, sing some more, stay and and mingle afterward if you want, and then leave(not saying I have a huge problem with all of that, though I used to;).

Many in the house church movement favor consensual decision making, with no one person or group of persons exercising absolute authority over the members. And for many, their weekly meetings differ radically from traditional churches. There is more sponteneity and freedom for others to participate in the meetings.

I'm sure for most of you all I wrote above is redundant. But I think it's important for us to step back and see the big picture and see what this is really all about. We need to consider whether or not it's worth dividing over this "non-salvific" matter of types of church government.

So when it comes to traditional church versus house church, to me it's not so much a matter of rebellion toward authority verses submission to God-ordained authority, or on the other hand compromising the Word versus freedom under the headship of Christ(though sometimes that is the case). But rather it is more a matter over different views of church government and how meetings are conducted.

Like many have pointed out already, If you agree to be part of a traditional church, you know what you are getting into for the most part. You know that the services are going to be conducted a certain way and there will likely be no change in that. You can either agree to be part of that type of church or not.

Even though I don't agree with many of the traditions in most churches, by God's grace I've learned not to divide over those things. If I do divide over those non-essentials I will be without any fellowship for a long long time. Thankfully in my case it is not necessary for me to be out of fellowship because there are a few sound enough traditional churches in my area that I can attend and be part of.

But I understand that for some Christians it may be necessary to be out of fellowship because there may not be any healthy enough traditional or house churches in their area. So I've learned not to judge a Christian's character based on whether or not he/she attends a church. Anyway that's all I gotta say for now.


 2011/9/6 22:39Profile

Joined: 2011/6/16
Posts: 183


I believe that what it comes down to is one thing: our heart.

The Lord puts us in many environments as we travel this sod and is always watching our hearts.

David and his might men decided to leave Saul, but there were some men of God that stayed.

In both cases, the heart is what's important.

1Sa 10:26 And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched.

Men went with David, whose hearts God and touched and men stayed with Saul, whose hearts God had touched.

I hope you get a bigger picture of God, now.

So, wherever you find yourself, if you truly believe God wants you there, even if the leaders have a heart of Saul, God can still work in your heart if you let him. Pray, pray, pray and watch God move.

In Christ,

 2011/9/6 23:20Profile


A lot of interesting replies and much to ponder, especially in the days in which we live. Many times the Lord has called me to places where I was not in thelogical agreement with the leaders. I attended a Southern Baptist church for over a year one time at the Lords leading, and as most would probably guess, I am not a Baptist :) I ended up best friends with the Pastor and we would have the longest lunches having some great discussions, definately iron sharpeing iron. And even although he knew I was " of the tongue speaking persuasion," he and I ministered together in old folks homes and so on. At the end of the year he said a remarkable thing, that I was the only one that he could have true fellowship with in the church and who wanted to speak about Jesus.

I attended a four point Calvinist Baptist seminary, and of course I am not a Calvinist nor a Baptist. One of the great times of my life and I learned so much about the Word of God in those times. The dean of the college would pass me and tell me " we are praying for you Frank,' with a smile, because he knew I was a " Pentecostal." At the end of my " premillenial dispensational," class of which I was of the total opposite view, the Prof thanked me for my participation and honesty in the class and I ended up with a 93:) Just last year I spent a year at IHOP, and quite a bit of it disturbed me, yet again, the Lord had led me there. I had no agenda at any of these places. I came in quietly and left quietly at what I believe to be the Lords leading in my life. Boy, that was quite a mouthful, but sometimes people make suppositions that are simply and totaly wrong. So, finaly to my point, and some may disagree but I would love to hear an opinion based on the actual point. Total surrender or absolute obedience to men is no-where taught in the New Testament. This is a narrow point, but its the only point I personally have been trying to make. Perhaps some opinions from Scripture on this narrow ( but broad implications) point? Frank

 2011/9/7 0:20


Appolus wrote:
Total surrender or absolute obedience to men is no-where taught in the New Testament.


Many men behind pulpits have taken actual Courses on how to get their people onto buses - when the time comes - to be round up and taken to stadiums, etc - preaching Romans 13 on submission to Governments - but in these last days - we know where that will lead, as well as what you've mentioned of false doctrines and so forth.

The Spirit of Truth is our Guide, completely, and we'll stand before GOD accountable to how we've individually followed HIS Voice in the end and His only.

GOD Bless you!

 2011/9/7 0:51

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