So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son. Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
(1 Peter 5)
As I wrote about in my previous post, this summer I have spent my study time diving into Peter’s two letters. They have devastated me. These posts will be lessons I learned and notes I took from I and II Peter. -jon
This chapter is written to elders by Peter, so this post is from an elder to my fellow elder brothers…
Being that I am a preachers kid, meeting elders and preachers was common place to me growing up. On one such occasion I remember my dad introducing me to a preacher at a conference. This preacher was just like many other typical preachers that I remember meeting as a kid: heavy set, rabbit trail sermons, crazy kids, long winded, loud, and a little weird. The reason I mention this guy is that he had earned my dads respect and my dad wanted me to meet him. The sad thing is that this same pastor I met as a kid was involved in some very bad stuff that no one knew about. Eventually, when it all came out, people were devastated. This exact story happens way too often.
Peter in his concluding remarks to the church ends it with a charge to the preachers in the room. It is a strong charge that begins with “I too am an elder” and ends with “your brotherhood throughout the world.” Peter is giving some very important reminders to his fellow elder brothers that must be studied and applied. Here is what jumped off the page to me.
- Experience is Important to Elders
Peter says what validates his teaching and exhorting (telling you your wrong) to his fellow elders is that he was witness to the “sufferings of Christ” and “a partaker.” Peter has just stated that his qualification for teaching other elders is that he had experienced first hand Jesus.
Brothers…have you experienced Jesus in your life?
Imagine living in a time where your very life was on the line if you preached Jesus. That was Peter’s life. You must have experienced something that was radically life changing to risk your life for it. Peter had. Peter knew Jesus.
- We are Shepherds, not Cowboys
I hope you know the difference, I do. Shepherds care for the same flock for long periods of time, while Cowboys switch from sheep to cows to cattle, from trip to trip making money as herders. We are not to be hired guns that come in and make messes, but rather shepherds that help lead people to Jesus and to walk after Him. “Exercising oversight” is missing in today’s pulpit and pew for how can we help if we aren’t in it for the long haul? How can we help if the people know we will leave if it gets tough? How can we shepherd a flock that doesn’t trust us?
We need to put down the gun and pick up the staff.
I just got in the mail another newsletter from a “______” denomination that just blasted a church that left their ranks. The hit piece said and I quote…“we have watched with sadness as this once great ministry has turned away from its heritage to adopt a contemporary style of ministry…the (church) is no more.” Someone called a hit-man and that article is the smoking gun. Help your own people and leave other churches alone! We don’t need to be blasting one another. It is not edifying. If someone specifically wrongs you, then go to them. Obviously, this is not the case with this article. Here, we just have a bully with a reading audience smashing a church they disagree with.
- Not for shameful gain.
I read that and it really stings. The shepherds must help others and lead others “as God would have you” not for our pocket books or for our ego. I was just at a concert at a local Detroit church, and got to talking with a church leader who was discouraged about a local pastor who had gotten some bad press lately. The press had reported that the pastor was robbed, but that was not why this guy was discouraged. He was upset because the pastor was robbed of his Rolex, his Lexus and his fur coat. We live in Detroit. More people live here under the poverty line than there are cars on the street and we have preachers driving around in a $80k Lexus and wearing a $10k Rolex watch.
Seriously guys, I’m happy for those that got money, don’t get me wrong but we ain’t supposed to be rockstars!
We shouldn’t have groupies or the things that come with groupies. Live lives that don’t gloat. If you got money, great. But don’t isolate yourself so much that you don’t fit into your own community. Live smart, be frugal. Go out on the town, have fun, but we are to be shepherds and not actors from Entourage.
- Elders should be humble.
When I was in college, I roomed with a guy who taught me alot and still to this day he probably doesn’t know it. I was a stuck up jerk, I was a know-it-all preachers kid and I didn’t have time for this guy. He wasn’t a bad guy but we butted heads constantly. Finally, one day he just told me off to my face that I was a stubborn know-it-all and that he didn’t like me. I was humbled, well first I was mad and ticked off, but then months later in a new room with new roommates I started to get it.
We always think we are humble, until we get humbled.
Pride is still an issue in my life and I have to battle it. My ego takes over constantly and I understand Paul’s sentiment of “dying daily” and how that we must “crucify the flesh.” We preachers mean well. I really think that most of my preacher bros are good guys that just loose it. We are not the answer, we are just means by which the truth is told. God can and will replace us if we get out of line or worse than that is that God lets us keep on going in ministry without Him.
Think of a soldier who’s eyes are like an eagle awaiting his enemy for battle. We must recognize that the battle is the Lord’s but we can be our worst enemy. If we obey, victory is ours to claim. If we disobey, we fall off the path and stray from security.
This isn’t sober like don’t get drunk, this is keep yourself sane and ready.
I have met many pastors that are just burnt out. Being a church planter I can understand the feeling. Underpaid, over billed, little fun, lots of work, stress, sins and just people can drive anyone insane. Peter says we need to be watchful so that the Devil doesn’t get to devour you.
- Firm in your faith
Do we know theology? How much time have we really spent reading and studying systematic theology & Christian apologetics? Have we spent time investigating exegesis and eisegesis? Can we firmly state with reason and conviction the trinitarian doctrine? Do we know the history of the Bible? Can we answer such questions as: “Is the Bible true?” “Did the Bible misquote Jesus?” “Did Jesus really die and resurrect?”? Do we really know what Orthodox Christianity is? If we think of ourselves as leaders and elders yet cannot answer such basic questions as creation and life styles in a loving and knowledgable way, we are kidding ourselves.
- Have we suffered?
Peter writes that elders should have suffering in common. While some might think they have suffered, Peter points to suffering as for the “eternal glory in Christ” not because we are stupid or because we pick fights. God will “restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you” and that only happens when we are truly in His will. Just recently Christians were killed in the middle east for refusing to leave and give up the mission of spreading the gospel. That is suffering. Sacrificing your own wants, lifestyles and choices to join in the great commission is what we should be striving for as elders.
Because God is sovereign and rules over all, believers have nothing to fear. If we truly believe that God is in charge of everything, we should yield over to his plan. Several years ago, Rick Warren wrote “The Purpose Driven Life” and the key point that Rick makes is that our lives were made for a distinct purpose according to God’s plan. Just recently I reread “Knowing God” by Packer and the sentiment echoed there as well. God is in charge so we must fall in line to His way.
The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delights in his way.
Thoughts to chew on:
- Am I a partaker or a hitman?
- Am I a shepherd or an administrator?
- Is my preaching and teaching filled with personal gain or pushing guilt?
- Am I an example worth following? Marriage? Kids? Money? Lifestyle? Theology?
- Leaders lead…so how many followers do you have and where are you leading them?
- When was the last time someone told you something you were doing wrong and you responded like Jesus?
- Do I have anxieties or do I have faith?
- Elders are called and are not volunteers, so what is your calling? Am I doing it?