Submission to the Church

Written By Tim Spanburg

Campus Pastor - Shawnee

Our happiness is not dependent on getting what we want.

Richard Foster

It is hard to imagine a more objectionable statement to our modern ears. Isn’t the definition of happiness getting what I want?

The answer to that question for many is a self-evident yes, but not to those who have taken up life with a church. The only way to experience the power, the community, the family of a local church, is to join the church with the expectation that my happiness in this place, with these people, is in no way dependent on getting what I want.

Let me explain.

In Ephesians 5:18-20, Paul commands Christians to be filled with the Spirit. Immediately, he starts giving a list of phrases that explain how we are to be filled with the Spirit (i.e. addressing one another in psalms, giving thanks always). Paul ends the list of his vision of the Spirit-led life by saying Spirit-led people are marked by “…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

Submission to the church is a key marker of a Spirit-led life.

This can (and has) been abused, so what does Paul mean? What is submission to the church all about?

Submission to the church means every person in the church community has the spirit or attitude of my life for you. This is the exact opposite of how community is formulated in our modern world. Most communities form around the idea your life for me. I am willing to come here as long as you have something I like, I need, I want. We gather community around a common cause, hobby, passion, and as long as the community meets our needs, then we can be happy and stay.

The church, through our submission to one another, is to operate with the opposite spirit. We walk with one another …with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:2)

This seems constrictive and limiting because it is. In the self-imposed limits of humility, gentleness, patience and submission, a new type of humanity, a new type of community is created. A community where my needs are met because I am surrounded by people who look at me and say my life for you. Then it becomes my joy to return the favor.


Week 7 of 8 Submission


  1. Andrew Jones

    This is excellent, Tim. Thank you. Needed this reminder.

  2. Jennifer Garner

    Am I willing to be uncomfortable for the benefit of another person? This is a challenging question as we consider the events of 2020. Am I willing to wear a mask all the time? Avoid seeing my family? Engage in an uncomfortable conversation with a person that doesn’t look like me? Be willing to listen to a message that convicts me? Change my behavior for the sake of someone else? Give of my resources freely for someone else? Let someone speak into my life and hold me accountable? Trust someone to help me when I need help? Have I found a place where I can truly be me without judgement? Do I allow others to be their true self and love them?


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