In The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline (Crossway 2010) Jonathan Leeman describes the different facets of a member’s submission to his local church body.
In a proper, biblical relationship, members submit to their church: publicly, physically and geographically; socially; affectionately; financially; vocationally; ethically; and spiritually. Submitting this way assumes that members will seek the counsel of elders and other church leaders, not in the sense of yielding to authoritarian rule, but of utilizing the wisdom of shepherds God has placed over the flock.
We rarely consider counting others more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4) or of obtaining wise counsel, especially in such important matters as where we live, how we spend money, and what we do for a living, and even with regard to members of our own churches, who are frequently as unknown to us as estranged third cousins.
Submitting vocationally to the interests of other church members, as Leeman suggests, is particularly alien to us.
How we earn our living is a significant component of our image of ourself, both as we are and as we want to be. Nothing, we suppose, is more fundamental to self-governance and personal liberty than our vocation.
But decisions about jobs and careers frequently involve changes that require us to move away from our congregation or that place demands on our time that lead us to give less of it, and have implications for our giving, our fellowship, and our ministry in the body.
If we truly count the interests of others as more significant than our own, as the teaching of Jesus and the New Testament authors indicate we should, then how a promotion, or relocation, or career change will affect our ministry to others in the congregation should factor as prominently as salary, title, and 401k.
This is difficult enough a concept in the abstract, but when faced with the choice between accepting a job promotion with better pay and more hours or rejecting it in order to keep teaching the 4th grade boys, it appears simply unthinkable.
But think, we must, because it is all too easy to make life decisions considering only our own interest. A sure corrective, as Leeman suggests, is to begin yielding to our fellow members in these areas.