Hebrews 13:17 says this:
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
It is one of those verses that pastors and elders don’t tend to like preaching in their own churches (for obvious reasons). But it is the second part that is particularly telling. Elders are to watch out for the souls of their flock and you, as a church member, are to let them do this with joy and not with groaning because that ‘would be of no advantage to you.’ So, it is of no advantage to you if you are somebody who causes your elders to groan whenever they see you or hear your name mentioned and we are to avoid being those who would cause such groaning in our leaders.
The obvious question, then, is what are the kind of things that are likely to make our elders groan? If we know about these things, we will be able to avoid them so that our elders can watch out for us with joy. Here are three things that are likely to cause your elders to groan.
Nothing will make your elders groan more than you never being at anything. If you are a member of the church, you should take your membership responsibilities seriously. One of the core, central ones is to never be at anything. If you treat Sunday services like an optional extra, if you make anything church related play second fiddle to almost any other priority, if you continually take weekend breaks and holidays, your elders will be groaning.
Everybody loves it when folk put their hand up to serve on stuff. The children’s work that constantly feels understaffed will jump for joy at somebody agreeing to go on the rota. When people show themselves servant-hearted, the church – and the elders – are profoundly grateful.
But worse than the person who never volunteers for anything is the person who agrees to serve and then never turns up. It is possible to manage a rota when you know who is on it will turn up; it is much harder to manage if people say they’ll be there and simply don’t turn up. Whether you ought to serve or not, there will be much more groaning over one who doesn’t show up for something they were rostered on to do than over one who was never due to serve at all. Frequently dropping your responsibilities will put others out and will causes elders no end of groaning.
Whingeing and moaning
It’s a pretty obvious one but if you are somebody with a penchant for whingeing and moaning, your elders are going to be inwardly groaning every time they see you. Sometimes, things are the way they are because nobody is in a position to change them. Sometimes, things are the way they are because to not do them that way would cause even bigger problems than the apparent ones that exist now. But the one thing that makes such issues worse is when people moan and whinge about them. That does nothing but add another problem to an already existing problem.
Even aside from that sort of thing, whingeing and moaning has a habit of spreading. Misery loves company, as they say. Not only will elders groan if your arrival always comes with a whinge and a moan but they will be groaning all the more if you are whingeing and moaning to others people, spreading your discontent to those who were otherwise perfectly happy. These are not small things. The children of Israel aroused the Lord’s anger when they were busy grumbling and it is hard to imagine the Lord is any more pleased with it in his church. Likewise, elders are rarely pleased by it either and they will be groaning if you are always groaning to them.