Jesus and His Messengers
Tony Cooke

The article that follows is an excerpt from What Would Jesus Say?

As you read each of the letters, imagine what it would be like to have been one of the pastors of the seven churches. Jesus Christ, the head of the church, communicates a letter to you through the legendary apostle John. It will be your responsibility to faithfully represent Jesus in stewarding that message and helping the congregation receive and apply all that the Lord has communicated. An ambassador is not assigned to a foreign land to share his or her own opinions, but to accurately represent the commissioning government. Similarly, it is not the duty of ministers to share their opinions, theories, or speculations, but are directed to “speak as though God himself were speaking through you” (1 Peter 4:11, NLT).

The picture of Jesus firmly holding these stars—His messengers—communicates that ministers are not at liberty to promote any other agenda than His. Rather, they are to be governed and led by Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church. In contrast, the apostle Jude refers to false teachers as “wandering stars” (Jude 13). Another version renders it that false teachers are “lost stars in outer space on their way to the black hole” (MSG). That is vastly different than the stars Jesus holds firmly in His right hand—the messengers charged with delivering His illuminating Word to the churches.

The New Testament contains many instructions for God’s messengers, especially in the Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus). In these, Paul gives extensive directives on how his young protégés are to faithfully teach God’s Word and lead His people into maturity. Another time that Paul gave instructions to God’s messengers is when he met with the leaders of the Ephesian church:

So guard your hearts. Be true shepherds over all the flock and feed them well. Remember, it was the Holy Spirit who ap- pointed you to guard and oversee the churches that belong to Jesus, the Anointed One, which he purchased and established by his own blood. I know that after I leave, imposters who have no loyalty to the flock will come among you like savage wolves. Even some from among your very own ranks will rise up, twisting the truth to seduce people into following them instead of Jesus (Acts 20:28-30, TPT).

When you read that description of the responsibilities of pastors, can you see why Jesus would hold these firmly in His hands? These are the very ones He entrusts with the same types of responsibilities articulated in the letters to the angelos—the messengers of Revelation 2-3.

The apostle Peter also gives a vivid description of the responsibilities of church leaders:

Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:2-3).

The word “shepherd” is used as a verb in this passage and carries the ideas of leading, feeding, guiding, tending, protecting, and caring for the flock of God.

Combined, these different sections of Scripture create a composite picture illustrating the very sobering responsibilities of pastoral ministry. These God-called individuals are held responsible by Jesus to feed and care for God’s sheep, protecting them from spiritual attacks coming from within and without. This is the scenario we see unfolding in Revelation 2-3 as Jesus speaks to His angels—His messengers—about what is happening, and what needs to happen within their respective congregations.

All of this speaks volumes as to why pastors and pastoral teams need the prayers and support of their congregations. Jesus is asking them to represent Him, but the powers of hell will do all they can to oppose, hinder, discourage, and silence these spiritual leaders. Unfortunately, some people are quick to criticize their pastors rather than to pray for them. Some church members may not appreciate the instruction or correction that the Lord directs their leaders to bring, and instead of receiving the Word with gladness, they become offended.

In Revelation 2-3 we learn what Jesus was asking of pastors in that day, but elsewhere in the New Testament we discover how believers are to respond to their spiritual leaders:

Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, NLT).

Another version renders a portion of that same passage:

We ask you to honor those leaders who work so hard for you, who have been given the responsibility of urging and guiding you along in your obedience. Overwhelm them with appreciation and love (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, MSG).

In like manner, the author of Hebrews also addresses how believers should relate to those in spiritual leadership:

Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them? (Hebrews 13:17, MSG).

Of course, there have been abuses in the past by misguided leaders, both in spiritual and in secular realms. Followers also need to exercise discernment in determining who and how they follow.

I have had people ask, “What if a preacher asks me to rob a bank? Am I supposed to obey?” The answer to that is obviously “no.” God does not expect us to follow or obey someone who is asking us to do something immoral, illegal, or unethical. The point I believe Scripture is making is that when pastors deliver the Word of God, we are to receive it respectfully. As long as the pastor is providing godly, biblical leadership, give your 100% support.

Brother Hagin encouraged us to always evaluate what he said in the light of Scripture. He taught us, “If I ever say anything that is contrary to the Bible, you are under no obligation to believe it; always check out everything I say against the Bible to see if it is true.” Paul instructed, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, KJV), but I heard of another minister who tagged a bit of an addendum on to that. He added, “When you see me stop following Christ, stop following me.”

Further, we should avoid being nit-picky critics. As long as humans are involved, we can always find things to criticize if we are so inclined. Instead, we should do what we can to assist and cooperate as the pastor provides godly spiritual leadership to the congregation. We should look for the good, not for the problems.

Here are eight practical things believers can do to encourage and support their spiritual leaders:

  • Pray Fervently – Pastors have needs too, so pray for them. Pray for their personal needs and for their family. Paul requested that believers would “Pray also that God’s revelation would be released through me every time I preach the wonderful mystery of the hope-filled gospel. Yes, pray that I may preach the wonderful news of God’s kingdom with bold freedom at every opportunity” (Ephesians 6:19-20, TPT).
  • Receive Graciously – We read in Acts 2:41 that the people “gladly received” the words that Peter preached. Paul spoke of how the believers in Thessalonica responded to his preaching: “You didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God—which, of course, it is” (1 Thessalonians 2:13, NLT).
  • Respect Sincerely – Pastors should be held in love and high esteem. We don’t worship spiritual leaders but we are to be respectful toward, and honoring of, those in leadership positions.
  • Expect Reasonably – Don’t put unreasonable expectations on your pastor. Some people unfairly expect their pastor to be a composite of all of their favorite celebrity preachers rolled into one. Your pastor is human, will make some mistakes, and does not walk on water.
  • Serve Joyfully – Don’t be a spectator or a passive observer. Roll up your sleeves and work in the church. When you serve, you become a fellow laborer with your pastor. Healthy churches are those in which many people do the work.
  • Give Generously – Honor God by giving generously to the church. When you tithe and give offerings, you help ensure that the church has the resources necessary to fulfill its assignments.
  • Refresh Frequently – Celebrate when your pastor gets a break. Jesus advocated a time of rest for Himself and His disciples (Mark 6:30-31), and today’s spiritual leaders need opportunities to be refreshed as well.
  • Compensate Appropriately“Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.’ And in another place, ‘Those who work deserve their pay!’” (1 Timothy 5:17-18, NLT).

Pastors who have multiple people engaging in these types of supportive actions will be greatly encouraged and helped as they serve the Lord. The stars that Jesus held in His hand in the book of Revelation—His messengers—had a massive responsibility. They were to bring light from heaven into the earth as they shared God’s Word with the people of their congregations. Today’s pastors have the same assignment as those pastors, and they deserve all the help we can give them.

Bible teacher and author Tony Cooke graduated from RHEMA Bible Training Center in 1980 and received degrees from North Central University (Bachelor’s in Church Ministries) and Liberty University (Master’s in Theological Studies/Church History).

His ministerial background includes pastoral ministry, teaching in Bible schools, and directing a ministerial association. Tony’s passion for teaching the Bible has taken him to more than thirty nations and nearly all fifty states. He is the author of a dozen books, of which, various titles have been translated and published in eight other languages. Tony and his wife, Lisa, reside in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and are the parents of two adult children.