Summary: Empowering leadership means putting the “church at large” back into the hands of the people. Elders are there to help govern and protect.
Society today has placed its seal of approval on single parent households and homosexual adoption. The laws allowing such activity give evidence of such a stamp of approval. The ideas of familial leadership have begun to fail quickly. Sociologists and experts in family studies have just recently come to the conclusion that the father holds an absolutely important role in the family. He, as the leader of the home, sets the example and according to some studies has the most direct and powerful influence on his children choosing to be “religious.” These same attributes seem to be true of the church as well. The leaders of the church hold tremendous influence and seem to be the first attacked should anyone want to hurt the church as a whole. They lead and guide protecting us from the false ideas of the world and yet at the same time constrict our activities to safe-guard our well-being.
Just as God placed fathers in the home so that they would lead their children in the right way of living, so God places leaders in the church. He then empowers them to do their duty. Think of the movie Gladiator. In the movie, Maximus has just finished off the Germanic hordes and now sits in the camp tending to his men and to the plans and strategies he needed to win. Soon, the emperor Marcus Aurelius summons his best and favorite general to his tent to speak to him. During the ensuing conversation he asks Maximus to replace him as the emperor. Here the emperor says one thing to him, “I will empower you to one end alone; to hand the empire back to the senate.”
Today we are starting a series which considers eight different foundational principles upon which the church must be built. If we are going to lay train tracks to the future then we must start where we are. The first track we will lay will be laid today; the idea of empowering leadership. We will be looking at 1 Peter 5:1-4. Preceding the text today Peter reminds the people that they will face hard times through persecution and verbal assault. However, even during the down times they will find hope and healing in Jesus Christ. (READ SCRIPTURE) Peter gives a straight-forward exhortation to the elders of the people to continue diligently in their task even in the face of troubled times. Today we will take a look at the concept of the eldership and their role in the church and then will examine the text specifically to understand exactly how our elders are to lead. God has empowered both the elders and the people to one end alone: to the elders he says “Set the example” and to the people he says “Follow.” Let’s examine the leadership attributes our elders are to possess according to First Peter and how we as a people group are to respond.
First we should probably take a minute to over-view the position of elder and their duties according to the New Testament. 1st Timothy 3:1-7 gives the best list of qualities an elder must possess to attain the position of elder. “If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but on wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.” These attributes are usually considered spectacular and amazing that such men could exist, however basically every single aspect of the qualities of an elder can be found elsewhere in scripture referring to every single Christian. We don’t have time to go through each attribute but we will see many of them in how the elders are to serve according to 1 Peter 5.
Point #1: Serve Willingly – Obey Willing (1 Peter 5:2)
Simply enough, the elders are not to serve under compulsion, because they have to but because they truly want to love and care for the flock of God. In times of turmoil this alone can be one of the most difficult tasks in the world to do. The elders tend to take the brunt of failures in the congregation especially when they are public failures. They generally are expected to live ten times better than every other Christian around them and seem to be the most willing to beat themselves up and feel like they have failed because they don’t perfectly reflect the list in 1 Timothy 3. In the face of such hard times, especially during a family crisis, being an elder and visiting homes and caring for the people can become the biggest drag known to mankind. Soon, the elders find themselves doing their “job” for the church because they are supposed to and then they begin looking for the first exit they can find. However, during the troubling times Peter reminds the elders that they are to willingly serve the people because God wants them to serve.