This six part series contains an urgent call to the leaders of the church to shepherd the people of God. Based on an exposition of 1 Peter 5, Alex Strauch challenges leaders to take seriously their responsibility. In this series Alex explains in detail how Peter writes as an elder to fellow elders, how he gives a specific charge to elders, how he calls them to shepherd God's flock in God's Way, how he shares a promise of future rewards for elders, and how he reminds them of the importance of the shepherd's presence among the flock.
Each of these six lessons is a 15 minute video presentation (audio is also available), and has a detailed outline to accompany it. For the official introduction to the series listen above to the short audio introduction by Chuck Gianotti.
Part 1 of 5
“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight.” (1 Peter 5:1-2a ESV)
1. But may I remind you that the first church was held together, taught, and protected by Peter and the eleven other apostles? Peter was a great man and a gifted teacher and leader.
2. If we want to understand eldership as God intends, we need Peter as much as we need Paul. And we need Luke’s teaching in Acts, and the teaching of James, who was also an apostle.
1. Up until this point in the letter, Peter has been addressing the suffering, persecuted churches. He has told them how they are to handle suffering and persecution in a hostile world. Now he turns to the leaders of all the congregations. They are usually the first to suffer persecution or be targeted by the opposition.
2. Peter is writing to many churches throughout northern Asia Minor. He assumes there is a body of elders in each church. This is the consistent pattern throughout the NT – a body of elders in each congregation.
3. When believers are suffering and under pressure, the leaders of the church make all the difference. In times of persecution or trouble, leaders are most needed to keep the flock united, encouraged, rested, and growing.
1. By identifying himself as a “fellow elder,” Peter establishes a special bond of affection with the church elders. He creates a sense of colleagueship and mutual regard.
a) At one time Peter was a local church elder. He served with eleven other men during turbulent times in the church in Jerusalem.
b) At the time he wrote 1 Peter, Peter was an active shepherd caring for many churches. Hence, Peter has every right to call himself a “fellow elder.”
2. As a fellow elder, Peter sympathizes with the problems and dangers the Asian elders face.
a) He knows spiritual warfare and the practical problems of shepherding a church.
b) He serves daily on the front lines of battle. He knows how difficult the work is and is well-acquainted with the many pitfalls, abuses, and temptations of leadership.
c) He, too, feels the daily pressures and strains of pastoral responsibility.
1. The “sufferings of Christ” to which Peter testifies are the sufferings common to all believers as a result of confessing Christ and living in a Christ-like manner in an unjust, sinful world.
2. It is similar to 2 Corinthians 1:5, where Paul talks of sharing in Christ’s sufferings. Peter himself will face death soon, so he is a fellow sufferer.
3. This phrase could mean, however, that Peter witnessed the many sufferings of Christ over a period of two years from his opponents and ending at the cross.
1. The future glory that Peter shares with the Asian elders is the joyous anticipation of the glory that will be revealed when Christ returns.
2. In the same way they have shared in Christ’s sufferings, so, too, they will share in the glory to come. This is a very encouraging promise (1 Peter 1:7, 11; 4:13).
“Shepherd the flock of God that is among you.” Peter exhorts the elders to be what good shepherds should be, or, as one commentator says, “do everything that shepherding requires.” Peter’s charge encompasses the full shepherding responsibility of feeding, folding, protecting, and leading.
1. Peter knows people and the common temptations leaders face. He knows how often leaders:
a) Fail to be alert,
b) Do not push themselves to grow and change,
c) Get preoccupied with self-interests,
d) Are passive in their work,
e) Are minimalists,
f) Fail to be the kind of leaders that connect with the people,
g) Are not hands-on shepherds.
2. Reality is sad.
a) The Galatian elders and the Ephesian elders all failed to guard the church. False teachers entered in with minimal resistance.
b) The religious leaders of Jesus’ day failed the people. In Mark 6, when Jesus saw the people, He said they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began to teach them. The problem was, the religious leaders had failed to shepherd the people with good teaching.
3. What Peter said needs to be said today. There is always this problem of elders not doing their job as they should. Do the job. Be effective. Be diligent. Be skilled. Know what you are doing.
a) On the authority of the apostle Peter, I say to you: Be everything that a shepherd should be to the people. Be like the Chief Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ. When he saw the people, he felt compassion and taught them many things (Matt. 14).
b) These are the words of our Lord to Peter 35 years before: “Shepherd my sheep,” and “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-19).
c) Lord loved the church and gave himself for her (Eph. 5:25).
Part 2 of 5
Peter, like Paul, uses the powerful, vivid imagery of shepherding sheep. This imagery appears throughout the Old Testament, and thus, is ready-made for explaining the tasks of elders. Elders are to shepherd sheep. However, they are not literal sheep but people.
1. The imagery of shepherding sheep pictures the following concepts:
a) Hard Work – Shepherding is hard work. It’s a busy life. Paul says to the Ephesian elders, “In all things, I have shown you that by working hard in this way, we must help the weak” (Acts 20:35).
b) Long Hours – The shepherd’s task is really never done. It starts early in the morning with taking the sheep out of the fold, being with them all day, returning to them to the fold in the evening, and guarding them at night. As elders you may get phone calls at any time of day. The state of the church is on your mind 24 hours a day. It is an intangible aspect of the work.
c) Sacrifice – There is a great deal of sacrifice on the part of the shepherd. He gives his life for the sheep. He must be dedicated to them. They are dependent upon him. In some cases, the shepherd will literally give his life for the sheep.
d) Dangerous Work – Sheep have many predators, and the shepherd must be constantly alert to danger. This means the shepherd must have courage. The chief enemy of the church of Jesus Christ is the false teacher. But the false teacher is only an agent of Satan. Like wolves, they never give up and never rest. Shepherds are in the direct line of Satan’s attacks. He will always attack them most viciously.
e) Skills – Shepherding entails many skills. It requires management of land, water, and the sheep’s health. There is a great deal of knowledge that goes into raising a healthy flock. Elders have to be good managers of the people, to be sure their gifts are not squandered. They have to know how to motivate and guide people and solve problems. In other words, good shepherd-elders are effective in their work.
f) Presence – One of the most mysterious parts of this job is the presence of the shepherd with the sheep. The sheep only rest when the shepherd is present, and the sheep know instinctively if the shepherd is not there. In other words, the sheep and the shepherd build a relationship. You cannot be a cold, unfriendly, absentee elder. The people will not follow you.
g) Love – Ultimately, the shepherd must love the sheep because he has to be with them all the time. This implies care, tenderness, gentleness and at times, toughness.
h) Authority – The shepherd has authority over the sheep to lead, discipline, teach, protect and care for them.
All of these ideas are entailed in the phrase “Shepherd God’s flock.” Thus the image is rich in its meaning for an elder. Some leaders today don’t like this old-fashioned image, and they would rather use the image of a CEO of a corporation. But this does not fit the nature of the church. It is the wrong imagery for the family of God.
2. What Shepherds Actually Do
1) The church has many enemies. Satan and his merry band of false teachers are constantly attacking the church. If elders are sleepy, the church will be devoured.
2) You need to know who the wolves are who are surrounding your church and in your culture. It is our job to protect the church from the wolves that now attack our flocks. This means you need to be knowledgeable of the present-day theologies that will divide and ruin your church.
1) One of the best ways to protect the church is through feeding it nourishing food to make the sheep strong. In Acts 20, Paul tells the Ephesian elders that he did not shrink from declaring to them the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).
2) Feeding is the first and most important job of the elder. Everything the elders do is by means of the Word of God. That is why an elder must meet the Titus 1:9 qualifications.
3) You need to know how to feed the flock, and how to teach the whole counsel of God. This requires a clear philosophy of feeding the flock. This will include knowing how to teach the Word of God accurately, how to deliver a message in an interesting and challenging way. Just filling in the pulpit with a warm body is not teaching the people.
1) Sheep must be led in and out of the fold. They must be brought to fresh pasture in the hot summer months. They also have to be found when they are lost.
2) The biggest complaint I hear about elders is that they are not leading. They don’t solve problems. They don’t confront issues that are hurting the church. They have no fresh vision, no mission. They are caretakers, maintaining the past. They are not in touch with the people or the problems and they may not even know what to do.
3) People want to be led! They want their leaders to solve problems, to challenge the church, to take the church forward, and to be attentive.
1) This is the healing ministry – the many practical aspects dealing with disease, the sheering of sheep, keeping them from fighting, and keeping them clean.
2) For the elders it is counseling people, marrying people, burying people, and ministering to families.
Part 3 of 5
Since the elders are to “shepherd” the local church, those they tend are figuratively called “the flock [poimnion] of God among you.” What makes this flock special is that it is God’s flock. The flock metaphor signifies the Church’s true ownership and recognizes its dependence and need for feeding, protection, and care.
a) As Paul reminded the Ephesian elders, this flock is the one “He [Christ] purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Elders must never forget that the flock is not their own.
b) They should never be indifferent toward a single one of the sheep. The sheep are of immense value to God because of the price paid for them. It is a great honor to be under-shepherds of God’s blood-bought flock. Do you see it that way?
c) Cranfield draws out the implications of this truth when he writes,
“A church that could be ours would be only a false church. So the sheep are not ours for us to use or misuse as we like. If we lose one, we lose another’s property, not our own; and He is not indifferent to what becomes of His flock.” – Charles Cranfield
a) The Bible teaches that people are like sheep (1 Peter 2:25), and sheep cannot be left unattended. Their well-being depends on a great deal of care and attention.
b) As God’s sheep, Christian people need to be fed God’s Word and to be protected from wolves in sheep’s clothing. They need continuous encouragement, comfort, guidance, prayer, and correction.
c) Elders, you are needed. The people need you to do the job that the Holy Spirit has called you to do – to shepherd them effectively. Don’t let them down. Give your life, your time, your energy, and your efforts for the sheep. Give them your all.
1. Following the imperative command to shepherd God’s flock, Peter further describes the elders’ duty: “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight.” This word is the verbal form of the noun, “overseer.”
2. The terms shepherding and overseeing are often closely associated because they are similar in concept. In this passage, overseeing is equivalent to shepherding.
a) Shepherding is the figurative expression, while overseeing is the literal term, which can be used to clarify the first.
b) To shepherd the flock entails oversight--the overall supervision and watchful care of the flock.
God is preeminently concerned about the motives, attitudes, and methods of those who lead his people, so Peter considers the attitudes or motives that should or should not characterize the elders to be very important. Therefore, he carefully describes how the elders are to serve.
1. God doesn’t want reluctant, unwilling shepherds to care for his people, so Peter warns against an elder serving “under compulsion.”
a) If a man serves as an elder because his wife or friends pressure him to serve, or because he is trapped by circumstances, or because no one else will do the work, he is serving “under compulsion.”
b) Lenski captures the spirit of Peter’s thought well when he says elders are not to serve “like drafted soldiers but like volunteers.”
2. In contrast to serving under compulsion, Peter emphatically says that elders are to shepherd the flock “freely,” “willingly,” and “voluntarily.” Those who oversee the church “voluntarily” do so because they freely choose to serve. It is what they want to do.
a) The willing spirit that Peter speaks of is “according to the will of God” (literally, “according to God”). Glad, voluntary service is God’s standard. It is the way God expects things to be done. God is not a reluctant, unwilling shepherd. He cares for his sheep gladly, willingly, freely, and graciously. In the same way that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7), he loves cheerful, willing elders.
b) This motivation comes from the Holy Spirit, according to Acts 20:28. When the Holy Spirit moves a person to desire eldership, he gives the motivation, energy and desire.
Peter next addresses what Cranfield terms “the spirit of hirelings.” This is a big problem worldwide.
1. I have collected over the years many newspaper articles about the Lord’s servants stealing or misappropriating money.
a) This is why, whenever money is handled, it must be done by a group of people and accountability, open to the church. Even the best of people are tempted to steal.
b) Example: one pastor was caught playing golf every week and charging it to the church’s credit card. When he was caught doing this, he said it was ministry he was doing with other men. The problem was no one knew the money had been appropriated to this so-called ministry. There are many other ways people can misappropriate the Lord’s money and excuse petty theft.
2. In contrast, Peter describes the right spirit in which to shepherd God’s flock as “eagerly.” The word means “readily,” “zealously,” and “enthusiastically.” “Eagerness” emphasizes, even more than the term “voluntarily,” personal desire and passion. It is this kind of eagerness--a strong desire and motivation--that is endorsed by the “trustworthy statement” of 1 Timothy 3:1.
a) Eager elders are driven to care for the sheep. The sheep are their life, their chief concern. Hence, they are not concerned about the personal sacrifice they make or their own financial gain.
b) Like Paul, who at times provided his own income through tent making, they gladly serve without pay or recognition (Acts 20:33-35). They go beyond minimal duty, self-interest, and money. They love to shepherd God’s people. They are eager to do the work of an elder.
Part 4 of 5
The third unworthy motive for an elder is a far more subtle and widespread temptation than that of greed. It is the desire to rule over others.
1. The verb for “domineering over” (katakyrieuo) means “ruling over” or “lording it over.” This term is used here in a negative sense. The idea is seeking to control people.
2. Jesus, on the other hand, in what has been called the “great reversal,” taught servant leadership and modeled it for his disciples:
“I am among you as the one who serves” (Luke 22:27b ESV).
a) He taught that leaders are to serve one another, to act humbly toward one another, and to live in loving brotherly community. It is others-oriented leadership, not self-oriented leadership. It is giving one’s life for the building up and advancing of others.
b) Jesus Christ, thus, taught a style of leadership that emphasized service and humility. This does not mean people do not have authority to shepherd and oversee people. It means they are to exercise their authority in a way that builds up other people and is not abusive.
3. The clause, “those in your charge,” further strengthens the concept that the people are not the elders’ possessions to be ruled over. The people do not belong to the elders; they belong to the One who assigned them to the elders’ care, that is, to God.
a) Kleros means an “allotment” or “portion assigned to someone” (Acts 1:17; 8:21). Kleros, then, is something given, not earned. In this context, it is not land, money, or responsibility that is allotted, it is God’s people. Thus the elders are prohibited from ruling over them as a lord rules over his subjects. The people are not the slaves of the elders.
b) Peter is saying that God has allotted portions of the whole flock of God to various groups of elders (John 10:16; 1 Peter 5:9). In a similar way, Peter refers to the specific flock of God in which the respective elders function as “the flock of God among you [in your care]” (1 Peter 5:2; italics added). The elders, then, are not to rule over their allotted portions of God’s flock. Peter’s warning against ruling over others certainly demonstrates that elders had authority to govern.
4. In contrast to ruling over others, elders are to be examples or models of godly living.
a) Much of the Bible is biographical, demonstrating by example how and how not to live for God. Jesus is the greatest example of all and the chief example to follow (1 Peter 2:21).
b) So in the church, the elders’ primary style of leadership is to model Christ. They are to be role models. Ultimately in the end, people follow those they respect and love. People don’t care what your title is. They care about how you live and minister to others.
5. Throughout this epistle, Peter emphasizes the importance of humility and submission (1 Peter 2:13-3:12; 5:5). If elders are petty rulers over the local church, others will follow their example, fighting one another to gain power and recognition. This is the wrong role model, as we will see in the next verse.
Part 5 of 5
“And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”” (1 Peter 5:4-5 ESV)
Peter appropriately calls Jesus Christ the “Chief Shepherd.” According to the New Testament there is only “one flock with one shepherd” (John 10:16) and Jesus Christ is that one, incomparable, irreplaceable Shepherd. Someday he will return in all his glory to take his flock to be with him forever. At that time, the “Chief Shepherd” will fully reward his under-shepherds.
1. The imagery of the “Chief Shepherd” or “Arch Shepherd” (archipoimenos) emphasizes Christ’s relationship to all other shepherds. Because he is “Chief,” all other shepherds are his under-shepherds.
2. As under-shepherds, all elders are under the authority and rule of the Chief Shepherd. Thus, the elders’ shepherding work must be done in complete agreement with his ways and teaching. And that is just what we learned in the above verses.
a) Like their loving Chief Shepherd, shepherding elders must shepherd the flock eagerly and willingly, as models of godly disposition.
b) Shepherding elders are not free to speak or lead the people in any way they wish, for they must answer to the Chief Shepherd. “Christian leadership is thus a sharing in the leadership of Christ under his direction.”
3. What could be more encouraging to faithful shepherds who face many heartaches, problems, trials, and persecutions than to look forward to Christ’s return as the “Chief Shepherd” and to share in his divine glory? When elders think of Christ as “Chief Shepherd,” their present work is enhanced and his return becomes even more personal.
1. Peter states that upon Christ’s return the faithful elders will receive an “unfading crown of glory.”
a) In this context, “crown” is used symbolically to represent reward or special honor. The reward is for faithful, honorable achievement as under-shepherds of God’s flock.
b) This crown is unlike any earthly crown made of precious metal or ivy because it is “unfading.” It will never wither like a laurel wreath or tarnish like gold.
2. The reason for this crown’s unfading quality is that the material used to make this crown is divine, heavenly glory. The adjective “glory” tells us of what the crown consists.
a) In Greek, “glory” is a genitive of apposition, meaning that the crown consists of glory. The glory is the reality, and the crown is the metaphor.
b) This glory is Christ’s glory that will be displayed at his appearing. He will give the “crown of glory” to his under-shepherds.
3. What a time of victory, vindication, and joy Christ’s appearance will bring to lowly, unnoticed elders who have faithfully shepherded God’s flock!
a) Hard-working, selfless shepherds may not have many earthly goods to show for a lifetime of toil, but some day the Chief Shepherd will come and fully reward his under-shepherds.
b) Their work will no longer go unnoticed or unappreciated, for he will reward them publicly before the hosts of heaven. He will bestow on them heavenly honor and glory. All elders are to keep their eyes steadfastly fixed on his appearing, for reward day is coming!
1. Peter has just exhorted the elders not to lord it over the flock. Now he feels compelled to instruct the younger members to subject themselves to the elders.
2. The younger adult members who are diligently working – eager for change and further service – are the ones who are most likely to conflict with the church elders.
a) If the eldership is stagnant or ineffective, the younger adult members are the ones who are most likely to be discontent.
b) Such younger people are often (but not necessarily) junior leaders, ready to learn from and assist those directing the church. But their very readiness for service and commitment can make them impatient with the leaders, who either due to pastoral wisdom or the conservatism that often comes with age are not ready to move as quickly or as radically as they are.
c) It would be quite fitting to address such people with an admonition to be subject to their elders. Indeed, particularly in a time of persecution their willingness to take radical stands without considering the consequences could endanger the church.
3. The best training a Christian young person can have in preparation for church leadership is to first learn to submit to those in spiritual leadership. A spiritually keen young man can gain invaluable wisdom and leadership skills through the experience of older, godly men, even if they are not paragons of leadership excellence (which most are not).
1. Knowing the ever-lurking potential for disagreement, fighting, and division between all parties in the local church, accentuated by the pressures of a hostile society, Peter offers the best possible counsel. This counsel is both for the junior leaders and for the elders. Elders are included in the command to wear the proper “clothing” when gathering together with others:
“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”” (1 Peter 5:5)
2. Only when everyone wears the garments of humility--elders, young men, women, and deacons--will peace and unity prevail.
3. This is excellent advice for all churches, for all elders, all younger, junior leaders. It is not possible to live and work together without humility. And we should be very concerned about the attitude of humility because of the frightening statement, that God opposes and resists the proud and his grace comes to the humble.
“What a blessed influence is the holy character and conduct of Christian elders calculated to diffuse through the church.” – John Brown
“Shepherd the flock of God that is among you.” (1 Peter 5:2 ESV)
“In the course of time I came to realize that nothing so quieted and reassured the sheep as to see me in the field. The presence of their master and owner and protector put them at east as nothing else could do. Continuous conflict and jealousy within the flock can be a most detrimental thing. The sheep become edgy, tense, discontented, and restless. They lose weight and become irritable. But one point that always interested me very much was that whenever I came into view and my presence attracted their attention, the sheep quickly forgot their foolish rivalries and stopped their fighting. The shepherd’s presence made all the difference in their behavior.” – Philip Keller
1. He promises us his continual presence. He is the shepherd and we are his sheep. We know he is always with us. And this is comforting and reassuring to the troubled believer.
2. In John 10, Jesus is the Good Shepherd. And it says, the sheep know his voice (10:4) and he knows their names (10:3). There is a wonderful intimacy between Christ and his people.
You need to know and understand, that your presence is important to the people and it makes a big difference in how they act and feel. This is a true reality.
I remember once we had an all-church picnic. A number of the elders did not show up. Others showed up late. As I was circulating among the people, I was asked by almost everyone, “Where are the elders?” They were not saying that to be critical. They really wanted to know where they were. They love the elders. I don’t even think they realized they were saying what they did.
1. In a church near ours, the pastor was caught for the second time in an adulterous relationship with someone from within the church. The elders said, “This is too much. We are going to fire the pastor.” The pastor on a Sunday morning told the congregation that the elders were dismissing him from his job, even though he had fully repented of his sin. The people became very angry. They said, “We don’t know who these elders even are. They are not our pastor. You will stay and they will leave.”
2. You see, these men were elders, but they were invisible elders. They were not present among the people. They were just there, like any other church attendee.
3. Maybe they had some legal or formal position in the church, but that’s all it was. They weren’t biblical shepherds.
1. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of you elders being present when people come into the assembly to be greeted by you and of course others.
2. One of the most important things is for all the elders to be at the door as people leave. Many important encounters happen at the door. People want to tell you about their problems or needs. For some of us, this is the only time we even see these people.
3. See the one-minute shepherding article by Church Gianotti.
1. It is important that the elders display friendliness to the people, joy in gathering together, and true brotherly and sisterly relationships. If the elders are cold and aloof, the people will become that way.
2. Friendliness and greeting are very important in the family marked by Christ’s love. Yet many churches are not friendly to new people. People are standoffish or afraid to reach out to new people.
3. Learning people’s names is part of being friendly and loving church. John says, “The friends greet you. Greet the friends by name” (3 John 14).
4. Five times in the New Testament, believers are told to greet one another with the holy kiss. Paul loves to send greetings.
5. I believe we should have a strong greeting ministry. I am not talking about handing out bulletins, but greeting people and directing them.
1. I call it “circulate and percolate” among the people.
2. See those who are alone. The seniors love to be kissed and hugged, especially widows and people of advanced age.
3. Before the meetings start, people may be sitting alone and need a greeting.
We will talk about this in another section, but if you really want to get to know the people, have them at your table to eat and talk about your lives. Elders are to be hospitable!!
Another way to get to be in the presence of the people is to visit them in their homes. You will see them differently after you have been in their home.
People when they are hurting are most touched by their shepherds. This is when the relationship is built into deeper sheep-shepherd relations.
1. Shepherding means being with people. Your life revolves around them.
2. A real shepherd begins to smell like the sheep because he is around them. The same should be true of spiritual shepherds.
1. You think about them, you wonder how they are doing. You miss them if they are not around.
2. You can’t rest if one is not showing up to church. When they are facing an operation you call or visit. When they hurt you hurt.
3. Seeking lost sheep –This is something we are all bad at. We give up too easily.
1. The great scholar B.B. Warfield said that the key emotional word describing Jesus Christ is compassion, and shepherd must have compassion for people: blind, lepers, outcast women, poor people, children, and the multitudes.
2. We need to be continually helping our congregation to reach out to new people, to be friendly and genuinely concerned, and not just in a holy huddle. This is something you must model and exhort continually.
The point of all this is for you to understand your influence in the flock. Your presence is vitally important to God’s people. God has called you a steward of his household (Titus 1:7). The steward must be present in the household.
So I am calling upon you to have a renewed understanding of your presence among the sheep. They can tell if you love to be with them or if you just do things out of rote habit.