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The Role of Elders
June 7, 2020
1 Peter 5:1-5
The Role of Elders
1 Peter 5:1-5
The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords 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 does not fade away.
Intro: Peter now turns from personal responsibility to live a holy life and our response to suffering to the elders God has put in place. In Ephesians Chapter 4 verse 11 we read, "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." God oversees everything and has left nothing to chance. His plan is moving forward exactly as He said it would. While we all have a personal responsibility to honor God and live a life according to His plan and purpose, we still need help. So, God has provided help in the form of Pastors, or Elders as the name given in the text. Pastor and elder are the same person with a different title, pastor is a protector and Elder suggest ruling and oversight. Bishop would be another term used for the position of pastor. God decided that the body of Christ needed shepherds, pastors or elders depending upon what you chose to call them. Elders are an interesting group, selected by God and given a specific ministry. I believe personally that the position of Elder needs to be filled by someone directly called by God to do so. Their role is so important it cannot be left to those who simply want to be in a leadership role or spotlight. Peter addresses his comments to the elders who are among you. He also identifies himself as one of them, not as one ruling over them, but an equal. It is interesting that Peter must exhort the elders to get involved and do what God called them to do. They are to shepherd, teach, admonish, pray for, and pray with the flock and be an example. I can remember very clearly at the age of 16 knowing that God wanted me in the ministry. The idea did not excite me but terrified me thinking of the responsibility and the battles that would have to be fought. I knew enough at that stage of my life to realize the life of a pastor would be difficult.
THE LIFE OF A PASTOR
Consider the following sobering survey results of the personal and professional lives of the clergy:
- 90% of pastors work more than 46 hours a week
- 80% believed that pastoral ministry affected their families negatively
- 33% said that being in ministry was an outright hazard to their family
- 75% reported a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry
- 50% felt unable to meet the needs of the job
- 90% felt they were inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands
- 70% say they have a lower self-esteem now than when they started out
- 40% reported a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month
- 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
1991 Survey of Pastors, Fuller Institute of Church Growth, H. B. London, Jr. and Neil B. Wiseman, Pastors at Risk, Victor Books, 1993, p. 22
Having said all of that I wonder why anyone would voluntarily seek the ministry. Those who do very often leave the ministry after a very short period. On average 75 ministers leave the ministry daily. So, what exactly does an Elder do?
The elder or pastor teaches, though he must solicit his own classes. He heals, though without pills or knife. He is sometimes a lawyer, often a social worker, something of an editor, a bit of a philosopher and entertainer, a salesman, a decorative piece for public functions, and he is supposed to be a scholar. He visits the sick, marries people, buries the dead, labors to console those who sorrow and to admonish those who sin, and tries to stay sweet when chided for not doing his duty. He plans
programs, appoints committees when he can get them, spends considerable time in keeping people out of each other's hair. Between times he prepares a sermon and preaches it on Sunday to those who don't happen to have any other engagement. Then on Monday he smiles when some jovial chap roars, "What a job one day a week!"
The public's image of the clergy has hit an all-time low, with just a bare majority now rating them "very high" (15 percent) or "high" (39 percent) in honesty and ethical standards. One person in three (33 percent) considers clergy ethics to be just average, while 7 percent say they are "low," and 2 percent consider them "very low."
In spite of this, members of the clergy are charted second only to pharmacists for honesty and ethics. Physicians, college teachers, dentists, and engineers are next in rank, while journalists, bankers, lawyers, members of Congress, and car salesmen are rated near the bottom. Emerging Trends, Signs of the Times, August 1993, p. 6
I believe the reason for the negative response is due to the fact that so many are in the ministry for the wrong reasons and they have not been called by God. It takes the overpowering control of the Holy Spirit in the life of an Elder to enable him to keep on week after week, year after year.
Luther said, "Work as though He will not be coming for a thousand years. Be ready as if He should come today."
5:1 The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed:
Peter begins by identifying himself as a fellow elder; he does not mention he is also an Apostle. Being an apostle was a limited position and I think Peter understood clearly that he needed to address the audience on their level. It would have been easy for Peter to Lord his position over them, but that is not what he chose to do, nor should he. Elders were necessary for the protection and growth of the church. God would provide an ongoing supply of Elders as the need demanded through the years. There is no hierarchy in the church, the pastor is a servant sent by God to minister to the flock. This is all that Simon Peter ever claimed to be—he calls himself a fellow elder. He never claimed a superior place above his brethren, but as a fellow elder he exhorts them. “And a witness of the sufferings of Christ.” Peter was in a unique position because he was a witness of the sufferings of Christ. “And also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed.” In the past Peter saw that glory. In his second epistle, Peter identifies this as taking place on the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter was there at the death of Jesus, and he saw Him transfigured on the Mount of Transfiguration. What took place there is important, and Peter says that he was a witness of it. However, there is a glory that is coming in the future which will be greater than that— “the glory that shall be revealed.”
2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly;
Peter is emphasizing the fact that an elder, occupying the office of a bishop is to be the shepherd of a flock. Shepherding suggests provision and protection, supervision and discipline, instruction, and direction. The ministry of an elder is critical to the well-being of the church. Any church without proper elders will struggle even to survive. The oversight must be done in the power of the Holy Spirit, being directed and empowered to handle a wide range of situations. Every corporation, every organization needs to have leadership, someone in charge. The buck stops here person. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. There needs to be accountability by all and having Elders (plural) is a safeguard in this area.
Peter says that elders are to minister for the right reason, in the right spirit, not because they must do it but because they freely choose to respond to the call of God for this ministry. I have noticed over the years there are those who want this position but are not called by God and there are those who are called by God but will not serve. Having the right leadership is the key to a well-balanced and growing church body. Peter challenges the elders he was addressing to “Feed the flock of God, which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly.” Do it willingly. God is not honored if you take an office in the church grudgingly. I have learned not to press someone to take a position in the church just because I think they are qualified or out of desperation to fill a vacancy. God has promised to supply all our needs and if a position is not filled someone has failed to respond to the call of God to serve in the position. There is a critical point to make here, I am assuming God wants the ministry vacancy filled. There is no value to the church or God in serving if you are doing it under constraint.
3 nor as being lords 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 does not fade away.
The there is no hierarchy in the church. The pastor, elder, Bishop whatever term you are using is a servant, not a master. The elder needs to be an example of patience, kindness, forgiveness, long suffering, all the fruit of the Spirit should characterize an Elder. The congregation should be able to look at an Elder and see what the Christian walk should look like. In other words, an elder should exercise his ministry in the right manner, not driving but leading, not domineering but setting an example. It is a responsibility to set the right tone, attitude, action, and consistency for others to follow.
Paul says this action in 1 Cor 11:1, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. "
The Elder must be an example to the flock. I do not think that a preacher should get into the pulpit and browbeat his congregation to do something that he is not doing himself. I do not think we have a right to make a demand on others that we are not willing to do yourself. I will not preach on anything that I do not believe or that I am not living myself.
I am excited that God has promised a crown of glory for the elders who serve well.
An elder’s ministry should be done with the proper awareness that he serves the Chief Shepherd to whom he is answerable and who will Himself reward his service with rewards which are eternal. God is not a debtor to anyone; a worker is worthy of his hire. God has told us to work with our hands, be productive and He will reward us. Paul made it clear that a Christian is not work for nothing. You are to work for Him and look to Him for a reward based upon our faithful service. While we should not serve for the reward, knowing that a reward is coming certainly helps in times of stress, when the demands of ministry are hard.
There are many crowns mentioned in Scripture, including the crown of life and the crown of righteousness. What is a crown of glory? I believe that it means we are going to share some day in His glory.
God’s glory is something that is quite wonderful, and we are going to share in that. He calls it a crown of glory. Peter calls Him “the chief Shepherd” here. The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep—that is seen in Psalm 22. The Great Shepherd watches over the sheep—that is seen in Psalm 23. In Psalm 24 He is the Chief Shepherd who is coming again. When the rapture comes and we are called up to glory we will be joined to Christ and He will provide all that he promised.
The Lord has given to every man his work. It is his business to do it, and the devil's business to hinder him if he can. So, sure as God gives a man a work to do, Satan will try to hinder him. He may present other things more promising; he may allure you by worldly prospect; he may assault you with slander, torment you with false accusations, set you to work defending your character, employ pious persons to lie about you, editors to assail you, and excellent men to slander you. You may have Pilate and Herod, Ananias and Caiaphas all combined against you, and Judas standing by to sell you for 30 pieces of silver. And you may wonder why all these things have come to pass. Can you not see that the whole thing is brought about through the craft of the devil, to draw you off from your work and hinder your obedience to Christ?
Keep about your work. Do not flinch because the lion roars. Do not stop to stone the devil's dogs. Do not fool around your time chasing the devil's rabbits. Do your work; let liars lie; let sectarians quarrel; let editors publish; let the devil do his worst. But see to it that nothing hinders you from fulfilling the work God has given you. He had not sent you to make money; He has not commanded you to get rich. He has never bidden you to defend your character nor has He bidden you to contradict falsehoods about yourself which Satan and his servants may start to peddle. If you do these things you will do nothing else; you will be at work for yourself and not for the Lord. Keep about your work. Let your aim be as steady as a star. Let the world brawl and bubble. You may be assaulted, wrangled, insulted, slandered, wounded, and rejected. You may be chased by foes, abused by them, forsaken by friend, despised and rejected of men, but see to it that with steadfast determination and with unfaltering zeal you pursue that great purpose of your life and the object of your being until at last you can say; "I have finished the work which you, dear God, have given me to do?"
Pulpit Helps, August, 1992, p
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