Shepherding the flock of God
Scripture Reading: John 21:15-17
Title: Shepherding the flock of God – 1 Peter 5:1-4
Introduction: I have shared before the one late winter and early spring that sheep down from the mountains grazed one my parents field as the time for lambing approached. As a teenager the sheep were just another reason to get out of the house. But the sheep herder, he was interesting to me. He was from Chile and not much older than myself at the time.
I would go over to his little trailer and we would talk for hours often times repeating the same lines over and over again so that we could understand each other. He talked of spending months on end without seeing anyone but the guy who brought supplies once a month. He talked of the loneliness of the high mountain valleys. He talked of protecting the sheep against mountain lions and bears.
I thought it all sound great. But he was not so enthusiastic. He had suffered in ways that I did not understand. Sheep are strange animals, different in their behavior from most animals and different in their actions. Only another shepherd could understand and spur this young man on.
This morning Peter is going to do for church leaders what this man needed from another shepherd, identify with them and spur them on.
Central Idea: Elders in the church should practice careful oversight of the church.
Main Transition: This morning Peter’s pen moves from the scattered church to the scattered undershepherds of the church. He is winding through the final chapter of the book and having brought us through our salvation, submission, service, and sufferings is standing ready to remind us to stand firm. In doing so he must address the group that is most responsible for ensuring this to happen, the elders of the church. So we begin this morning with a call to shepherd the flock, which is an umbrella for the rest of the exhortation of leading the flock, and anxious for the appearance of the Chief Shepherd.
I. A call to shepherd the flock (1-2)
A. A word testimony from a fellow shepherd
1. Peter is speaking as a man with experience, he was a fellow elder, He is also a man who has endured the sufferings of being a follower of Christ.
a. Remember the context, Peter has challenged us and instructed us to suffer well, look at verse 14 and 15 of chapter 4
b. Peter is reminding us that he himself as a witness of the sufferings of Christ understands what he has commanded.
2. Now a wonderful truth is shown by Peter – those that partake in the sufferings of Christ will also partake in the glory that is yet to be revealed. If you suffer for the sake of Christ, if you suffer as a Christian then your reward is eternal in the partaking in the glory of Christ, especially those that do so as elders.
B. The practice of shepherding
1. Peter having identified with the group that he is addressing gives to us so qualities that we should expect out of our pastor and our elders.
2. This list begins with the overarching action of shepherding
Illustration: To the early church shepherding was a well understood principle. It is also very important to the modern mind. The job of the shepherd is one of protection, responsibility, provision, and integrity. Often the owner of the sheep would do the job himself, or have his sons fulfill the task. But when that was not an option the search for a quality under shepherd was commenced. It was not an easy task and is not even today.
a. A shepherd of the flock of God is to exercise oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily.
b. Peter is exhorting Pastors to lead their flocks, out of their love for the Lord and His people.
Application: There are those that pastor churches because they are selfishly seeking wealth and fame. These ones are out only for self and no one else. They are not protectors of the sheep, they are wolves seeking to devour the flock. But a man who loves the Lord and is in the position of Pastor loves the people of God, and protects the people of God.
C. The privilege of shepherding.
1. James in his book was clear in chapter 3 that not many should become teachers because they incur a stricter judgment. The same is true for pastors and elders.
2. In light of that those who serve the Lord well as elders do so in eagerness.
a. While the work of shepherding is hard, and often times lonely the shepherd spurs on
b. These leaders serve the Lord not for financial gain, but out of worship. They serve as Christians ought to serve, not always perfect, but spurring in ahead anyway.
Transition: Peter has begun to look at what motivates a true and godly undershepherd. But there is more that is required and more qualities that we should understand, in order to recognize these undershepherds.
II. Leading the flock (3)
A. Leading by humility before God
1. Peter now works to separate those that serve the Lord and those that serve self. It serves as a command that elders must constantly guard.
2. A godly undershepherd will not lord over their flock.
Illustration: An interesting thing about sheep is that they do not drive well. The harder you push a sheep the more resistance you face. When you push a large group of sheep with no leader the flock scatters in a hundred directions.
3. The instruction to undershepherds is simple, don’t push the sheep, the more you push the more cantankerous they become.
4. In the church the more dominate and legalistic the pastor the more the sheep scatter.
B. Leading by being a consistent example
1. Instead lead by example, elders, or as we title them in our church deacons, we must lead by example.
a. We want people to use their gifts lets use ours, we want people to serve we must be the servants.
Illustration: Back to our flock of sheep, I had a good friend in Missouri that had trained his sheep to respond to his voice. But he didn’t train all of them, just one little lamb that he had raised by hand. This lamb grew and became the dominate one in the flock. He would stand at the gate of the field and call that one ewe and she and the whole flock would come running after her. She led by example and the sheep followed.
2. This requires that the sheep be willing participants, if you are not an elder, you are responsible before God to pray for and follow the godly leaders God establishes. You are responsible for understanding who is godly and who is not, and following those who are faithful to the Lord.
Transition: Peter understood what these elders faced. They were scattered by persecution. Their flocks were scattered, they suffered in a unique way that the other believers did not understand. Yet, they were to push on and serve as undershepherds to the “Chief Shepherd.”
III. Anxious for the appearance of the Chief Shepherd (4)
A. Waiting the coming of Christ
1. As the elder strives to serve the Lord, he is ever mindful of the immanent return of the “Chief Shepherd.”
2. Christ left his small group of disciples with the promise that he would soon return to take the church home to be His bride.
Application: I tell you that I never so anxiously awaited the return of Christ as I have since entering the ministry. It is hard work protecting the flock in this post Christian world. It is lonely work, with few to come alongside. It is difficult to see the direction of the church as a whole follow the schemes of the fraud.
3. But it is done for the glory of the “Chief Shepherd.”
a. The term chief Shepherd is used to display the uniqueness of Christ who surpasses all shepherds. It expresses the majesty of the Lord, who demands reckoning for his undershepherds.
B. The reward of faithfulness
1. The term for crown refers to a reward that is given to athletes who are victorious, or military leaders who return victorious from battle. The crown given to victors in either athletics or war was made of oak or ivy leaves, the festal garlands of the marriage feast, of flowers. These would wither and fade.
2. But the victor’s crown which the Lord Jesus will give His faithful under-shepherds will never wither or fade. What form this reward will take, is not stated.
Conclusion: As you consider the thoughts of Peter writing this message and specifically this portion of the book, you realize his heart. Believer, it is not easy to shepherd the sheep. Maybe you are here this morning and understand that you are not using your gift to serve the Lord in leadership in this church. It is time to serve the Lord in the most difficult of all tasks to accomplish, undershepherd, but only if you will do so as a faithful undershepherd of Christ. It could be that you were not given the gifts of a leader in the church you must remember those that work to protect, to provide, and to lead you. Pray for us. Peter identifies with the heart ache of the undershepherd, but reminds the faithful servant of the Lord the reward for a life lived to please the Lord is an unfading crown of glory. What an exciting day it will be when I watch my Lord and Master lay that crown on the heads of those pastors and elders that have so influenced my life, and then watch as they take the crown and lay it back at the feet of the Lord in worship of him.