Will you please open your Bible and turn to ? We are coming very near to the end of our study in 1 Peter. My intention is for us to conclude our study next Sunday. When we do, I’m excited to say that we are going to move into a study of the greatest sermon ever recorded: The Sermon on the Mount. So two weeks from today we will begin studying . But today we will be looking at together. I’ve entitled this sermon “Faithful Shepherds”. Please read this passage with me.
Read . Pray.
Have you every found yourself listening in on a conversation that you were not supposed to be hearing? The loud couple at a restaurant that’s talking about personal issues a little too loudly, and you are learning details about them that you don’t care to know. Or the coworker with an office next to yours that talks on the phone and seems to forget that there’s no insulation between the walls. There’s something alluring about those conversations. As much as they make us feel uncomfortable, we can’t stop listening!
This morning, you are going to listen in to one of these conversations. You may ask yourself, “Should I be listening to this?” You may feel uncomfortable at times but you should absolutely listen in. The conversation you are going to listen to today is a conversation that I have been having with God this week. These verses have come up when I needed them, with a message that I needed to hear. This week I have been wrestling with these 4 verses. I haven’t been wrestling with the truth of them, but with the application of them.
This morning I want to invite you to listen in. You are a welcomed fly on the wall. You may hear some things that make you feel uncomfortable, but it’s important that you hear. Though this passage specifically addresses elders, you need to hear. You need to hear because you need to hold us accountable and know how to encourage and/or challenge us when its necessary. It should serve you to know the temptations that pastors face as well as the motivations that drive them. So please, listen in.
To begin, however, we need to address some possible assumptions or misunderstandings. As you can see from verse 1, Peter’s is specifically addressing elders among the churches that he is writing to. As you can see from verse 2, they are shepherds and they are overseers of the church. A common misunderstanding is that pastors, elders, and overseers are different offices in the church. This is not true, according to the Bible. This does not stop denominations from creating different offices, but when this happens it is unhelpful and unbiblical. Instead, bishops, pastors, elders, and overseers are all descriptions of 1 office. Pastors are elders are overseers. These words do not speak about different offices but about different aspects of the same office.
The second thing is frankly uncomfortable for me to say but I think it should be said. It’s that pastoring can be difficult. There are difficult things about every job. In many ways your job is much more difficult than being a pastor. While at the same time there are joys in pastoring that your job does not offer. Your pastors are routinely encouraged. We are regularly prayed for. We experience unique blessings that we recognize as underserved and unique. We love being pastors, but it is not always easy. And the challenges faced by pastors test our resolve. They challenge our motivations. When things get hard we have to ask ourselves, “Why are we doing this?” And is where we turn.
describes faithful pastoring. These verses tell pastors what their work is, their motivation should be, and the reward they can expect. These verses tell us about the work, the heart, and the reward of God’s under-shepherds. In short, this passage teaches us that The call of a pastor is to be a willing shepherd that serves for a future reward.
If you want to know what you should expect from your elders, if you have a desire to be an elder, you must understand the message of this passage: the call of a pastor is to be a willing shepherd that serves for a future reward. Now let’s see how this passage teaches us this.
If you’ve been around and remember our study through this letter you know that in weeks prior we have been met with the encouragement to endure sufferings as God’s people. The end of encourages us to endure suffering, but now we land on verses that seemingly shift the focus to church leaders. Is this out of place? Why such an abrupt change?
I don’t think it’s such an abrupt change. No, I think Peter is familiar with suffering and he’s familiar with church leadership. He knows that they relate. How? When fiery trials hit, its is often the leaders who feel the heat most intensely. The same is true for leaders in the home. When sufferings hits the church, leaders often feel the pain more acutely. And not only do they feel the pain, but they are called to help others through the pain. So it is only appropriate that leaders, pastors, elders understand their calling as they walk (and shepherd others) through fiery trials.
This is why Peter begins this exhortation the way that he does:
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed:
Peter can sympathize with the sufferings of leaders, though and Apostle, he was also a fellow elder. And not only was he an elder but he was a witness to Christ’s sufferings. He saw our Chief-Shepherd suffering willingly for the sake of you and me, which is an example that every elder must follow.
As I said earlier, the sufferings we face (big and small) will often test our resolve. When we find ourselves vulnerable, we need to remember our calling, our motivation, and our reward. Let’s begin by looking at the elders’ calling:
Elders Are Called To Shepherd God’s Flock
Elders Are Called To Shepherd God’s Flock
Elders are shepherds. I can’t say it enough because I don’t want to stop reminding myself of this fact. Elders are shepherds. Elders are not CEOs, politicians, administrators, or visionary leaders. Primarily, elders are shepherds. This metaphor should stick in the mind of every current and would-be pastor. Elders are shepherds. We are not managers, we are shepherds.
This metaphor should inform and influence every practice of a pastor. This should inform and influence every expectation you have of your pastors. Peter is clear, elders are shepherds:
shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;
Elders shepherd sheep. Which means that they know the sheep, feed the sheep, lead the sheep, and protect the sheep. What does that shepherding look like? Feeding, protecting, sacrificing, serving. Sadly, the model that is looked to today for pastors is not the model of shepherding. We are told that we need visionary leaders, high capacity managers, and driven motivators. But what the church needs is shepherds. The church needs men who know, love, serve, feed, and protect God’s sheep.
Elders are not primarily visionary leaders, they are shepherds. Yes they lead, by shepherding. What does that shepherding look like? Feeding, protecting, sacrificing, serving.
While leadership and vision play a role in pastoral ministry, the primary role of a pastor is to be a shepherd. Yet the sheep that we care for, as Peter says in verse 2, is God’s flock. You are not your elders’ sheep. You do not belong to your pastors. You belong to the Chief Shepherd. You are God’s sheep, his people, his children. This is God’s church. Pastors must be reminded of this everyday. Every interaction I have with you, and every interaction you have with one another, we must be reminded that this person belongs to God. He or she is one of God’s sheep. You are one for whom Jesus laid down his life.
Therefore, we must care for you in the ways that God intends. What does he want a shepherd to do? First, God wants his shepherds to feed his sheep. This was the command that Jesus gave to Peter after his resurrection:
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
We are called to feed you, feed you with the Word of God so that your soul will be nourished and so that you will grow. We are called to help you take steps toward Christ by feeding on the Word of God.
This feeding also implies, I believe, the call to protect sheep from false doctrine, from food that will poison your soul. Shepherds exercise oversight, which necessarily means that we keep watch over the sheep, nurturing them and watching them grow.
Is this what you expect from your pastors? When you go to a church, do you look for a driven leader or a shepherd? This difference will make all the difference in the nurturing of your soul.
A shepherd is called to feed God’s sheep, but Scripture also tells us that a shepherd is called to sacrifice for God’s sheep. The call to be an elder is a call to sacrifice. It is a call to give of yourself for the sake of those that you love. The call of a shepherd is a call to daily die for his people. This is a call to follow the example of our Chief Shepherd:
The call of a shepherd is a call to daily die for his people.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
Shepherds feed, the protect, they seek after lost sheep, and shepherds lay down their lives for sheep. Such sacrifice leads Peter to remind us of the motivation for such leadership. What Peter tells us is that elders lead by example, willingly and eagerly.
Elders Lead By Example, Willingly And Eagerly
Elders Lead By Example, Willingly And Eagerly
In verses 2 and 3 we see 3 different contrasts that Peter wants to point out. These contrasts put a spotlight on the motivation of pastors and address the frequent temptations that we face. Motives matter to God and they especially matter for his under-shepherds. Why am I doing what I am doing? I need to be reminded of this every week, multiple times a week.
Peter tells us the manner in which elders must shepherd God’s flock. Look at verses 2-3:
shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
1 Peter 5:2-
First, pastors do not serve under compulsion, but willingly. An elder should not serve because they have to, or because of any pressure to serve. Of course, the pastors of Peter was writing to were especially faced with this danger because of persecution. Maybe some elders wanted out because of it? Pastors must not be forced, but must be happy servants.
For some pastors, the wonder of shepherding has worn off. They meet because they have to, they teach because they’re expected to. Faithful shepherds, however, serve willingly.
Second, pastors do not serve for shameful gain, but eagerly. An elder must not be motivated by money in his work. It is not a means to become wealthy. says an elder must not be greedy for gain. says an elder must not be a lover of money. But not only money, but for fame or power or position. This is NOT why a man shepherds God’s flock.
No, a pastor must be an eager servant. We must be enthusiastic. We should be energetic to have been called to such a task.
says an elder must not be greedy for gain. says an elder must not be a lover of money.
Third, pastors do not serve in a domineering manner, but instead serve as examples to the flock. Faithful elders do not “lord” their leadership over the flock. No, a faithful shepherd is gentle and patient.
God is the Chief-Shepherd of this church! Therefore, our leadership must flow from and be consistent with the Word of God. When we add to Scripture, increase its demands, or weaken its commands, we are lording OUR leadership over you. Instead, we should remain faithful to God’s Word.
As we pursue God’s Word, we must lead by example. The primary focus of church leadership must be leading by example. Shepherds lead the flock from the front, not from the back driving and bruising the sheep. Titles and gifting are secondary to the example of pastors. This was Paul’s encouragement to Timothy:
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
Of course, our example is imperfect. But it must be genuine nonetheless.
In light of this, you should also know that you have a role to play in encouraging your pastors’ motivation, by making pastoring a joy:
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Thank you for making pastoring a joy!
But we must be honest, examining our motives, guarding our hearts, and trying to serve you faithful can be a wearisome. It is a common temptation to look around and wonder what it would be like to do something else. Which is why Peter concludes by reminding us what shepherds labor for. Shepherds labor for a future reward:
Elders Work For A Future Reward
Elders Work For A Future Reward
Look at verse 4 again:
And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
Faithful pastors labor for a future reward. They do not labor for gain, status, and authority on this earth. No, they labor for the reward they will only receive when Jesus returns. They will not labor under compulsion, for shameful gain, or with a domineering attitude if they keep that day in mind.