Shepherd the Flock of God
So, I exhort the elders among you…shepherd the flock of God…and when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
1 Peter 5:1-4 (ESV)
Peter is an elder himself who has witnessed the glory of Christ and the suffering that comes from partaking of life with him. He is well aware of the commission he was given by the resurrected Lord after breakfast by the sea. Remember! He had promised to stand with Jesus no matter what but had failed miserably on the night of the betrayal. Jesus had confronted him over breakfast in Galilee. Jesus had three times commissioned him to tend the sheep. Now in this text, he is telling other elders how important their role is in the future of the church.
Notice that Jesus didn’t give a lot of “how to” instructions. His leadership seminar was about being loved, loving, and tending sheep. Those who feed the sheep are leaders. Their temperaments and histories are not primary. Their credentials need to include having been exposed as inadequate in their own strength, having recognized that only Jesus can keep covenant promises and that our purpose is to help the flock of God get on with living the eternal life they possess.
They are not to serve under compulsion. It would be contrary to the message they carry. God is not trying to get his flock to live or serve out of compulsion. He wants them so enamored with his love for them, that they can’t stop loving. If they are not full of joy, their service betrays them. They are not to tend the flock for shameful gain. If it is just a job by which they can earn a living, they have missed the point. If they measure their significance by the amount of money they earn from service, they are poor shepherds regardless of how big their sheep pen might be. They must not be domineering. It is a bad reflection on the Shepherd. He doesn’t have to manipulate to motivate. The message of the finished work of Jesus on the cross is motivation enough to move those who hear it. The Spirit who opens our eyes to see that message is the same Spirit that raised Jesus from death. He can stimulate, motivate, and activate any sheep who hears the sound of the chief Shepherd. Elders are to echo that sound in word and deed.
This is a needed word to us today. The temptation for contemporary church leaders is to succumb to corporate models of church and leadership. We have enough CEOs but not enough shepherds who care deeply about the real needs of the sheep. We have built bigger pens, but the food is without spiritual nutrition, and the fallout is too high. Those elders who, like Peter, have been tried in the fire of trials and temptations will find a way for those sheep that are precious to God to be fed with delicious and nutritious food.