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God is with you - Part 33

1 Peter 5v1-4

Leadership

19th January 2018

What should Christian leadership look like? Peter says:

1 Peter 5v1-4
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow-elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers — not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

In the Bible, church leaders are called elders (among other things) and in many churches today they still are. If you prefer another term for church leaders (like minister, or vicar, or pastor) then just substitute that term for "elder" as you read on.

Having taught all Christians about the importance of godliness, the inevitability of suffering, and the amazing grace and faithfulness of God, Peter now addresses the church leaders. Let's step though his words.

1 Peter 5v1
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow-elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed.

Peter establishes his qualifications to exhort them to godly conduct as leaders. Firstly he observes that he, too, is an elder, so he knows what he's talking about. He's speaking from experience of being a leader.

Secondly he speaks about his relationship with Jesus. Peter witnessed the trial, torture and crucifixion of Jesus Christ our Lord. He saw with his own eyes what it is to do the right thing, and to love our enemies, and to pay the price, when Jesus refused to escape from God's plan and from his Jewish and Roman oppressors, from pain and death. He heard Jesus pray "father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23v34).

Thirdly Peter shares our conviction that the glory of God will one day be fully revealed, and we will each have a share in it. He's looking for the same things we're looking for.

In the light of Peter's experience and beliefs, he teaches elders how to be elders:

1 Peter 5v2
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers — not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve

To be an elder is to be a shepherd - an under-shepherd of Jesus Christ the good shepherd (John 10v11,14). To be an elder is to care for the sheep - God's people. And to be an elder is to be an overseer of God's flock, to make sure they're safe, fed and watered.

Peter would have remembered the time when Jesus took him aside after he had denied him three times, and asked him three times if he still loved him, and Peter said "Yes", and Jesus urged him to care for God's sheep.

John 21v15-17
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."
Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."
The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."

This is the task of an elder: to feed Jesus's lambs and take care of them.

Elders are called by God, and they should retain a willingness to obey God's calling, to care for the flock because they love God and His people. We must never resent the responsibilities that God lays on us, but rather we should accept the amazing honour of being called into His service.

There's nothing wrong with being paid to be a church leader, but there's something terribly wrong with being a church leader in order to be paid. Church leadership, even if like me you have a qualification from Bible college and accreditation from a denomination, is not a profession. It's not a job. It's a vocation. If we're not called by God to do it, we must not do it.

Much damage has been done in churches by people who serve as leaders but whom God never called to serve as leaders. But for a church to support its leader(s) so they can be freed from the need to earn a living, so they can devote themselves more fully to caring for the church they serve, is honourable and good.

And elders - including paid ministers like me - should serve eagerly, because the work is so very important. There is no more important job than caring for God's people.

1 Peter 5v3
not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.

Elders are not there to boss people around. It's true that Christians are called to "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you" (Hebrews 13v17) but that obedience must be given freely, not demanded. And it must not be abused.

Rather than bossing people around; elders are called to be examples to the members of their church. I once heard a wise man say, "You cannot lead people onto ground that you don't occupy". What he meant was, no-one will grow in God because an elder tells them to, unless they see that elder obeying his own teaching.

If an elder wants his church to be loving, then he must be loving. If he wants his church to be humble, then he must be humble. If he wants his church to be prayerful, then he must be prayerful. If he wants his church to be generous, then he must be generous, and so on.

It has often been observed that a Middle-Eastern shepherd leads his flock from the front, not from the rear, and so must the elders of God's church lead the people in their care.

1 Peter 5v4
And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

God loves to reward His people for all the good they do. To those of us who serve faithfully, humbly, gently and with purity of heart and speech, in leading God's people and caring for them, God promises a crown of glory.

Don't let him down. Don't Lord it over others. Don't criticise and argue and divide God's people.

Don't serve in a ministry that God hasn't called you to. Don't do it for the money. Don't do it to make yourself look good or feel good.

Serve God in whatever capacity He wants you to, because you love God and because you love His people. And stay humble.

Or don't do it at all.