Sunday, December 20, 2009
To the elders among you, I appeal: . . . Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care. – 1 Peter 5:1-2
TODAY IN THE WORD
In the July 15, 1974 issue of Time magazine, historians were asked how they would answer the questions: “What makes a true leader? Who are the true leaders of history?” One British military historian, Correlli Barnett, responded this way: “Greatness has nothing to do with morality. A leader gets people to follow him.” According to Barnett, Napoleon, Hitler, and Al Capone were all great leaders.
We come to a different exposition of leadership in today’s reading. Peter appeals to the elders of the churches, exhorting them toward Christian leadership. Reminding them of his own witness of Christ’s suffering and promise of glory, Peter declares: “Be shepherds of God’s flock” (v. 2). Peter remembered well the calling that Christ gave him in John 21:15-19, and he extends that call to the elders of the churches in Asia Minor. Christ’s command to feed His sheep was not just for Peter or the apostles; all subsequent leaders of the church are called to care for and nourish God’s people.
What are the marks of a true shepherd? Scripture first describes the attitude of leadership. True leaders do their work willingly, not out of a sense of obligation (v. 2a). Second, Scripture explains the purpose of leadership. Rather than leading in order to serve one’s own needs (e.g. in striving only for monetary gain), a true leader is “eager to serve” (v. 2b), focusing on the needs of others first. Third, Scripture indicates the manner of leadership. A true leader does not “lord it over” others, seeking power and authority; rather, they offer a humble “example to the flock” (v. 3).
Finally, a true shepherd of God’s flock will always remember that there is a Chief Shepherd to whom they are accountable (v. 4). Ultimately, it is Christ’s church, not ours. And Christ is the true Shepherd of His people. Any leader of Christ’s church is only an under-shepherd of that one great “Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
As we come to the final Sunday in Advent, today’s passage fittingly calls us to remember both Christ’s first coming as a humble and serving Shepherd, and his second coming when that “Chief Shepherd appears” (v. 4). As you contemplate the attitude, purpose, and manner of Christ’s leading of His church, recognize what a high (and challenging) call the leaders of your own church have received. Pray for them, and find some way to encourage them this week through a personal note, phone call, or conversation.