April is L-Plate month, where I’ve turned over this website to my students. They are studying an introductory preaching subject this semester, and writing for this website is part of their assessment, as well as a learning exercise for them. I’m hoping you’ll interact with them a bit via the comments function at the bottom of each post, offering some feedback. (Particularly, feedback that’s constructive or affirming – they’ve got me to deliver the negative stuff! Remember, some of them will never have preached before, and some have English as their second language.) They will then incorporate this feedback in a sermon they present in class at the end of semester.
We continue today in 1 Peter.
1 Peter 5:1-7 | Lawson Wallace
1-7 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. 5 In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
A healthy dose of humble shepherd’s pie
What makes a good leader? What makes a person able to lead well? What is Paul saying that a leader should look like?
A couple of years ago a friend mistakenly stated, not maliciously but perhaps in-advisedly, that I was not a leader. Those words cut deeply at that stage in my life, as I had put much of my identity into the way that I conducted myself around my peers, and the way that I facilitated groups of people younger than myself. At this stage of life, I was probably deserving of that statement, but those words still hurt. They hurt because I, like many people, drew importance from being a leader of people.
Leaders are usually a little different, take the Apostle Peter for an example. He planted and maintained a network of churches, and he was able to watch how Jesus, the master leader Himself, lead people. If anyone knows the ins and outs of what makes a good leader, it would be him.
So what does Peter say? 1 Peter 5:1-7 has a description of what an elder should look like. From the way it reads, it sounds like this is a list that Peter has learnt from years of experience, and the school of hard knocks.
Firstly, in 1 Peter 5:1-2a, Peter urges those who desire to lead, to make sure their attitudes are correct. The old adage that some are born into leadership and others have leadership thrust upon them does not apply here, Peter is cautioning candidates for leadership to be sure of their motives before they sign up for the position of shepherding the flock. Ensuring that you actually want to lead, and are gifted in that way is supremely critical for the health of the church.
If someone does not actually want to lead, or they are just there to fill a role, they can actually do more harm than good. Specifically ignoring those people who are full of themselves and are in a role for the wrong reasons for the moment, let’s focus on those who are leading out of ignorance.
From experience, watching this exact scene unfold in front of my eyes, there is indeed a distinct difference between those who are ignorant to their inability to lead and those with malicious intent; those who are “just visiting” in ministry the way that one lands on the jail square in Monopoly, have definite potential to harm the church. Usually people who are not equipped to be in the position that they are filling will be passively leading, rather than actively leading. Passivity can lead to all types of problems, especially if no one gets along side them and gives them a helping hand (or a swift kick up the backside, depending on the person!).
Secondly, there are people who are worse for the church than those who are leading out of reluctance or ignorance. In verses 2 and 3, Peter is calling out very specific types of attributes that make people worse than even the most reluctant or misguided leader. People who are greedy for money, and people who lord their position over others are at the top of Peter’s hit list.
My father tells the story of a work colleague who shall remain nameless, which demonstrates how people who are greedy for money, or power hungry, should not be in leadership positions. We all know that in any business there is a level of professionalism that is required. There is this one guy who just doesn’t get it. This guy is lewd, loud, and takes any chance he can to increase his standing over others. So it is quite unfortunate when my Dad is asked to report to this guy, (who is on the same level as him) for the duration of a particular project, by someone higher up in the business. It turns out, in this guy’s attempt to make it look like he did all the work, he actually forgot to send through the paperwork that he was pretending to have drawn up, (that my dad actually did) and because of this he almost got fired. In the meantime, it transpired that my dad had written up the paperwork anyway, and the boss thanked him for his work directly after having a big go at the other guy. Talk about ironic!
Want to know the reason that people who are like this don’t succeed in life, let alone in leadership? 1 Peter 5:5 says that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Have you ever seen this type of behaviour in a church? I haven’t to this extent, but obviously Peter had, which is why he was so specific about what qualities a leader shouldn’t have. What is Peter telling his readers? Don’t be like this!
Thirdly, what about qualities that a leader should have? We’ve talked about those who are “just visiting”, and we’ve covered those who are leading with malicious intent, but we haven’t covered the positive side of this coin.
What does Peter say that a good elder/ leader should look like?
Peter suggests that an elder, or any leader of the church, should have a “health dose of humble shepherds pie”. Having the strength of character to wait upon God’s timing is key, a leader cannot function without longsuffering. “Good Society” applauds the leader who is above pettiness, and Peter puts great stock into it as well.
Unfortunately, the reality of life is that when you choose to not retaliate, it can be seen as not standing up for yourself. When you don’t do that, you often open yourself up for abuse. Peter’s solution? 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” What a promise! Leaders of churches rejoice! When you are feeling the weight of caring for broken people, fall to your knees, leave your burdens at the feet of Jesus, and choose the humble pie. Better to have a healthy dose of humble shepherds pie than to end up starving to death in ministry.