Leading and Following

1 Peter 5:1-5

March 14, 2015 | Brian Bill

The NFC Championship game of 2015 went something like this. 

Seattle trailed 19-7 with about four minutes remaining in the game and had been ineffective on offense all game.  With a little over 2-minutes left, the Seahawks Russell Wilson scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to cut the Packer lead to 19-14. 

The Seahawks chose to do an onside kick.  With two minutes and nine seconds remaining in the game, the loudest stadium in America fell silent.  The Packers Andrew Quarless turned to Brandon Bostick and said, “I got this guy, you got this guy. You know your assignment?” To which Bostick replied, “Yeah. I got this.” Bostick’s assignment was to block for Jordy Nelson who was lined up right behind him.  They had practiced this play dozens, if not hundreds of times before.

The Seahawks lined up for the onside kick.  Their kicker drove the ball hard into the ground causing the ball then to bounce high into the air.  Brandon Bostick, whose job was to block, forgot his assignment and chose instead to try and catch the ball.  In Bostick’s own words, “When the ball appeared in front of me, just floating in the air, my mind went blank.  I forgot everything I was supposed to do. It’s not that CenturyLink Field was too loud, or that I crumbled under the pressure of the situation.  Instinct just kicked in.  The ball was in front of me and I wanted to grab it.  I jumped up and reached for it…and my life changed forever.”

Bostick, who wasn’t supposed to be catching the ball to begin with, failed to grab it and Seattle recovered the ball at the 50-yard line.  That lead to a 24-yard touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks would go on to win in overtime, 28-22.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers nailed it when he said: “We gave it away.”  Packer coach Mike McCarthy added, “It’s important for everybody to do their job. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case on that play.” 

Brandon Bostick has since been waived by the Packers and is now a Minnesota Viking.  I think that’s where all ex-Packers end up.  

The title of our message today is “Leading and Following” from 1 Peter 5:1-5.  We could summarize the sermon like this: “Leaders lead and followers follow.”  On God’s team everyone has a position to play and a task to tackle.  We’ll complete our verse-by-verse study of 1 Peter next weekend with a message called, “Watchful Warfare.”  

The kingdom wins.

Grab your Bible and turn to 1 Peter 5:1-5.  Peter moves from persecution and suffering to how the church is to be fed and led.  In order to survive suffering, a church needs loving leaders and faithful followers.  When each person on the team tackles his or her task, the kingdom wins.  We’ll look at the requirements, the responsibilities, the reward and conclude with our response.

1. The Requirements. 

The first thing Peter establishes is that godly men are to lead the church.  Look at verse 1: “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed.”  The term “elders” can refer to four different groups.

  • Older people.  This is someone in “ripe age.”  I’m very much in this category now.  On two different occasions I’ve received the senior coffee discount at McDonald’s without asking for it.  I’m on a search now for other discounts.
  • Jewish elders.  This is the primary use in the Old Testament and the Gospels.
  • Elders in the Book of Revelation.  We read in Revelation 4:4 that 24 elders are sitting on thrones around the throne.
  • Spiritually mature men who lead the church. 

The word “elder” is the Greek word presbuteros, from which we get Presbyterian.  The requirements for elders are fleshed out in greater detail in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3.  Suffice it to say that the word is used synonymously with pastor.  Here are four brief statements that summarize my understanding of Scripture.

  • The position of elder in the local church is reserved for men only.
  • In the New Testament, there is always a plurality of elders.
  • In our context, your pastors serve as elders.
  • Our deacons also serve in an overseeing role.

I like that Peter says that the elders “are among you.”  They’re not high and lifted up and unapproachable but rather among you.  Related to this, Peter refers to himself as a “fellow elder.”  He doesn’t pull rank on the other leaders or flex his apostolic muscle.  Even though he is an apostle, he refers to himself as a partner in ministry with the other players on his team.  Interestingly, the Catholic Church considers Peter to be the first Pope, but Peter simply sees himself as a follow elder.  The word, “beseech” means to “warn, counsel and encourage.” 

The main requirement for an elder is a close relationship with Christ.  In Peter’s own experience, he was a “witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory to be revealed.”  He saw the sufferings of the Savior and he caught a glimpse of the glory to come when Jesus was transfigured before his eyes.

One of the best parts of being on this team is that I get the privilege of partnering with five godly guys who serve as pastors with me.

And so I see our pastors as elders but I also see our deacons as overseers and shepherds.  When I first came I put together a document called, “Deacon Expectations and Covenant” and asked each deacon to sign it.  I won’t take the time to go over all of it, but I do want to list the first five expectations so you get a sense of the caliber of these men and the task that God has called them to.

  • I will feed my soul through personal prayer and study of the Word.
  • I will love my wife and children and live out my faith at home.
  • I will seek to live a life of sexual purity and financial integrity.
  • I will find an accountability partner and meet regularly.
  • I will intentionally build relationships with my neighbors and those outside the church.

2. The Responsibilities. 

Peter next lists some of the responsibilities of elders/pastors in verses 2-3: “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”

We could summarize the responsibilities this way – feed, lead and heed.

  • Feed.  The primary job of the shepherd is to care for and feed the sheep.  I love how people are referred to as the “flock of God which is among you.”  This could be translated: “Shepherd the sheep of God.”  Peter uses the same word that Jesus spoke to him on the beach in John 21:16: “Tend my sheep.”  This is not my church or your church.  It’s God’s church.  Sometimes I bristle when someone asks, “How many did you have today?” When an individual is saved, I try to not ever say that I won him or her to Christ.  It’s all about God drawing people and it’s all for His glory, isn’t it?  

There’s much that could be said about sheep but two words will suffice – sheep are vulnerable and they are valuable.  I love how tender Jesus is in Luke 12:32 when he turns to people filled with anxiety and says, “Do not fear, little flock.” 

I read this passage from Peter to the pastoral team on Tuesday and then led us to Ezekiel 34 where we read that God is upset with shepherds for not caring for His sheep.  He calls them out in six areas:

    • The hungry you have not fed
    • The weak you have not strengthened 
    • The sick you have not healed
    • The injured you have not bound up
    • The strayed you have not brought back
    • The lost you have not sought

We then spent time thinking through how we can step up our shepherding in these six areas.

  • Lead.  After feeding, we need to make sure we’re leading: “serving as overseers.” This word is also translated as “bishop” and is used interchangeably with elder.  It has the idea of being a “watchman” or “guardian” and literally means “to gaze upon something.”  The Greek word is episkopos, which has the idea of looking something over carefully; it’s where we get the words telescope and microscope.  As such, pastors need to see the big picture and also get down to the details.  This makes me think of Proverbs 27:23: “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds.”  Pastors need to be with their people.  As someone has said, “You can always tell when you’re around a shepherd because he smells like his sheep.”
  • Heed.  Drop down to the last part of verse 3: “But being examples to the flock.”  The pastor/shepherd/elder/overseer must take heed to be a good example.  The word “example” is quite descriptive because it means “to strike, to leave a mark or an imprint.”  And it’s in the present tense, meaning it involves everyday practice.  When we see a good example it leaves a mark on us.  

There are also three negative attitudes and actions to avoid in verses 2-3.  I’m going to state them positively:

  • Delight, not duty.  We’re told to not serve “by compulsion but willingly.”  The idea here is that we “get to,” not that we “have to.”  God doesn’t want us to give our time grudgingly.
  • Ministry, not money.  A pastor shouldn’t be in ministry for “dishonest gain.” While it’s perfectly acceptable for a pastor to receive compensation according to 1 Timothy 5:17-18, Peter exhorts elders to serve “eagerly.”  The word “eager” means to have a strong and urgent desire, to be filled with zeal to serve.
  • Loving, not lording over.  Leaders shouldn’t function “as lords over” God’s sheep.  The apostle Paul put it like this in 2 Corinthians 1:24: “Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand.” 

The word “entrusted” means “allotted portion.”  God assigns shepherds to certain sheep.  Practically speaking, we have pastors who shepherd different parts of the flock here.  

I don’t want this to sound arrogant or prideful because it’s actually very humbling, but I see myself not just as a pastor to the flock of this church but to the entire community.  I strive to follow John Wesley’s motto: “I look on all the world as my parish.”  

3. The Reward. 

We’ve looked at the requirements and the responsibilities and now we see the reward in verse 4: “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”  Notice that Peter doesn’t say if He appears, but when.  I love that Jesus is called the Chief Shepherd!  I serve as an under-shepherd.  The “crown of glory” is the victor’s crown that was a symbol of special honor.  It was the only prize ancient Olympic runners received and was therefore cherished as a great treasure.

3. The Response.

While there are a few who serve as elders/pastors and more who serve as deacons and as trustees, every Christian is to be a contributor.  In fact, we’ve been saved to serve.  Every person has a position to play on our church’s team!  We gather and we grow so that we can give and go.  Pastors have a key part to play but what is everyone else to do?   

Verse 5 gives the response: “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders…”  The word, “submit” means to “place under in an orderly fashion” and was a military term describing troop divisions arranged under the authority of the leader.  It’s an attitude of respect and recognition of rank.  And it’s in the aorist tense and imperative mood, which means it is a command to fall into line under God-appointed leadership and to do it now.  It’s not always easy to yield to the decisions that church leaders make but when we do we’re ready to move forward in our battle against the darkness, on mission to take the gospel to our community, county, country and on the continents.

As we pick up the next part of verse 5 we see that we’re to submit to and serve one another: “Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility…”  To be “clothed with humility” is the picture of a slave putting on an apron before tackling his tasks.  It literally means to tie something on oneself with a knot.  It’s like a player suiting up to serve on the team.  Our model for this is found in John 13:4 when Jesus “took a towel and girded Himself” and then washed his disciples’ feet.  

Verse 5 concludes with the reason we’re to submit to our leaders as we humbly serve each other: “…for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”  Peter is quoting Proverbs 3:34. The word “resists” is very strong.  It means “to set an army in array against” and it’s in the present tense, meaning that God is continually against the arrogant. 

The Almighty calls out His armies against the arrogant but He gives grace to those who see themselves as lowly.  Grace is God’s generous favor to undeserving sinners.  Isaiah 57:15 says that God comes close to the contrite: “For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”

A Family Meeting

Over the years there have been times that my wife and I have called a family meeting to address issues that have crept into our home.  Sometimes these are attitudes or actions and other times we meet to discuss a new direction we’re going in as a family.  I’d like to call a church family meeting right now.

  1. We’re all on the same team even though we’re at different ages and spiritual stages.  Hey team, let’s avoid all ageism! There’s no place for age discrimination in the church.  Let’s also commit to not generalizing or stereotyping someone simply because he or she is at a certain age.  Just remember, if you’re younger than me and make fun of my age, at least I get a discount on my coffee and you don’t.
  2. We need other generations to help us grow. In Acts 2:17 Peter quotes from the prophet Joel and says in the last days God will pour out his Spirit and “…your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.”  Let’s allow our young people to share their vision and let’s also listen to the dreams of our older saints.  That’s how God designed His team to function.  

In order to flesh this out, I’d like to have representatives from three different generations come up and sit in these chairs – a millennial, someone in their 40s or 50s and also someone older than 60.  I’m going to ask you to do three things.

  • Bring your chair closer to another chair.  One of our problems is that we don’t really know people in different generations.  And when we don’t know or understand an individual we tend to either not like her or we’re suspicious of him.  When you get close you may find some pain.  Maybe you’ll discover that a young dad never had a father to look up to.  Or perhaps an older saint is grieving about a prodigal son or daughter.  
  • Sit in another chair and strive to see life through a new perspective.  For those of us who are older saints, let’s try to remember what it was like when we were just starting out.  For those who are younger, imagine what life is like for someone older.
  • Stand up and form a huddle.  Share your strengths with another generation.  Here’s what I see.  The older generation is very good at gathering and giving.  Please pass along your discipline to the younger generations.  Those in their 40s and 50s seem to be doing a good job growing.  Would you please help others catch fire for Christ?  And millennials set the pace by going with the gospel.  Please help us catch your passion for people.

Edgewood is fortunate to have a mix of younger and older.  Some churches are filled with only senior saints and some newer churches have only 20-somethings in them.  Personally, I think it’s better to have a wide age range, though this comes with some natural tension.  It’s common for younger believers to diss the older generation as out of touch and I also hear older saints dismiss the younger generation because they seem immature.  That’s not allowed on our team!

How many of you are ready for baseball to begin?  Did you hear that actor Will Ferrell made baseball history in Arizona years ago?  He not only played every position on the field, but he did it while suiting up for 10 different teams!  

We all have roles to play and tasks to fulfill.

Listen.  You don’t need to play all the positions on all the teams.  Simply play your position.  Things get chaotic when we try to do things that are not ours to do but things also fall apart when we don’t do the things we’re called to do. We all have roles to play and tasks to fulfill.  Let’s not drop the ball. Loving leaders lead and faithful followers follow. 

And let’s not just try to run out the clock by playing it safe.  That was another downfall for the Packers.  Instead of aiming to score when they were ahead, the team got timid.  Instead of playing to win, they played to not lose.  With Aaron Rogers as a potent offensive weapon, they handed off the ball three straight times, leaving them with a fourth and 14.  They punted…and ended up punting the game.

Let’s move forward team!  Let’s all play our positions for the glory of God!  And remember, when we do fumble, Jesus comes to the rescue.

Benediction from Hebrews 13:20-21 “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.  Amen.”

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?