Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, watching over them-not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. 1 Peter 5:2-4
1 Peter 3:13-22; 5: 1-4
Why we are called to be A Shepherd?
Do you know where you are going? Do you have not just the vision, but the true Truth of His call and Way? We have to know where the well is before leading others to it! Christ and His precepts are the well, and we follow the path by example, nurture and service with faith, fruit, character and maturity so others can partake of His wonders. We have to know, and to do this, we have to grow. If we are not growing in the faith, we are useless and unable to lead or equip others. We will lord over by pride, teach falsely or sloppily and lead others astray; we will dishonor our Lord.
The passages in 1 Peter urge us to seek God's direction by recognizing God's love for you and the people in your care. In that way, you will be able to apply the key biblical principles to help you become a much better pastor and leader. Additionally, if you are already a leader or training to be one, you can use the principles of His Word to spruce up your attitude so your character becomes good in action. We always can improve and become better whether we are brand new or been leading for over forty years. You can take a look at what you have done wrong and correct it by removing your false thinking and realigning your beliefs and behaviors.
Why 1 Peter? Peter is addressing those in church leadership who had the same problems we have today. He exhorts them to clue themselves into Christ and follow His example--to care and pastor others with excellence and fortitude. Peter does not ask them (or us) to do something that he has not done; rather, he uses himself as an example and points them to the Ultimate Example, Christ as Shepherd and Lord.
Why do we need to do this? One of the responsibilities of the shepherd is lead through the chaos of life. Keep in mind that the Church has always been riddled with strife and conflict; our fallen nature causes us to fight with one another using the ways of the world, while the devil also uses us for his means. When we do this, we forget who Christ is, and we forget what the Church is here to do--to know Him and make Him known. We leaders can easily be tempted to chase what is not godly; we can give in to the temptation of our perceived self-importance. When we are not following the Good Shepherd, we are not being good shepherds. Instead, we will take our lead from our desires; consequently, we will seek means to get what we want and not what God has called us to. Then, wham! The sheep are in conflict and strife because the shepherd is leading them astray. Welcome to most churches in America. You can be better! You can be a better shepherd and lead--even in chaos and confusion or strife and disarray! The key is to be founded in Christ and have a well-built and honed pastor's heart.
What is the Pastor's Heart?
The heart in Scripture refers to the inner being of who we are. It comes from our spirit or soul and consists of the emotions, thoughts, and motivations which flow through to our mindset and actions. When one becomes a Christian an incredible wondrous renewal of our action of heart and mind comes into us as we receive Christ's work and gift of grace and are released from a guilty conscience. Our hearts become grateful and focused; we are more about who Christ is and what He has done and that we have freedom and purpose because of His once-for-all sacrifice (Psalm 32:7-9; 34:1-8; Proverbs 4:23; 15:13; John 15:11; 17:13; Rom. 1:8-15; 1 Cor. 11:4; 2 Cor. 12:9; Phil. 1:3; Col. 1:3; 1 Peter 4:13- 19; 1 Thess. 1:2; 5:18; 2 Thess. 1:3; 2 Tim. 3:1; Philemon 4; Heb 10:34; James 1:1-4).
A pastor's heart is focused, formed, and straightened in and from Christ. It is a heart of conviction in Christ, flowing with gratitude for Who and What He has done, with vigor, power and authority to lead others from Christ. It is a call to edify and love the people in our care. We lead by taking our lead from our Lord, and lead our people in confidence with poise from the sight of His fire and smoke as Moses exemplified. Our fire is from the preceptors of Scripture and the lead of the Holy Spirit. We lead by example and sincerity, with a kind heart protecting our people, by a gentle spirit, always in integrity and all in the Fruit of the Spirit (2 Cor. 6:11-7:16).
For the pastor and church leader, we are called to a due diligence in this action of heart. The call for all Christians, with leaders having more responsibility in this, is to set your hearts . This means to set our entirety, our plans, purpose, call, ministry, relationships, self all on Christ as LORD. To have understanding, to think, and to have a desire for real, bona fide truth and action of our faith. We are to think about and upon Christ and consider what we have in Him to experience our new lives and the practice of our faith. Truth is something we want to learn for triumphant lives and effectual churches, something we want to live in (Col. 1:9; 3:1-11; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Pet. 2:2)!
A pastors or church leaders (or anyone seeking Christian maturity and or to lead others), we must protect and guard the hearts of others from distractions and corruptions! It is imperative that we set your minds, meaning to place Christ first and foremost. If you are wondering why, consider what you are doing. Why are you in ministry? If the purpose is for self or anything other than the glorification of Christ, quit and leave until you are mature enough to lead. Your heart has to be pointed in the right direction in order to lead others in the right direction!
We must be aware that bad thoughts and actions lead to bad lives. In leadership, when we lose our way we cause so many others to follow so our derailment becomes a train wreck for all who are behind us. This is why Christ calls us to purposefully focus ourselves on Christ, His precepts, and His presence. When we focus on Christ, our attention is off other things and distractions-even sin! Heavenly values will translate into earthy values when we are centered on Christ, allowing His work in and through us. Things above are heavenly matters; things below/on earth are our desires, agendas, and sin. Our churches are led better to His direction and purpose (Matt. 6:33; Rom. 8:5; Phil. 1:23; 4:8; 1 John 2:15-17).
As pastors, we can better shepherd our people without anxiety. We can lead in and with joy as a byproduct of our unshakable confidence in God. We can have absolute confidence in God--even in the midst of crises and anguish-with a prayer for peace and a prayer for physical safety and with a trust that our true security is to be in God's will; the spiritual blessings we have are because of Christ in our lives. This comes from our invitation to enter the presence of God, to worship and to grow our personal relationships with Christ. We have clear, uninhibited access to God because of Christ, and we lead others to where we have been, just as a good shepherd does (Gen. 4:2-15; Psalm 15; 73:28; Jer. 30:18-22; Matt. 27:51; Rom. 5:1-2; Eph. 2:13-22; Heb. 4:16; 7:19-25; 12:28; 3:15-16; 1 Pet. 2:4-10).
What does this all come down to? The key to being a good pastor, to being a great pastor is to get this one simple thing from 1 Peter 3 , ....in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. The call is to revere, to respect, to worship, to place first Christ because He is Lord. Only then can we lead and edify others properly. Those of us in apologetics know well the last part of this verse, Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone, but often forget that we have to know and grow before we show and tell. If we can do this, we can serve and glorify our Lord and feed His sheep and build his Kingdom well. If we do not, we build kingdoms of our pride, torture the sheep, and blaspheme our Lord. Sounds harsh, but this is true. I have seen this not only in myself when I lose focus, but I have seen it countless times by misguided pastors who just do not get it and ruin their churches (1 Pet. 3:13-15).
How do we do maintain the focus? Let Christ fill our thoughts and take hold of our will so we need not give a thought to earthly troubles and fears. We need to not buy into our own propaganda as we stand the people and think, "They are looking to me", when we should be demonstrating Christ so they are looking to Him. We are in Christ; we died to Him, and He is our genuine world and life; we share in His glory. We can put sin and our sinful ways of pride and condescension to death, those earthy wants and needs that are bad and cause harm to others and us. We are called to live higher, not in money or power, rather to have nothing to do with evil or sin or any kind of anger, greed, bad language, lying, or any thoughts of impurity or idolatry. People look to us as shepherds to lead and care for them, not as examples on how to be corrupt and fallen. These things stir God's anger and chase the sheep away; we do not want that. When we have received His grace and forgiveness, why would we go back to what hurts others and us? Strip off this old nature of sin, set aside your pride pastor and minister of God, and put on His nature of fruitfulness and renewal by clothing yourselves in His goodness with your new nature within you that He created. Only then do we lead with authenticity and gratefulness, always pointing to Christ as He is real and true and lives in us all.
We, as Christians, are to set our sights and our focus upon Christ as Lord, who raised us to new life, for this is our authentic reality and Truth. As leaders and shepherds, this becomes even more important ministry--real effectual ministry--is never about us; it is all about us pointing to Christ--He is the pasture to whom we lead our flocks. He is the Living Water we drink from and lead others to. We are to fully, wholeheartedly trust in Christ who sits at God's right hand in honor and power in the reality of Heaven. We need to demonstrate our trust, so we are the examples, the product testers, and the forerunners. Why? We are heaven bound; we are to set our thoughts and hopes on Him so others can see were we lead (Col. 3:15-17) .
Yes, ministry and shepherding is a tough call. Many do not make it; real authentic trust can be very difficult! The trust we are to have in Christ and the trust we edify by example to others is necessary. As we lead the sheep, they fuss, they get hurt and bite us as we seek to help them, they go off on their own and it is hard to bring them back; they eat the wrong things and get sick, they scratch themselves on the wrong things till they bleed and they fuss more. As pastors, each day we are the receivers of a barrage of problems, hurts and things that challenge us to the very end of our rope. We must be on guard against feeling that our Lord is distant as the enemy seeks to pull us away from God, from our ministry while stealing our joy (Heb. 11:27).
When we do not obey the Light, all that we are and do will turn into darkness and strife! This will happen when we start to get so busy that we have no time for growth in Christ. We will make all kinds of rationalizations and excuses, but we will just be spinning our wheels in mud. When pride and experiences take the place of our sanctification, our growth and maturity are placed on hold. Each of these creates a spiritual vacuum that will collect all that is wrong and unworthy for our character and purpose to glorify Christ. When this happens, we can't protect, we can't edify, and we certainly cannot lead as a real authentic pastor shepherd.
What happens when we work with a heart after God's?
This is simple. We succeed for Christ, we glorify Him! As church leaders who are called to lead others to Christ, it is not enough just to know what we should know; we must do as we are called to do. We need to not only engage His Word, but also obey and practice its precepts. We have to live it out so others see our example. We have to set the bar so others know what to do. Our people must see our commitment in order to form theirs. They must see what they can be. Christianity needs demonstrators; you as a Christian, especially as leader, are the demonstrators, and it has to be done with integrity, in honesty and with passion all in Truth. If we don't do this, we are not living as authentic Christians, and we fail. We promote hopelessness and distrust. How do we do promote the heart of God? Paul tells us to put to death our old man-our sin and evil desires-and not only embrace our new lives in Christ but reside in them as well.
Put to death means to mortify as some translations state, to deprive something of its power and influence. In regard to sin and other unhealthy distractions, we are to make a conscious decision to keep away from sin. This is a call to "amputate" totally our sinful lifestyle and any form of fornication, cutting the cancer out, as if these are a part of our body, and to get rid of sin that fuels vice so it never comes back, as being dead to sin and alive in Christ. We are to get rid of any bad thoughts and behaviors and live as Christ called and died for. This is not a call to asceticism or legalism and forced obligation; rather, it is living, as we believe-putting our Christian life into practice in the very best way we can. In doing this, we are doing our best and we are modeling to others who look to us as their lead. The image is like Lazarus who got rid of his grave clothes to begin his new life. We cannot live in both Christ and sin; they are incompatible (Zech. 4:6; Mark 5:28; 7:21-22; 9:43-47; John 11:44; Rom. 6:1-14; 8:13; Gal. 3:27; Eph. 5:18; 6:17; Col. 2:19-23; 1 John 2:14)!
Scripture aloes tells us to put off, to rid yourselves to take the focus off ourselves and point to Christ. It is easy in concept, but takes a lifetime in ministry to do. This is the Greek language is an illustration of putting on armor for battle and then taking it off when the battle is over. As Christians, our battles are not over until we are called to our eternal home. The image is to put off sin and embrace righteousness, as we are to be clothed in the Spirit, not in the world or in our desires. Also, this is a baptismal image as it was common practice to disrobe for the baptism and then put on new garments afterward if available for the point to be indentified in Christ. This is accomplished by focusing on Christ, right thinking, and faith (Mark 1:5; Acts 7:58; Rom. 13:12-14; Eph. 4:24-25; 1 Pet. 2:1)!
This is all about to live the Christian life out as best as we can with His empowerment and grace. We are to make Christ primary in order to receive His blessings and empowerment and then relay those on to others! Jesus is our focus and attention rather than our own agendas. In keeping Christ as our Focus, we will lead lives of distinction, maturity, and character (Matt. 6:33; Rom. 6:1-14; Eph. 2:1-10).
A pastor whose heart is centered knows this, Christ is all in all! Jesus Christ is LORD! We are called to set our sights and our focus upon Christ as Lord, who raised us to new life, for this is our authentic reality and Truth. We are to trust in Christ who sits at God's right hand in honor and power in the reality of Heaven. Christ is the highest standing as Creator, Sustainer, and Head. He reconciles us, gives us our hope, is the Source of all we are and have, and He is our wisdom, our redemption, our empowerment, and our life. His glory radiates throughout the universe and must also radiate in and through us, personally and collectively, as a Church pointing to Him. This is Who we live to know and show and tell others. O liberty and worth in Christ and the fact that it is Christ as Lord who rules all and gives us liberty and is totally sufficient for our living faith. The question is, is He your all in all? In your personal life? In your ministerial life? ( Acts 13:33-34; Rom. 1:4; Eph. 1:20-23; Phil. 2:1-11; Col. 1:15-18; 3: 1-11; Heb. 1:4-5; 2:5-11).
What does this imply? As pastors, we are not CEOs; we are the servants and Christ is the chief, the One who is Preeminent, thus, He, Christ the Creator and Redeemer is in charge. He must have the highest honor, first in rank and authority and importance. Christ's preeminence, His position of authority must be Who and What we lead others to. As Christians and as leaders, our inheritance in Him is by His authority to create and redeem. He must be first and foremost and superior (Gen. 49:3-4; Ex. 4:22; Deut. 21:17; 1 Chron. 5:12; Psalm 89:27; Jer. 31:9; John 1:1-3, 14-18; 3:16-18; Col. 1:14; 1 John 4:9; Rev. 1:5).
Need another reason? Consider that you have been raised with Christ and clothed in Him . Our position in Christ is a result of our redemption and that should be exhibited in our new life in Christ. In Christ, our old nature has died and now we are clothed in His new nature and life. O ur sin is hidden from the Father, "atonement," our "covering." That our lives are inseparably united in Him, our security, and our unity with Christ are not always evident to those who are not in Christ, as well as those who are newer or weaker in Him. To the world, all this is foolishness. We are not be secret Christian leaders; rather, demonstrate and practice our faith with joy and trust in Christ. We also become more Christ-like in character and attitude as we grow and mature in Him. Therefore, we can understand spiritual truths and apply them to our lives without excuse. We can exemplify and instruct them to others with passion, care and in truth ( John 6:51-58; Rom. 6:1-14; 8:1, 8:29 -39 ; 1 Cor. 6:17; 15:49; Gal. 2:20-21; Eph. 1:3; 2:6; Phil. 3:10-20; 2:1-10; Col. 2:3; 2 Pet. 1:4; 1 John 3:2).
We can throw off our wrong desires, and live a life that is real, impacting, and triumphant! You can communicate this truth by words and attitude; do not allow your life to be hidden or ineffectual. You are so much better than the world says you are or people at school or work say you are; you have power from on High! You were dead; now you are alive in Him. What more can you possibly need or want? Christ is all that matters and He is living, working, and guiding you as a Christian (Col. 3:1-11)!
A Pastor's Heart has the Attitude of Christ
We are urged to have the attitude of Christ! We are called to live in the Spirit! We need to see what He has done for us: He brings us to God, He makes us alive, He cleanses us, and He is our continual Example! Therefore, we do not need to waste any more of our life or ministry with wrongful or misplaced deeds and desires. This will translate into our conduct and our prayers (as these will become more serious), as well as our fervent love for one another (John 16:33).
How does this all translate to Elders, Deacons, lay ministers ? Take responsibility for your attitude, actions and direction to shepherd. A leader, especially an Elder, should be just that, those who are older and wiser in life, those able to encourage, identify with, share wisdom and advice exercising God's love. For the early Church, this was also a specific title for community leaders who ruled their provinces and/or who were judges. These people held great respect and responsibilities in their communities, we are to be likewise in the best manner we can be. If we are claiming Christ as Lord, we need to be living the life--not just talking about it or just showing up for the club meetings (church) (Acts 20:17; 1 Tim. 3:1; 5:17; 2 John 1; 3 John 1).
Key words from 1 Peter 5 who we are called to be and not be:
Overseers refers to and implies the leaders of the leaders, such as bishops. This word however, also applies to all those who are supervising others such as elders, pastors, or anyone in any leadership capacity. We are all to carry out the principles of these offices (Acts 20:17, 28; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1-2; Titus 1:5-7).
Not by compulsion /not because you must . Many Greek philosophers and teachers and some Jewish leaders were very strict and controlling; this created a negative, non-enriching atmosphere that led to discord and strife. Real leaders are real examples that exemplify true virtue (Matt. 16:24-27; Mark 10:42-45; Philp. 2:6-11; 2 Thess. 3:9)!
Greedy refers to the breaching of trust with others--catering solely to our personal needs; in so doing, we usurp God's will in favor of ours, for manipulating others. Leading is never by compulsion; rather, it comes from a willing heart. This is not about pastors not needing to get paid, as fair compensation is biblical; any worker is worth a decent wage. It is about how dishonesty and skewed personal agendas devalues the Kingdom (1 Cor. 9:9-14; Gal. 6:6; 1 Tim. 5:17-18).
Lording over means haughtiness, arrogance (which is to abuse one's power), to be controlling, not leading by example, to "lord over" and not encourage, to micro-manage, to not serve. Humility is essential in leadership (Job 41:34; Psalm 10:5; 18:27; 101:5; 131:1; 6:17; Prov. 16:18; 21:4; 30:13)!
Be examples means to model the Christian walk and holiness to edify, to show others and influence them--not just tell them. We are to shepherd the flock of Christ with wise conduct through the exercising of humility and the demonstration of wisdom. The light we use to guide others needs to be His Light--not ours. Our light is pride versus the Light we are to follow, which is Christ. As leaders, we are responsible to care for God's people with faithfulness and honor, and never out of severity or improper motivations (Matt. 23; Mark 10:42-45; John 13:1-17; Acts 20:20, 32; Rom. 14:19; 1 Cor. 3:1-4; 8:1; 14:26; Eph. 4:1-13, 29, 29; Phil. 2:5-11; 1 Tim. 4:12)!
Chief Shepherd means a shepherd who is over other shepherds. This is a name for Christ, and refers to how He cares for and gently guides us. He, as God, serves as our prime example, the One to whom we are responsible for the people He has entrusted to us. We can trust Christ to lead us (John 10:11; 1 Pet. 2:25).
Appears is a reference to Christ's return, and that He will reward those who have served with distinction and judge those who led people astray. We can look to the return of Christ for our hope!
Crown of glory was not like the gold medals we have today, but still were praised for their significance. They were bound olive leaves, formed as a garland, and given to sporting and soldier victors. These were perishable; our reward is never-ending and will not perish!
The Pastor's Heart, Leads even in Conflict
Conflicts have buffeted the early church and Peter is seeking to restore them to a proper perspective and call. The leaders were also experiencing the first waves of persecution and were the ones being tortured and imprisoned. The call is simple, yet so not followed in most churches! The call for us is to exercise, watch, and care over God's people, to encourage and shepherd them in a godly direction from a godly example. We protect them from false teaching, bad thinking, and predatory evil people. Conflicts are rare and, when they occur, are easily settled. Leadership is never about what we get out of it or a force of our will; rather, it is about the mobilization of His precepts from His Word in our life so it flows and it is "happening" onto theirs! We will have an eagerness to know Him more powerfully so we can serve with more humility.
Another way we can cause dysfunction in the Church is to "lord it over" people by micro-managing them, and seeking to belittle, exploit, and manipulate while we are clearly called to lead by the example of our Lord. We must see leadership as helping people draw near to Christ as we eagerly seek to know Him better ourselves so we can be good examples. The fruit of this will be a sense of a willingness, of humbleness, unselfish servitude, and encouragement by discipleship (Matt. 20:20-28; Luke 22:26; Gal. 5:19-26). All with the goal that we will share His glory in eternity!
The call is simple, if you are a pastor or in leadership, then be a good leader tough thick and thin!
If we are claiming Christ as Lord, we need to be living the life--not just talking about it!
© 2005, 2012 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org