I have often heard it said that everything rises and falls on leadership. In its most basic sense, leadership is influence. As goes the leader, so goes the organization. What is important to the leader will in time become important to the people because people follow their leader. This is especially true in the church. God places men in leadership for the purpose of influencing His people for righteousness’ sake. In the opening verses of chapter 5, Peter is calling on the elders of the church to lead God’s people with integrity. The analogy that he uses is that of a middle eastern shepherd who tenderly and diligently deals with sheep. A shepherd always had to be on guard because predators were always on the prowl. The shepherd was responsible for feeding and leading the sheep. This is a fitting illustration for the pastor of the church, for the word ‘pastor’ means shepherd and the church is the flock of God.
First, Peter describes the actions of faithful shepherds. Peter says that those who lead the church are not to do so begrudgingly or from a sense of compulsion, but are to do so willingly. You never have to twist a faithful shepherd’s arm in order to get him to spend time with the sheep. Peter also says in verse 3 that he is not to lead for shameful or dishonest gain, meaning that he is not a “shepherd-for-hire.” He is not greedy for personal gain.
Second, Peter describes the attitude of faithful shepherds. Also in verse 3, he says that those who lead God’s flock are “not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” To be domineering is to have a proud and arrogant spirit when it comes to leadership, the idea that one can do no wrong, and not possessing a teachable and humble spirit. Rather than having this kind of attitude, faithful shepherds lead from their knees. They understand that the one who desires to be first must be servant of all. God’s idea of leadership is vastly different than the world’s idea. The world says that leadership is all about the leader; God says that leadership is all about the one being led. Leadership is not about how many people serve you, but about how many people you serve.
Last, Peter describes the accolade for faithful shepherds. Those who lead God’s people faithfully and with integrity will receive a reward. Peter says in verse 4, “And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” Those who serve and lead within the church will one day be rewarded by the Chief Shepherd! This incentive is what gets us through difficult times and hard seasons of leadership. There are times when critics seem to multiply, when every decision you make seems to make someone unhappy. This is why it is imperative that you understand your accountability to the Chief Shepherd, and not to men. Faithful shepherds fear no man’s frown, and they court no man’s smile. They aim to please an audience of One.
So, for those who lead the church and are leaders in the church, the message for you is to be faithful and humble. Be courageous in your calling, committed to your task, and look forward to the crown of glory that will one day be given to you by the Lord Jesus Himself. “Father, I pray that we who lead your church will be found faithful. May Jesus be our ultimate model of leadership. Amen.”