Be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over your souls.
In giving direction to fellow believers, elders provide encouragement and counsel based either on the Scriptures themselves or on Scriptural principles. Their objective in providing such guidance is not to dictate how their brothers should live their lives. Rather, it is to give their fellow Christians Scriptural guidelines to help them make good decisions and to promote order and peace in the congregation. The elders are ‘watching over souls’ in the sense that they desire to help each member of the congregation maintain a good relationship with Jehovah. They will thus be quick to offer assistance if they perceive that a brother or a sister is about to take, or has already taken, a “false step.” Are these not good reasons for being “obedient to those who are taking the lead”?
There should be no doubt that most elders are well-intentioned and have the best interests of the congregation at heart.
Being in the condition that we find ourselves there are going to be domineering, ambitious men and uncaring attitudes that are prevalent even among the most spiritual elders. Not much that can be done at this time, except to try to suppress such unsavory expressions of the sick human condition and wait for the great healing to come.
But in the interim, what happens when the leading men are the ones who take a false step? Who will correct them? Do they correct themselves? That would certainly be a marvelous thing to behold. Sadly, though, it is not in the realm of reality. Bethel is, from all appearances, beyond self-correction.
Instead of humbly admitting their errors, Bethel has become stubbornly entrenched. They refuse to be straightforward in their dealings. They continue to exalt the organization and themselves and fail to set the example for elders in showing humility and contrition for their own missteps.
Unfortunately, for Jehovah’s Witnesses the error of the leadership will impact them most adversely. That is because, even though the Bible plainly states that teachers will receive a heavier judgment, implying the obvious fact that there is a day of judgment that awaits the people of God, the Watchtower has adroitly shifted all of that to 1918. Nothing but blue skies ahead for the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses! At least that is the expectation.
The situation today is similar to Jeremiah’s day. Jeremiah exhorted the leaders of God’s people, saying to them: “Hear and pay attention. Do not be haughty, for Jehovah has spoken. Give glory to Jehovah your God before he brings darkness and before your feet stumble on the mountains at dusk. You will hope for the light, but he will bring deep shadow; He will turn it into thick gloom. And if you refuse to listen, I will weep in secret because of your pride. I will shed many tears, and my eyes will stream with tears, because the flock of Jehovah has been carried away captive.” — Jeremiah 13: 15-17