Pastor Mike Gerhardt, Series in Peter Series #17, March 26, 2017, Elders Who Lead. 1 Peter 5:1-7. How many under 21 years old think a 30-year-old is old? How many under 21 think 30 is young? NOW how many over 50 years old think 30 is old? How many over 50 think 30 is young? 30 in Jesus day was old. The life expectancy of a man in Burkina Faso when I was there in the late 90’s was 48 and of a woman 51. That has gone up slightly. 30 is old when you only live to 48. I love hearing about a man in the USA having a midlife crisis at 58 (what man is living to 116). Three decades of life should give you wisdom. Servant-leaders are rare gems. The purpose of God allowing your faith to be tested is to help you see that your faith is real and is strong. A jeweler gives as one of the surest tests for a true diamond, the water test. An imitation stone is never so brilliant as a genuine stone. A genuine diamond placed in water sparkles brilliantly though it’s under water while the imitation’s sparkle is practically dowsed. Servants-leaders are a true blessing to the church. At times we must follow those servant leaders through the deep dark fog of life knowing that they will lead us through.
It was a foggy morning, July 4, 1952, Florence Chadwick waded into the water off Catalina Island. She intended to swim the channel from the island to the California coast. She had been the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions. The water was numbing cold that day. The fog was so thick she could hardly see the boats in her party. Several times sharks had to be driven away with rifle fire. She swam more than 15 hours before she asked to be taken out of the water. Her trainer tried to encourage her to swim on since they were so close to land, but when Florence looked, all she saw was fog. So, she quit one-mile from her goal. Later she said: I’m not excusing myself, but if I could have seen the land I might have made it. It wasn’t the cold, fear of the sharks or exhaustion that caused Florence to fail. It was the fog. At times we fail, not because we’re afraid, or the peer pressure or because of anything other than the fact that we lose sight of the goal. Maybe that’s why Paul said in Philippians 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Two months after her failure, Florence Chadwick swam the same channel, setting a record, because she could see the goal! Christians without goals are like Alice in Wonderland. When Alice came to a junction in the road, she asked the Cheshire Cat: Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here? The Cat replied: That depends a good deal on where you want to go to. Alice said: I don’t much care where. The Cat retorted: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.
As Peter closed this letter of encouragement, he gave four exhortations. Peter witnessed Jesus’ sufferings; he was commissioned to care for the sheep; he saw Christ as a servant, humbly washed the disciples’ feet. Peter knew how he was unprepared when Satan was on the prowl. It is as though the Spirit of God searched Peter’s memory and used these past experiences to testify to the saints. Peter discovered that God’s grace was sufficient for him and he wanted the church to know that grace.
Being faithful in ministry. The exhortation is addressed primarily to the leaders in general and pastors in particular. The words pastor (lit. shepherd poymahleeno), bishop (lit. overseer episkopo), and elder (lit. old man presbyteros) seem to refer to the same leadership position. Peter did not put himself as pope over others but as a fellow elder. There was a time when Peter would have worried about his position in the kingdom, but that time was past. Peter told the leaders that Jesus, who had suffered for them, would sustain them; and that glory always follows suffering if we submit to the Lord. Leaders are to feed, encourage, discipline, guard and care for people.
Howard Hendricks said: If you can’t stand the smell of sheep, you shouldn’t be a shepherd.
Being faithful in motive, not under constraint but willingly. The shepherd must serve the Lord with an open heart because he loves Christ and His church. He must not serve for money or prestige, power, or promotion. He must be eager to work hard not be lazy. Taking care of the flock of God was important to Jesus. In John 21:15-17 Jesus said to Peter, Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these? Yes, Lord, he said, you know that I love you. Jesus said, Feed my lambs. Again Jesus said, Simon son of John, do you truly love me? He answered, Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. Jesus said, Take care of my sheep. The third time he said to him, Simon son of John, do you love me? Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, Do you love me? He said, Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you. Jesus said, Feed my sheep.
What is your motive for ministry?
Being faithful in manner. Leadership does not mean dictatorship. Pastors are overseers, not overlords! All believers are part of the church universal. We call this the Bride of Christ and one day there will be gathered everyone together for the marriage feast of the Lamb. But on this side of heaven, locally, there are groups of believers that make up the body of Christ led by servant leaders. There can be spiritual unity among these different groups without uniformity. Pastors should set an example for this unity! The pastor gains respect by his godly life and sacrificial service. Matthew 20:25-28 You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great leaders exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. There are many reasons to be an elder, a leader in the church or a person in charge. It may be that you want the respect you don’t get at home, to show off your Biblical knowledge or to fix the problems where others have failed. Someone said: Don’t marry a girl you can live with; marry one you can’t live without. The same is true for elders: Don’t shepherd people you can live with; shepherd ones you can’t live without. It is a high privilege to care for God’s sheep. Matthew Henry: They are God’s people, and should be treated with love, meekness, and tenderness, for the sake of him to whom they belong. Being faithful in mission. There are times when the elder will have to get tough with the flock, and other times when they will have to hold them in their arms. Yet each under-shepherd must submit to the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ. It is more important to please and glorify Him than anyone else. So Pray for your elders and leaders. If our mission is to Know the King and serve His Kingdom… what does that mean? We as leaders have set a goal for everyone to become a better disciple of Christ. And a disciple is a fully devoted follower of Christ, one who is missional, teachable, sacrificial and responsible. I will hold the leaders accountable for this goal. This is a great responsibility.
There was a time when Peter Parker wanted to give up. But before he hung up the Spiderman suit, he remembered something Uncle Ben told him: With great power comes great responsibility. More profound than that were certain monks of the Middle Ages who had human skulls in their living quarters inscribed with the Latin expression: memento mon (remember your death). It was a morbid practice not the sort of thing likely to catch on today -- but it served a useful purpose at that time. It was intended to remind these men of the brevity of life and the responsibility to establish the right priorities. That sort of exercise is helpful for all of us. James said: Life is as a vapor that endures only for a short time and then it vanishes away. Please remind yourself of what it means to be a disciple of Christ. You should also get next to an elder or leader in our church, or get into a deeper life group with one of the leaders of the church and stick to them. They will lead even when the FOG of distraction and disappointment moves in! They will clear the air and show you the way.