Monday, October 3, 2011

A Leader Worth Following

And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly-- not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don't lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor. 1 Peter 5:1-4
The next crown in this series is the crown of glory, also known as the shepherd's or elder's crown. This crown is for those who have served as leaders within the church, such as pastors and elders, as well as for those who have been committed to supporting and lifting up those leaders.

Just like any other crown that we've seen thus far, there are certain criteria and standards that people who receive this crown must have strived for. Simply being in a position of leadership within your church will not entitle you to this crown; you must aim to be the type of leader that God calls you to be. We can't fool God. He sees the heart, and he is a just God. He isn't going to pat us on the back and say, "Well done, good and faithful servant" if we didn't do anything in our life worthy of that commendation.

1 Peter 5:1-4 gives us a few criteria for our leaders (and supporters) to follow in order to earn this crown:

1. "A witness to the sufferings of Christ" (v.1): As a leader in the church, and as one who actively supports our leaders, we all need to be prepared for the trials and tribulations that WILL come. It's not a matter of if, but of when and how. The way that we respond to those attacks when they come will be what determines how effective we are as leaders. As someone in a position of leadership, many eyes will be on you, watching and waiting to see whether or not you practice what you preach when that loved one gets sick, when the money just isn't there, when the enemy wrecks havoc.

2. "Care for the flock... willingly, not grudgingly-- not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God." (v.2): Be a willing servant-- The Lord loves a cheerful giver! Our leaders need to have hearts that are excited to be doing what they're doing. This doesn't mean that you don't have hard days, that you don't get tired, that you don't ever need a break... but leaders in the church need to be joyful in what they are doing. And they can't be motivated by human praise, popularity or position. As always, in everything we do, we need to be doing everything unto the Lord, for His praise and approval, for His eyes only, for Him to reward in His time. Remember that whatever praise we receive now will be all the reward we get for that service. It's the ones that get neglected, looked over, ignored, and forgotten that God has seen and that God will reward!

3. "Don't lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example." (v.3): It can be very easy to allow a position of leadership to go to your head, causing you to feel a sense of superiority. We have to be careful to remember that we are all sinners, we are all broken, and we are all redeemed by nothing but the blood of Jesus. The ground is level at the foot of the cross! It is not our job to make people into what we think they should be; it is the job of leaders to set a righteous example. And, ultimately, in following the footsteps of Christ, we MUST be servants if we ever expect to be effective leaders! "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matt. 20:28

So, what about the rest of us? What if we're not in a position of leadership? Here are some simple ways we can offer support to those in leadership over us:

  • Pray! As always, prayer is a mighty weapon against the enemy, and our leaders, more than anyone, desperately need our prayer for protection, provision, and encouragement!
  • Give! Financial giving is a wonderful form of worship, and it doesn't have to stop with "tithing". Give as the Lord leads you. Maybe he's leading you to give to a specific ministry. Maybe he's leading you to give a little extra anonymous gift to your pastor or another leader in your church.
  • Serve! Serve in the church through an organized ministry. Or maybe God is calling you to serve your pastor and his wife by cleaning their house, by babysitting their kids so they can go on a date, by cooking them a meal... the possibilities are endless!
If we are faithful, as leaders AND as supporters, to follow these criteria in all that we do in support of the church, we can rest assured that "when the Great Shepherd appears, [we] will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor." Now, that's something to get excited about!!

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