Pastor-Teacher: Nathan Mains
Elders (Team of Dads)
Ministry Director/Ministry Project Assistant: Kristina Bucholz
Laying hands on and praying over appointed Deacons & Deaconesses
Local Church Leadership in the Family of God – Teaching on 1 Peter 5:1-5 by Pastor-Teacher Nathan Mains
Introduction: I believe being shepherded by mature, rightly motivated local church leaders is the most significant factor towards a local church being an example of the church Jesus had in mind. Near the end of his letter to some churches facing tough times, Peter addresses their leaders. What he says to them can help us properly envision and align ourselves with God’s idea for local church leadership today.
1 Peter 5:1-5 Truth Essence: Leadership in the family of God should be provided by properly motivated mature men who shepherd & oversee like a team of dads, rather than ruling over, like lords.
A. Being an Elder is a Significant thing (5:1) – Background regarding elders: In the Scriptures the term elder has the basic concept of age. An elder was an older, mature adult who was recognized for his wisdom and experience. He was to be looked up to for advice and guidance. Age 30 seems to have been accepted as the time when men had experience and maturity necessary to be responsible leaders. The term elder has also been used in an official sense to designate the leaders amongst the Jewish people from the time of Moses (see Ex0dus 18) From the group of men in a community (over 30) elders would be selected based upon their wisdom (common sense application of the truth) and experience. Character, not achievements, was the important thing to consider. The early church adopted the same approach to leadership with the leaders of the church being known as elders. From this passage and Act 20:17 & 28 we can see very clearly that the terms and tasks of elder, shepherd (pastor), and overseer (bishop) were used interchangeably and designated the same office.
In his appeal (1 Peter 5:1) Peter identifies himself with the elders he is addressing and by so doing raises the status of their ministry. He identifies himself with them in three areas:
- As a fellow elder;
- As a (fellow) witness of Christ’s sufferings – Peter’s point here is that both he and the elders he is addressing are among those who regularly, give testimony to what Christ has done for them and for any who will respond to the free gift of eternal life through Christ’s death, burial and resurrection;
- As a co-sharer in the glory to be revealed – this parallels 4:13, rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
B. Job Description for Elders (5:2a, 3b) The Essence of eldering is Shepherding (= pastoring) & Oversight. Elders in a local church should function with their people in ways that are similar to how a shepherd functions with his sheep.
4 Aspects of shepherding/oversight:
- Heed – In Acts 20:28 we learn that elders are to view themselves as placed in that role by the Holy Spirit. Our Triune God invites elders to function as His under-shepherds who “Heed” what the Master wants. Elders “Heed” their master by listening to God through His Word and prayer. The Chief Shepherd wants His under-shepherds also to “heed”—to care about, and listen to—the flock under their care. This will involve being with and getting to know their people, inviting and responding to their questions, and sensitively and biblically responding to hurts and needs (Acts 20:28-35; 1 Peter 5:1-4). Praying for both our community and for individuals within it, especially those who are sick (Acts 2:42; 6:4; James 5:14) is an important aspect of this. It seems to me that anything that helps someone be more what God wants them to be, or gives them the sense of being cared for by God through His human instruments would be an appropriate aspect of shepherding care.
- Feed – Elders need to remember that All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (1 Tim 3:16-17, see also Titus 1:9). The feeding aspect of shepherding is offering a diet of Bible teaching, challenges, rebukes and corrections that encourage growth, health and mutually meeting each other’s needs (Ezekiel 34:2; John 21:15-17; Acts 6:4; Colossians 1:28-29; 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 14; 1 Timothy 5:17; 2 Timothy 3:16–4:2; Hebrews 13:7; 1 Peter 3:15). All elders are to be able to teach (1 Tim 3:2) but 1 Tim 5:17 suggests that Teaching is a shepherding task that some elders have special responsibility for. It appears 5:17 refers to a more formal type of public exhortation not expected of all elders, at least not on a regular basis. This function in churches in our day is often given as a primary responsibility to one or more elders who are also paid so that they can devote more time and focus to this important area. The biblical basis for paid elders (commonly called “pastors” in our culture) can be seen in 1 Tim 5:17-18.
- Lead – This is the Overseeing function of elders (see 1 Tim 5:17 – elders… direct the affairs of the church). Elders are responsible for taking an active part in making decisions about matters that affect the lives of the flock. This would include establishing environments oriented to shepherding care (like small groups within a church). An aspect of leading is Modeling (3b) – As they provide oversight and lead, >Elders must also provide human models for the people to follow. An important area of modeling for elders is in the area of how they deal with sin (their own and other’s) – For a good overview of the kinds of things that elders could be modeling for the people see: Gal 6:1-3; Matt 5:23-24; 18:15-17; Heb 3:12-13; James 5:19-20; 1 Thess 5:14-22 and Col 3:12-17. Also elders are responsible for Reproducing themselves, entrusting the truth to reliable me who will also be qualified to teach others (2 Tim 2:2)
- Weed – Acts 20:28-31 instructs elders to Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers… men will arise and distort the truth… So be on your guard! (see also Titus 1:10-11). Elders are responsible to respond with loving strength and protection to disunifying and unhealthy influences, teaching and behaviors within the flock. This correcting, rebuking, and encouraging should be done with an attitude of gentleness and patience. Elders will also need to be involved if disciplining is necessary (Matthew 18:15-17; Acts 20:28-31; Galatians 6:1; 2 Timothy 2:23-26; 4:2, Titus 1:9; 3:10-11). Ed Glasscock well describes their task: They must decide for the good of the congregation in matters of doctrine, personal conflicts, and moral and ethical dilemmas, as well as direct the overall plans and programs of the church… The elders should guide the church through controversy and normal growth problems by offering sound biblical judgment. …They must actively watch over and guide the flock, making sure that heresy, immorality, divisions, or neglect are not creeping into the assembly. Above all they must make sure that they themselves meet the biblical qualifications and are setting the proper example of commitment and purity for the rest of the church (Bib Sac Jan-March 87 p 76-78).
C. Those who are Elders must make sure their motives are pure (5:2b-4)
- Don’t serve to please people or out of some sort of compulsion or obligation
- Do serve willingly because you believe God wants you.
- Don’t serve for what you can get out of it
- Do serve eagerly – this is the same word that is used in 2 Cor 8:1-2, 19; 9:2 to describe the attitude all believers are to have towards financial giving
- Don’t serve to gain more power within the church – and if you are serving as an elder/overseer/shepherd/pastor don’t do it as one lording it over those entrusted to you (see Matt 20:25). Scripture suggests a balance between elders as among the people and as over the people. They are among the people – the flock is God’s, not the elders’ – but they are also over the people in the sense that they are responsible by God for the flock and He will hold them accountable (see Heb 13:17). This balance allows for elders to provide and be held accountable for the appropriate level of leadership and shepherding care within the flock, but provides protection against elders who would lord it over people as though the flock was theirs not God’s.
- Do serve meekly as one among peers modeling godliness for the people – being examples.
- Don’t look for a shepherding reward down here; but know that Jesus knows and will reward you up there (5:4) – what motivates elders should be a desire to please Christ and to receive from him whatever comes to those who serve him well (see 1 Cor 15:58)
E. How to Respond to your team of dads (5:5a) – The initial question in 1 Peter 5:5 is who is being addressed. I agree with most of the commentators who see this as addressed to all those who are under the authority of the elders, both men and women, not just a group of younger men. A translation reflecting this view might be younger ones and be referring to all those who were part of the church Peter suggests that those under the elders authority should, be submissive. Other NT passages give additional direction in this area: Heb 13:17 says, Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy not a burden, for that would be of no advantage for you. 1 Thess 5:12-13 says, respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.
But, what if an elder isn’t shepherding & overseeing well, like a dad on a team? 1 Timothy 5:19-21 speaks to situations where an elder’s effectiveness or qualification is in question: Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning. Verse 22 adds the best way to preclude bad elder problems …Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure. We need to be aware that there are forces at work in our world that will make obeying and submitting to elders difficult. The schemes and strategies of the evil one include attempting to live-trap, even believers, to do his local church disrupting business (see 2 Tim 2:22-26). Elders must be aware of this too, and are told to gently instruct opposes with the hope that they would come to their senses and escape being live trapped by the devil to do his will. Those who, by their attitudes and actions evidence no willingness to consider their ways and repent are to be avoided (see 2 Tim 3:1-5).