1 Peter 5:1-4 1 Therefore, as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of the Messiah and also a participant in the glory about to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you: 2 Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s will; not for the money but eagerly; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
Nothing fries my pancakes more than hearing people talk about how they have been hurt by the church. It isn’t them saying it that makes me crazy, it’s the fact that they have been hurt. And when people say they have been hurt by the church, most often that means they have been hurt by the pastor or elders. I know one thing to be true: I have never met a pastor or church leader who has said, “I love hurting people. My goal is to cause God’s people pain so they will leave the church.” Yet people get hurt. People lose their trust in the church.
So how does it happen? That’s a question with a million answers which I cannot fully answer in a blog post. Hurt happens and it’s not always the leader’s fault. However, there is a level of ownership that church leaders must have when it comes to the tending of hearts. They must cultivate a culture of openness and trust. They must put relationships and love above being right. Essentially, they must take a good hard look at 1 Peter 5. Let’s look at these instructions.
1. Be a shepherd. Protect the sheep.
2. Don’t pastor out of obligation. Lead with the conviction that you are called.
3. Don’t do it for the money. Ya, that’s why people go into the ministry, right? Not at all. But there are those who are pastors simply because it’s a job. Now I know that many people have jobs simply to earn an income. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But Peter makes it known that “pastor” is not one of those jobs. Don’t do it for the money.
4. Don’t be power hungry, arrogant, and demanding. God has not called you so you can order people around. He has called you so that you can serve and be an example.
So here’s how to mess up being a pastor: Elevate the protection of your image above the hearts of the people you lead. Show up to work, resent the people, and get frustrated that they won’t follow you. Collect your paycheck and tell all your friends you are frustrated that your church doesn’t give more money so you can have a raise. Demand submission and ostracize anyone who won’t do what you say. Expect respect because after all, you are the pastor.
As out-in-left-field the previous paragraph may seem, there are leaders in God’s kingdom doing these things. And it’s not so much that these things are happening blatantly; they happen in the heart. When we let the enemy creep in on our ground, he tries to distort our calling and poison our hearts. So we must check out hearts and lead as good shepherds. We must set our sights on walking out our calling to please the Chief Shepherd.
Enough of the Christian casualties; enough friendly fire! For friendly fire isn’t all that friendly – people die. God’s church was called to bring life, not be a house where people get shot at and leave wounded. We have the opportunity to heal those wounds and restore the broken. Lead as a servant, have confident humility, and walk out your calling with conviction. Those are the kind of shepherds God is looking for and that is the kind of shepherd I strive to be.