To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 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.
1 Peter 5:1-3 (NIV)
The role of an elder is demanding and is not to be entered into lightly. The key thing for an elder to remember is that they have been entrusted with this role by God himself. While they may have been selected by their pastor, congregation or whomever, ultimately it is God who chooses them for the role.
In the verses above from 1 Peter 5 the analogy of a shepherd and flock is used to convey the relationship that exists between elder and congregation. I like the phrase ‘under your care’, as it conveys a watchful, loving relationship between shepherd and flock.
Peter includes further insights into the characteristics of an elder – three negatives, each followed by a positive. These involve being an elder (shepherd of God’s flock):
- not because you must, but because you are willing;
- not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve;
- not lording it over them, but being an example.
Imagine a church where the elders were forced to take on the role, where they were seeking to fulfil their own needs and where they thought of themselves as above contradiction. Not a good picture! Not a church we would wish to belong to!
Now think of a church where the elders have an enthusiasm for the role and enjoyment in what it involves, where they care for the needs of the flock above their own needs and where they set a good example to be followed. That is a church we want to belong to.
Pray for your church leaders that they may be good examples to those under their care. If you hold any position of leadership in the church, pray that you may be a good example to those around you.