Hebrews 13:17 gives us some specific commands regarding our responsibilities in the church: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” We discover a double responsibility and accountability here, for BOTH the leaders and people of the church:
— the people are responsible to submit to their leaders in the church: “Obey your leaders and submit to them.”
— but it is not like the leaders “get off easy.” On the contrary, they have the heavier responsibility: “for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.” Church leaders are responsible for their people, to watch over their souls — and notice that they are accountable to God for it: “as those who will give an account.” It is a weighty responsibility which should sober every leader, and should elicit prayer and understanding from each church member.
But notice also that it is not only the church leaders who are accountable to God. :17 goes on to say that the leaders should be able to do their work “with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for YOU.” Do you give your church leadership joy — or grief? Whichever it is, you as a church member are accountable to God for the way you relate to the leaders He has placed at your church. Again, it should be a very sobering thought.
Thus we see in this verse a balance of responsibility and accountability. Both pastors and people have responsibilities in the church, and both are accountable to God for their relationships with each other.