Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (NASB)
It would be easy to overlook this passage because it is directed to elder or leaders in the Church. However, when I look at the Body of Christ, I discover that each of us is an elder in some respect. I may not have an official leadership role, but if I have children, then I should apply this to the way I lead my family. If I’ve been a Christian for any length of time, there is going to be someone who is watching me and learning from the way I live. There is also the possibility of meeting informally with a couple of others for Bible study, prayer, or encouragement. If so then this may apply.
There are times when a leader must raise his voice slightly to be heard above the crowd. I think is what Peter did in verse one. He has some important words of encouragement and correction so he gently reminds his readers that his words should be heeded and put into practice. As he exerts his authority, he also is humble by stating that he is an elder among the others. A good leader knows how to exercise authority and at the same time not let that authority make him proud or feel better than others. Peter does it by identifying himself as part of the group.
On the other hand, Peter also lets his readers know that he has been around longer and has seen Jesus suffer. His words are not without experience. Instead of a leader telling someone to do something just because he says so, Peter gives an example of why he should be heard. However, he didn’t go into great detail, as that would have been too much. A good leader knows when to use personal examples; he must not go overboard, otherwise the listeners will think he is trying to show off and is lording it over them.
Peter’s opening comments are like bookends. First comes the support of “I’m one of you” followed by the authority example then again supported at the end by identifying with his readers as he mentions that he is also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed. The implicating of this last comment refers back to the glory to be given when Jesus comes back. That glory is preceded by suffering – something that Peter knew all about.
Are you in a position of leadership? If you are, what is your attitude about it? Peter knew that many who serve do it because they feel pressured into it. They don’t know how to say, “No,” when asked and they don’t know how to determine if it is God’s will that they should be in this leadership role. As a result, they don’t serve with joy and as a result, will not do a good job of it.
Coming into a position of leadership can happen in various ways. The most common way is when a leader observes the qualities of leadership in another and asks them to become a leader. This is the way God works through leaders to bring about new ones. I’ve been in this situation and firmly believed that I wouldn’t have been asked if God hadn’t put it on my pastor’s heart to ask me to lead our home Bible study group.
Sometimes there are no leaders and someone volunteers to take over. Hopefully, the person who does this has been praying about it and has asked the advice of some godly people to confirm it. Perhaps God reveals to the person that this is the direction they should go as a direct answer to prayer.
This can also be a result of a direct call from God. A good example is Gideon in Judges 6:11 and the following verses. No one was stepping up to lead Israel so God picked the person He wanted. Gideon was reluctant at first but went on to do great things as God worked through him.
In each of these situations, God can accomplish much. However a leader should remind himself how he came into that position otherwise he can end up doing it under compulsion rather than willingly.
It seems that even in Peter’s era, there were leaders who look at their position as job instead of a calling from God. They were more interested in seeing how much money they could make rather than serving their congregation. I’ve heard of people going to school to become a pastor simply because they thought it would be a good job. I don’t know where they got their guidance. Many pastors have to work a second job to support their families. The pastors I know usually work a lot more than 40 hours a week. The only ones that seem to be doing well, financially, are on TV and are using questionable theology to get rich. Peter was clear – that should not be the attitude of a Christian leader. Jesus was pretty clear about it too. Mark 10:42-45 Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (NIV)
This leads right into Peter’s conclusion. When Jesus, who exhibited the qualities of selflessness, appears He will give a crown of glory to the elders who have been leading with the right attitude. Shepherds were servants. They didn’t receive any glory for their hard work. They had to give themselves to care for their sheep. We can enjoy the current rewards of fellowship and seeing people cared for, but even these are only temporary. However, like Jesus, we need to look ahead into eternity to see what the real rewards of being a leader are all about.