Summary: Certainly leadership means making other people suffer for you...doesn’t it? Amazingly, leaders in God’s church are known by their willingness to be servant leaders, and even to endure suffering
July 6, 2003
"The Suffering Leader" 1 Peter 5:1-4 Pastor Jon MacKinney
A couple of weeks ago in the Arizona Republic, there was an article about mega-churches, super-churches. Did any of you read that article? Do you remember that? Some of you did. And in that article there was a quotation by one of the pastors of an East Valley mega-church. Now, a mega-church, I think, in the article, was defined as a church with over 2,000 people in attendance. And one of those pastors made a statement – and I don’t have the article, so I won’t quote it exactly – but, basically he said that the mega-church has redefined what it means to be a pastor. Now, you may imagine that as a pastor of a church of about a hundred or so people, that shook me to the foundations; and I’m sure a lot of others, too, to hear that what I was supposed to do has now been redefined into what would be more like a CEO model, the Chief Executive Officer, distant from the actual people that you serve, the head of a giant bureaucratic organization. And I, and a lot of other pastors I think, look at that statement – and I know one pastor of a mega-church in the East Valley took that man horribly to task in a sermon that he preached. Well, I’m not going to do that necessarily, but I am going to say this, that whenever we have these kinds of statements that maybe cause confusion and we ask ourselves, "What is a pastor anyway? What is a church leader?" That instead of going to the Arizona Republic, we may go to this Book right here. And I think, and I believe that the first four verses of 1 Peter 5 are maybe more instructive on what it means, not just to be a pastor, but to be anyone who is called to lead the Church of God and what kind of character they need to manifest in that process. But not only church leaders, but really anyone in the Church of God, anyone who is a believer and who has responsibility for one or more people, for whom that person is a leader. That could be a husband. That could be a husband and wife with children. It could be a teacher. It could be the leader of a committee, in a ministry committee in a church. All of these people who are leaders can come under the same idea of what it is to be a leader in the Church of God. What does it take? What are the characteristics that God wants from us?
First of all, when you look at what it means to be a leader in God’s Church, throughout this passage, first we’re going to see what God’s leader is not. Sometimes it’s very instructive to start with a negative. When we think about leadership, we have a certain idea in our minds. But, what does God say in terms of what a leader is not? Throughout this passage, as you read these first four verses, there are a lot of "not this, but instead this." And Peter says he is an elder. He is a fellow leader of the church, one who actually witnessed the sufferings of Christ and so, therefore, he’s actually an apostle – one who is sent out to lead the church. He says in verse 2, "Be shepherds." Frankly, folks, shepherds isn’t exactly the most glamorous job in the world. I don’t know of that many kids when they’re asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and they say, "Well, I want to be a shepherd. I want to sit out in the fields in one of these little gypsy campers and take care of sheep. Many, if left by themselves, frankly, would die." So, Peter calls them, and this is very instructive, to be shepherds of God’s flock. And then he says, halfway through the verse, "Not because you must, but because you are willing." And that’s the first one of the "nots." Being a shepherd, being a leader, of the flock of God requires that a person not be improperly motivated. You’d think that for a person to even to want to be a shepherd means that he’s automatically properly motivated. Such is not the case. In the book of Ezekiel God talks about the shepherds of Israel in very negative tones, that all they wanted to do was to shear the flock for their own benefit. You can be improperly motivated to be a shepherd. And it says here, "not because you must." The word there means to be forced or to be constrained, "I’ve got to do this." Not, "I have to do this because God’s calling me," but "I’ve got to do this."