Three Vices Which Elders are Prone
I Peter 5:1-5
Peter urges the elders of all Christian communities to which he writes to exercise their leadership roles as a shepherd looking after a flock of sheep. Perhaps, this is why Christ three times asked Peter, “do you love me?” Each time the question was asked and Peter then answered in the affirmative. Jesus then charged him with; “feed my lambs,” “tend my sheep,” and then, “feed my sheep.”
God often portrays Himself as a patient shepherd gathering His flock in Ezekiel 34:11-16. Jesus also speaks of Himself as a shepherd in John 10:11, a fact acknowledged by Peter, who calls Him the Chief Shepherd (I Peter 5:4). The role of an elder is also the role of a shepherd and thus implies a certain type of leadership. A good shepherd will allow the flock considerable freedom to forage and rather broad limits to where they can explore. But when necessary, he imposes quite strong leadership in the direction the flock ought to move, doing so in manner that coaxes the sheep rather than punishes them. A shepherd always acts in the best interest of the flock. All qualities, one must admit, that would be admirable in a church leader.
But even with these good qualities, there are three areas the elders are prone to be tempted in. First, some who should lead are reluctant to do so and need to be persuaded to take on leadership roles.
I Peter 5:2 makes this very clear where it says, “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, . . . .” If a leader needs to be persuaded to take office, they serve only half-heartedly and the community as a whole, suffers. Therefore, Peter urges leaders to take on the role and be fully committed, 100 percent committed to the cause of the community of believers.
Peter concludes this thought in verse two of I Peter chapter five by saying “. . . but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly. A shepherd of the flock is not and should not be looking for financial gain or even gain of status because of his or her working for the church. Their primary concern as a shepherd should be for that of the church, the flock, the sheep which they have accepted, eagerly, the role in which they were called. Any gain they receive by way of fame, or finically is not and should not be the reason for their service. As Christ was humble and willing to give up all of heaven and even of himself for the sheep, so must the leaders of the flock be willing to do the same.
In Rome and even in some communities today, the role of leadership caused great financial gain, because the leader was willing to accept bribes and then offered favors to those willing to pay the most. For the elder, this should not be the purpose of wanting to lead.
The third and perhaps the deadliest of these temptations and one I have seen so many pastors and elders suffer from is the temptation to lord over the congregation. To rule them with an iron fist and only their words count and only their understanding of Bible matters.
In our next post, we will look at this problem and how it affects the church and causes the sheep to wander away, seeking greener pastures and fresher water.