July 22, 2010 David Balzer

1 Peter 5: Leaders who Serve

There are SOME people who love to give advice. Even if they’ve got no right to be dishing it out.

There’s that great scene from the movie, Notting Hill. Hugh Grant plays the book shop owner who meets the world-famous actress, played by Julia Roberts. He ends up asking her to a dinner party with some of his mates.

One of these friends doesn’t recognise her, and starts to make polite conversation. “And what do you do?” “I’m an actress,” she replies.

“How interesting! I used to do a bit of acting myself when I was at University” he says, trying to find some common ground. He laments the lack of money in acting, but when she lets on that she makes MOVIES, he casually asks her how much she made for her last movie. “Eight million dollars” she says nonchalantly.

SOME people love to give advice. Even if they’ve got no right to be dishing it out.

Perhaps you’ve been on the receiving end with people like that. A trumped-up waiter in a restaurant who treats you like a piece of dirt. Or your new boss arrives, and thinks he knows everything. Just because he’s got the right pieces of paper. Or knows the right people. And he’s not interested in asking advice. Just bossing you around.

SOME people love to give advice. Even if they’ve got no right to be dishing it out.

In some ways I feel like a bit of a fraud. Officially, I’m Ben’s supervisor while he finishes his training. But the ridiculous thing is that Ben’s been in parish ministry longer than me. Three years to my two.

But here we are. And in a few moments I’ll be asking Ben the questions about eldership. And then declaring that the church recognises him as an elder.

But it’s not like that here in 1 Peter 5. The Apostle Peter gives us some advice on how to be an elder. And compared to all these other examples, this guy is someone who’s EARNED HIS STRIPES. Who’s earned the right to tell us the way things are.

Look there in v1.

(1 Pet 5:1 NIV)  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:

A fellow elder. He’s done the job in the churches. He’s set them up. Worked through the teething problems. Seen them through tough times.

But more importantly, he’s a witness of Christ’s sufferings. He’s been there since the beginning. One of the original disciples. Gone from fisherman/ to pillar of the church.

You see, he’s studied under the Master. The number one Shepherd. There’s noone better for teaching how to live a life that pleases God.

But, interestingly enough, it’s not Jesus’ LEADERSHIP SKILLS that Peter mentions. It’s his SUFFERINGS.

And SUFFERING is one of Peter’s big themes. Because the Christians he was writing to/ were going through a tough time. The church was being persecuted by Rome. People were even being KILLED because of their faith.

And while the world might say, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”. That’s not Peter’s message. He’s not pointing out Jesus’ AUTHORITY, or his RESURRECTION POWER. He’s not psyching up the leaders/ to go out there and KICK SOME BUTT like Jesus.

He’s reminding them of the SUFFERING that Jesus endured. And his point is/ if it happened to Jesus, don’t expect anything different to happen to you!”

Instead of “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”. Peter’s motto is “When the going gets tough, the GODLY PERSERVERE.”

And it’s a particularly PERSONAL message for Peter. Because Jesus himself had promised that Peter would suffer. And even that he’d DIE for the cause! Do you remember? John 21 v17.

(John 21:17-19 NIV)  …Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. {18} I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will STRETCH OUT YOUR HANDS, and someone ELSE will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” {19} Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.”

And tradition tells us that Peter was crucified too. But that he asked to be crucified UPSIDE-DOWN because he didn’t deserve to die in the same way as his Saviour.

So why does Peter describe himself in this way? “Witness of Christ’s SUFFERINGS”? Because he’s talking to ELDERS. Leaders of God’s church. And his point is/ “Your leadership should be like that of Jesus – HUMBLE SERVICE”

And that’s what he does in the job description that comes next. The HUMBLE ELDER. SERVE as an OVERSEER. It’s almost a contradiction in terms.

It’s the absolute/ COUNTER-CULTURAL / model of a leader. The rest of the world wants a “go-for-the-throat, take-no-prisoners, “I’m doing this, like it or lump it” type of leader. But there’s no place for that in an elder in the church.

I like the story of the young woman who wanted to go to college, but her heart sank when she read the question on the application blank that asked, “Are you a leader?” She was honest AND conscientious, so she wrote, “No.” She returned the application, and expected the worst.

To her surprise, a few months later, she received this letter from the college: “Dear Applicant: A study of the application forms reveals that this year our college will have 1,452 new leaders.  We are accepting you because we feel it is imperative that they have at least one follower.”

This girl was closer to being a Christ-like leader than all the rest who THOUGHT they were leaders.

1. Be a Christ-like shepherd

And the first description Peter uses for the Christian leader is that of a SHEPHERD. It’s there in v2.

(1 Pet 5:2 NIV)  Be SHEPHERDS of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers..”

The shepherd is one of the Bible’s favourite descriptions for the leader of God’s people. God himself is called the Shepherd of Israel in the Psalms. It’s what King David was called. That’s in Psalm 78 among other places.

And it’s what the leaders after him/ were SUPPOSED to do. But they didn’t. And so Jeremiah rebukes the leaders who are to busy looking after themselves.

(Jer 23:1 NIV)  “Woe to the SHEPHERDS who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD.

And, of course “shepherd’ was a title Jesus used for himself. John Ch 10 v11.

(John 10:11 NIV)  “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

And it’s even here in 1 Peter. A couple of chapters earlier. Ch 2 v22.

(1 Pet 2:25 NIV)  For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (that’s Jesus)

And so Peter is saying to elders “Be a Christ-like shepherd. Look after the sheep like Christ did. Sacrifically. Putting THEIR needs before yours.

But don’t think that makes them YOUR flock. Look how Peter goes on. “Be shepherds of GOD’S flock/ that is under your care.

This is God’s church, not Ben’s church. And that’ll keep Ben HUMBLE if things go WELL. If numbers increase. And people are converted. And you have to move to bigger premises. It’ll be easy to think that all the success is due to Ben. But it’s GOD’S church. And any growth is due to HIM.

But remembering it’s God’s church will also COMFORT Ben if things DON’T go well. If people are struggling. And small groups collapse. Or if there’s a split. It’s God’s church, not his. And God knows what he’s doing. And he will grow his church. His way. In his time. And all Ben has to worry about is being a Christ-like shepherd.

2. Have a Christ-like attitude:

And part of what it means to be a Christ-like shepherd / is to have a Christ-like ATTITUDE. That’s what Peter goes on to say next. Look there in the second part of v2.

(1 Pet 5:2 NIV)  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;

Don’t do the job of elder unless you WANT to. Be EAGER to do it. Don’t do it because someone thought you’d be good at it. Or because it’s an honour. Or because it helps you get that membership at the Lalor Park Country Club.

And when it comes to the PAID elder. That’s Ben and Mick. They’re not to let MONEY motivate him. They’re not to watch the clock. And do the minimum. Simply because they’re getting paid.

Instead they should be eager to SERVE. It’s the interests of the SHEEP that should excite them. Not the interest of the BANK. People, not money.

Let me ask you, elders. What EXCITES you about your job? What revs you up, and puts fuel in your tank to keep going? My guess is/ it’s SEEING PEOPLE GROWING. Seeing people come to Jesus, and then seeing people become more like him. Seeing the congregation loving each other. Learning together. Growing together. Is that what YOU’RE eager to see?

Serve with a Christ-like attitude. Willingly. Even eagerly. And do it for the sake of the sheep.

3. Have a Christ-like motivation

And while elders aren’t to be greedy for MONEY, Peter DOES say they’re to be motivated by RICHES. Just not THIS WORLD’S riches. Look at v4. The TRUE motivation for the elder. A Christ-like motivation. V4.

(1 Pet 5:4 NIV)  And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

Elders are to shepherd the sheep in a Christ-like way. Because one day the CHIEF shepherd will appear. And those who’ve been faithful shepherds will receive a rich reward.

That’s a thought that EXCITES me. That MOTIVATES me. I’m hoping to die a rich man. How about you?

4. Be Christ-like sheep

Well, now Peter turns his attention to THE REST of the congregation. He’s given a word to the ELDERS. Now it’s the turn of the YOUNGSTERS. Look at v5.

(1 Pet 5:5 NIV)  Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

A couple of points about translation. Firstly, “youngsters” is probably a better translation than “young men”. That is, young WOMEN as well as young men.

And secondly, they’re not to be submissive to just ANYONE who’s older. The word translated “those who are older” is same as “elders” in v1.

In other words. youngsters are to offer their submission to the elders. The church leaders. Because they’re shepherds under Jesus. Serving for the benefit of the sheep.

And notice that little phrase “in the same way”. The service that the sheep offer the shepherds. Should be just like the service the shepherds offer the sheep.

And if shepherds are acting like Christ, then that should be easy. Because it’s easy to submit and obey and follow men who you respect and love.

And you can see that it’s a two-way street from the second part of v5. “ALL OF YOU, clothe yourselves with humility toward ONE ANOTHER.”

Elders – don’t boss people around. Don’t assume that you know best. Don’t dismiss people who don’t agree with you. Even if you mean well. God will never work out his purposes through ungodly means. The means NEVER justify the ends in God’s church.

And Ben, when you preach, don’t point people to God’s Word, unless you’ve applied it to yourself. Don’t assume a passage has an application for everyone else, but not you. God won’t use that sort of attitude.

Elders, clothe yourselves with humility. Why? V4.

(1 Pet 5:4 NIV)  And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

And the rest of you. OFFER your submission to Ben and the elders. It’s a choice you can make. The world says a BIG MAN never gives in on anything. But the TRUE big man offers his submission for love’s sake.

Work WITH the elders, not against them. When you hear a whisper, assume the BEST rather than the worst. These guys want what’s BEST for you.

And yes, sometimes they might make mistakes. Talk to THEM about it. They’d LOVE to be corrected/ if it’s out of love. And for the good of the gospel. Don’t talk to everyone BUT them. Don’t bellyache about the leadership. Don’t cause splits. Don’t make people take sides.

Youngsters, offer your submission to the elders. Clothe yourselves with humility. Why? V6.

(1 Pet 5:6 NIV)  Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

And if that seems like a long way away? And the mountains between now and heaven seem too high to climb? Don’t forget this. Whether sheep or shepherd. V7.

(1 Pet 5:7 NIV)  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

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