1 Peter 5:1-4
1 I exhort the elders among you as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory about to be revealed: 2 Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but willingly, as God would have you; not out of greed for money but eagerly; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. — 1 Peter 5:1-4
How Church Leaders are Called to Exercise Their Role
by Jason Dukes
“Jesus called them over and said to them, 'You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions act as tyrants over them. But it is not so among you'" (Mark 10:42-43 CSB). Or is it?
The fact is that since Eden when insecurity entered and wrecked our relational ability, we have all looked out for our own good and have attempted to lord over anyone who wasn't out to preserve or enhance our own interests. Conquest dominates humanity, poisoned by the jealous angel who waged war against the one Good King. That same self-absorption and insecurity can even plague leaders of the church. Peter must have seen incidents of it, and thus he exhorted fellow leaders with truth in love not to lead with self-interests in mind.
"Shepherd God's flock among you." Church leaders are to do the work of a shepherd. Shepherds lead sheep toward green fields and still waters. Shepherds expose danger and ward off threats. Shepherds go after and attempt to bring back stray sheep. Does this describe the church leadership you know? Pray for your church leaders to be secure enough and strengthened enough in their gospel identity to do the work of a shepherd. However, remember that church leaders equip for the work of the church (the people). They are not the only ones who do the work of the church.
Also, as one leading or as one being led, pray for self-interests to be confessed and denied by church leaders. Pray for a willingness to shepherd rather than a sense of duty, because the self-interest of personal fulfillment can often drive both the ambition and efforts of church leaders, distracting them from the need the sheep have for encouragement with Love and prodding with Truth. Pray for church leaders to shepherd with an eagerness to work for the good of the "flock," rather than an eagerness for their own greedy gain. And pray for church leaders to lead in such a way that trust is grown in their relationship with the congregation. Trust grows when pastoral authority is centered on the mission of the one Good King while being exerted for the edification of the people, rather than being centered on the vision of the one called "good reverend" while being exerted for the exaltation of the preacher.
"And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfailing crown of glory." Only when church leaders lead—or better said, when they serve—in the way of the Chief Shepherd will His unfading glory be made known among the sheep. In a Christian culture where pastors and church leaders often act more like Chief Executive Officers, managing Christian institutions, may we pray for them to act more like the Chief Shepherd, encouraging and equipping for God's mission. After all, the church lives life exercising their gospel calling in the sport of everyday ministry (Ephesians 4), while the church leader should be a Gatorade-giver, helping to keep the church energized for their intended game.
Likewise, we should subject ourselves to the Truth-in-Love, servant-shepherding leadership of the elders of the church, humbling ourselves to receive the encouragement and the provocation the Spirit leads church leaders to emphasize. However, church leadership only has sustaining power when both the leaders and the ones being led "clothes yourselves with humility toward one another." Grace abounds where humility toward one another abounds.
The good news of the one Good King Jesus is both demonstrated and declared as hope in a hopeless world when the church embodies this gospel humility and her leaders exercise their leadership with the humility of the Chief Shepherd.
- How are the leaders around you acting like the Chief Shepherd? How can you encourage them as they do or pray for them if they struggle to do so?
- What are areas in which you struggle to submit to the collective leadership of the local church of which you are a part? How can you subject yourself to their leadership in a more loving, surrendered, committed way?
- Do you think the local church of which you are a part embodies gospel humility together? What might need to change if you don't?
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.