“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 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 crown of glory that will never fade away.” 1 Peter 5.1-4
Recently I met with a few different churches in regards to helping advise and coach them in particular ministry aspects. One of these churches is run by a group of elders alongside the pastor who is clearly their spiritual leader. This church is doing well and seems to be in line with Scripture. Just as Peter appealed to the elders in this letter, so the pastor appeals to his elders in the church. They work alongside. Sharing in the sufferings of Christ as well as his “glory to be revealed.”
The second congregation is run by lay ministers which is different I believe then the role of the elder as in this Scripture because the pastor is subject to this body. It’s not that the lay ministers don’t love God, they do, but the pastor does not lead but rather follows the direction of the people. This, I believe, is not consistent with Peter’s exhortation.
Peter instructs the elders to be many things. First, be shepherds of God’s flock. A shepherd directs, encourages, leads, loves and protects the sheep. How can the sheep lead the shepherd? If a group of sheep were to try to lead the shepherd in a field they would go no where and make no progress.
Second, the elders must care for the flock. They must not be dishonest but “eager to serve.” Third, elders must not make themselves seem better than the flock but be a living example of holiness. And the reward at the end for elders (i.e. shepherds who are both lay and clergy) who lead the sheep/people is receiving “the crown of glory that will never fade away.”
Shepherding a congregation in this example is completed according to 1 Peter by elders/shepherds. The model is clear as the shepherd leads the flock and does so with integrity, holiness, purity and vision. Yet all of us are led by the Great Shepherd, Jesus the Christ, who suffered, died and rose again so we might have life today and life to come. The Bride of Christ operates best when shepherds shepherd and sheep lead. If a sheep decides to lead they must become a shepherd, hear a calling by God, and leading a life worthy of the calling. Otherwise they will remain a sheep.
Are you a sheep or a shepherd? Are you leading or following? What is your role in the body of Christ and what has Christ called you to be for his glory and by his grace?
“O Lord God, you are good. I a but your sheep, wandering the fields, grazing on grass, seeking your guidance. I thank you for the ability to encourage your flock when I get to move from sheep to shepherd. I thank you that you guide, lead and exhort your church. Help us follow in the example of Christ that they world might know your power, love and salvation. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen