Summary: In the first four verses of 1 Peter 5, Peter discusses the ministry, motives and manner of leading of elders.
A. The story is told of a preacher who quit the ministry after 20 years and became a funeral director.
1. When asked why he changed occupations, he said: “I spent 3 years trying to straighten out John, but John is still an alcoholic. Then I spent 6 months trying to straighten out Susan’s marriage, but she has filed for divorce. Then I spent 5 years trying to straighten out Bob’s drug problem, but he’s still and addict. Now at the funeral home, when I straighten them out – they stay straight.”
2. The job of a church leader can certainly be difficult and disappointing at times.
B. As you know, there are good leaders and there are bad leaders.
1. Let me show you a couple of pictures and you tell me if they are good leaders or bad leaders.
2. 1st Picture: “Believe me fellows, everyone from the Pharaoh on down is an equally valued member of the team.”
3. 2nd Picture: The caption at the top should say, “Follow me.” The caption at the bottom should say, “Sorry, my bad.”
C. As we turn our attention to 1 Peter chapter 5, you might be wondering why Peter brought up the subject of elders when the entire letter has been about persecution and suffering for Christ.
1. The truth of the matter is that times of persecution demand that God’s people have adequate spiritual leadership.
2. Hard times demand strong leaders who will rise to the challenge.
3. That was true in the first century and it is still true today.
4. Leaders who disappear or run away in times of difficulty are only proving that they are hirelings and not true shepherds – that’s what Jesus said in John 10:12-14.
D. You may not be an official leader in the church, but I think you will find that many of the principles we discuss today can be applied to leadership in all kinds of settings and relationships.
1. Including relationships in the workplace, and the home, and in friendship.
2. So let’s take a closer look at the text and see how these verses apply to our lives.
I. The Ministry of Elders
A. Chapter 5 begins: To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed… (5:1)
1. As I mentioned a moment ago, Peter was writing to Christians who were experiencing persecution and were about to experience even more severe and painful persecution.
2. That reality led Peter to exhort the elders to shepherd their troubled, beleaguered sheep.
3. The first and obvious point to note here is that he Holy Spirit affirms that such leadership and responsibility for the church belongs to elders.
B. The New Testament churches were organized under the leadership of elders and deacons.
1. The deacons were and are the special servants who have a specific responsibility for the work of the church – like finance, or facilities, or benevolence.
2. The elders play a much broader role over the entire church family.
C. There are three New Testament terms used interchangeably to refer to men in the role of elders.
1. The first term is “elder” which is the Greek term presbuterion and emphasizes the man’s spiritual maturity necessary for such ministry which comes through years of experience.
2. The second term is “overseer” or “bishop” which is the Greek term episkopos and refers to the general responsibility of guardianship and leadership.
3. The third term is “shepherd” or “pastor” which comes from the Greek term poimenos and refers to the duty of feeding, guiding, and protecting the church.
D. Most of us in our time and culture don’t know much about sheep herding, but in Bible times, shepherds were as common and familiar to most Middle Easterners as telephones and supermarkets are to us.
1. Almost anywhere in the Bible world, if you gazed across a landscape you would likely see at least one flock of sheep.
2. Certainly the shepherd had authority over the sheep, but more than anything, he was a servant of the sheep.
3. When a tiny lamb was born, one of the first sensations felt by the shivering lamb was the tender hands of the shepherd.
4. The shepherd’s gentle voice was one of the first sounds to awaken his delicate eardrums.
5. In Lynn Anderson’s book, They Smell Like Sheep, he states, “The shepherd lived with the lambs for their entire lives – protecting them, caressing them, feeding and watering them, and leading them to the freshest pool and the most luxuriant pastures – day and night, year in and year out...Each sheep came to rely on the shepherd and to know his voice and his alone. They followed him and no one else.”