Thursday, May 28, 2015

To the Elders

Good morning,

This morning's passage is given to instruct church leaders, whom the apostle refers to as "elders". Most of the time, the term "elder" is applied to the "senior pastor" (in our lingo) of the congregation. However, it can be generalized to apply to any older, adult leader in the local church, as well.  With that in mind, let's look at the specifics of this passage and mine out the traits needed for successful church leaders.

Therefore, as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of the Messiah and also a participant in the glory about to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you: Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s will; not for the money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
In the same way, you younger men, be subject to the elders. And all of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because
God resists the proud

but gives grace to the humble.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time
1 Peter 5:1-6 (HCSB)

Shepherd the Flock
In this, elders follow the example of Christ, who is referred to as the Good Shepherd or the Chief Shepherd.  How should they do this?
1.  With humility - - - elders are not to view their roles as occasions for pride, which is the chief sin of the Church.  Peter realizes this too, because he mentions humility repeatedly in this passage.
2.  Without a lust for power - - - Peter mentions money in this context, which is analogous to power. Many church positions are unpaid, but those in them seek to accrue power to themselves as payment. A dead giveaway to this type of leader is the one who says, "My legacy ... "  or (God forbid) "I ran that sorry preacher off!"  Watch out for that type of church "leader".  They are in it primarily for their own self-aggrandizement.
Some of the worst "Christians" I've ever seen are in positions of leadership in our churches! They use their position to disregard church by-laws and constitutions, to not follow proper procedures and to "get their own way".
We are not given positions of leadership within a congregation to create a "legacy" for ourselves.  All glory from our service goes to the Lord, not to us.  Leaders, do you desire that "unfading crown of glory" from the Lord?  Then, don't seek to receive it in this life.

Be an Example
When you are offered a position of leadership in the church fellowship, fall on your face before God and examine yourself.  If your heart is not right, then that is an opportunity for Satan to get in and to not only tarnish your ministry but, more importantly, to harm others spiritually.  Some people are fond of telling other believers how to live the life, yet they don't live it themselves.
(This is how this blog got started actually.  I was co-leading the college group in my home, and we were discussing daily Bible reading.  I became so convicted because I was advocating that discipline for the young people, but was not doing it myself.  I resolved, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to change that in my life.  And, this blog, which is the outworking of my daily Bible devotional time, was born.)
In his admonitions to, his training of young Timothy, Paul talked about how he as a church leader should be an example.  These were the traits he mentioned in 1 Timothy 4:12 - - -

" an example for other believers in your speech, behavior, love, faithfulness and purity."

  • It is no accident that the tongue is mentioned first here.  Leaders in the church are to put the quietus on murmuring and backbiting and pot-stirring in the church, not be the instigators or the cause of it.
  • The leader's behavior must be characterized by love, faithfulness and purity.  The Message version puts it like this:  
Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity.  Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching.  And that special gift of ministry you were given when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed - - keep that dusted off and in use.

Leaders: don't be lazy!  We ought to see our elders praying, doing visitation, tithing, teaching, worshipping with the congregation, serving in church ministries, participating in many ministries of the church - - - and their spouses as well.  If we don't, then something is wrong.  And, any elder who cannot be loyal to his local church and its leadership, supporting it/them by being an example in these ways should resign.

Being called by God to a position of leadership in the local church is a fearsome responsibility. When we put on the robe of leadership, it has a bulls-eye on its back.  Satan immediately elevates us as a prime target, marked for destruction.  Each of us in leadership roles, each of us elders, should be constantly on our faces before God, asking His Spirit to examine us.  God forbid that we should, by our position of influence, do anything to fracture the Body, to sow seeds of dissension, to dishonor Him. 

Lord Jesus, you know I am preaching to myself in all my posts, and this one is no exception.  Please guide me by Your Spirit and don't let me say or do anything that would bring shame or disgrace to Your name.  In my local church, First Baptist Canton, may all of us, regardless of position, clothe ourselves in the humility that comes from a close walk with our Savior - - - viewing others as better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3), and serving one another in love (Galatians 5:13).  In Jesus' name, amen.

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