Shepherd the flock of God which is among you…. (1 Peter 5:2a)
Few passages of Scripture are dearer to the believer than the twenty-third Psalm. God is identified as Shepherd. It was a title Jesus Himself took. This is the terminology likewise used to describe a pastor. What an awesome privilege and responsibility! So, what does God have to say on the topic of spiritual leadership in 1 Peter 5?
First, hear A WORD TO THE SHEPHERDS: ACCOUNTABILITY (v.1-4). As a spiritual leader in this church I will one day give an account to God for my stewardship of this sacred trust.
Four requirements are listed here:
· There must be the proper conviction (v.1). That is—a conviction of the call we have received. To be an elder in the church isn’t the result of personal ambition or popular appeal. We lead because God has led us. God is still calling men to shepherd His flock as elders of the church.
· There must be the proper direction (v.2a). “Shepherd the flock…serving as overseers….” God directs us in the work. The shepherd is to lead, feed and be willing to bleed for the flock.
· There must be a proper motivation (v.2b). Worthy and unworthy motives are contrasted. It isn’t a profession but a passion. This is the difference between what Jesus called a shepherd and a hireling.
· There must be a proper demonstration (v.3). We must model the truth we are teaching. We aren't lords spouting edicts, but leaders showing examples. The title demands a testimony to match.
Along with the requirements comes the promise of the reward (v.4). There is a price to pay for leadership—the hours are long, the burdens are large, and the disappointments are legion. But, it will be worth it all when we see Jesus! With the eternal in view we will not become consumed with the material and yield to the temptation to fleece the flock rather than feed them.
Peter also has A WORD TO THE SHEEP: RESPONSIBILITY (v.5). Pastors have an accountability to lead, but members have a responsibility to follow. You can lead a sheep to pasture, but you can't make him eat.
There is to be submission in our labors. “Likewise”—the laity have duties as well as the clergy. All of us are ministers. Sheep were valuable in that culture—and so are the members. The church cannot be what it needs to be unless the saints are engaged in ministry. It seems the few who are willing are worn down trying to carry the whole load. Church work, done properly, is labor intensive. Yet, it can be done with joy if each member does their share.
There is to be submission to our leaders (v.5a). I understand that sheep can be unruly and that they are prone to wander. That’s why they need a shepherd. Submission isn’t a natural trait. Have you ever considered why the shepherd carries a rod and staff? One of the most important purposes pastors have is to prod and discipline the sheep. In so doing, he loves them!
There is to be submission to other laity (v.5b). Why is it so hard to submit? Our arrogance! We think we know it all. It is a humbling thing to have to listen to anyone—but especially one of our peers. Yet, this is the very thing Peter is talking about. We have a choice to receive heaven’s resources or resistance. Which do you prefer? Humility paves the way for grace to operate in us. How much we need it!