WHAT THE CHURCH NEEDS IN TIMES OF TRIALS
1 PETER 5: 1-5
What do Christians need in times of trials?
What does the church need while it lives as exiles in a hostile land?
Peter here gives us a prescription for a church which is going through trials:
In times of trials the church needs, the elders who will shepherd and the flock who will submit, all in a spirit of mutual humility.
The churches to which Peter wrote were facing intense persecution (“fiery trials,” 4:12). In this section, Peter instructs the Church as to what type of elder/shepherd that is needed to assure its survival during difficult days. It focuses primarily on the elders, since strong pastoral leadership is essential. But there is also a word for the rest of the flock. Peter’s closing section is the call of God to every Christian to be subject to the shepherds that lead. He gives us proper Church structure that God has set in place for the good of His people. And, the whole process must be wrapped in what is arguably the main Christian virtue, humility.
There are three things that the church need in times of trials or lives as exiles in a hostile land:
1. In times of trials the Church needs the elders who will shepherd the flock (5:1-4)
2. In times of trials the Church needs the flock who will submit to the elders (5:5a).
3. In times of trials the Church needs everyone to relate to one another in a spirit of humility (5:5b).
1. In times of trials the Church needs the elders who will shepherd the flock (5: 1-4).
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder
Peter here connects his ministry with the elders. The title elder means overseer or shepherd/pastor. The terms elder, pastor and overseer are used interchangeably in the Bible. This term elder greatly described Peter’s ministry. This is why he calls himself a fellow elder.
a. Who are the elders?
Many people think of elders as old men. Was Peter addressing an age group? Elders are not necessarily older men. Elders are the spiritual leaders of the local church. Many spiritual leaders are older men, but chronological age does not necessarily equal spiritual maturity. We see this when Paul wrote to Timothy, in the books of 1 and 2 Timothy. Timothy was a young man but he pastored churches. He was one of the elders. Paul even told Timothy to make sure people did not look down on him because of his age. Elders are the spiritual leaders of a church. They are not necessarily older men.
b. What are the qualifications of an elder?
The Bible gives these qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. I encourage you to read those qualifications. The qualifications pertain to someone’s life, character, reputation, gifting and spiritual maturity.
It isn’t just who wins a Bible trivia contest or even has gone to a Bible College. Spiritual leadership is not just knowledge, it is character.
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed:
We learned that there are none in the Church exempt from suffering. The elders must shepherd the flock even if they too are suffering. We partake in His suffering and then we partake of His glory.
As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:17 (ESV)
17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.
c. An Elder’s Duties (2–3)
God shows us what kind of shepherds He’s looking for.
2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,
● Shepherd the flock of God among you.
The work of an elder is the work of a shepherd.
He is to feed the sheep on the riches of God’s sustaining word and the true bread of Jesus Christ.
He is to lead the sheep
away from the deserts of self-help and autonomous self-rule,
to lead them away from the sheer, deadly cliffs of false saviors and idols—and
lead them to the green pastures of God’s salvation and divine wisdom in Christ.
He is to protect the sheep from wolves in sheep’s clothing—rightly dividing the Word of God in order to identify those peddling false doctrine and false gospels.
The ministry is therefore not a place for lazy men who will not study to show himself a workman approved to handle and carefully divide the divine Word.
When men who ought not be shepherds become shepherds, the sheep become prey to wolves. And the Lord hates it, and he is against such false shepherds - (Ezekiel 34:1–10).
Example of Jesus in the Gospel: “Sheep without shepherd”
Peter defines not only the activity of an elder—shepherding sheep—but also the object of that activity. The pastoral call isn’t a call to shepherd “the flock of God,” but rather, “shepherd the flock of God that is among you.”
This is the local church language. There is a massive, complicated, diverse, global, trans-temporal thing called “the flock of God,” and then there is a small, local, gathered flock called “the local flock.” The elder is responsible to the second, not the first; Jesus is the Shepherd of the first.
I am responsible, rather, to shepherd and keep watch over those among that big group who are sheep, that is, Christians, and who have entrusted themselves to this local church as their church—who are members of it in the most biblical sense of the Word.
The second duty of the shepherd, from verse 2, is to…
● Shepherd the flock through exercising oversight.
This duty is one of the reasons why a local church ought to be governed, whenever possible, by a plurality of qualified elders. By that, I mean that the local church should have multiple elders ruling together rather than a single elder trying to do everything.
All elders must be able to teach and must oversee and manage well—starting in their own households.
The word translated “oversight” in the ESV here is the word that also gives us the words “bishop” and “episcopal.” The idea is an organizing guardianship, caring for souls and guarding them through proper managing oversight.
d. The Elder’s attitude or Mindset as they shepherd or oversee
The elder must follow Christ’s example of leading.
The Elder Serves Willingly Not Under Compulsion
not under compulsion, but willingly
The godly elder doesn’t serve because he has to or is forced to but because he loves Christ and His Church. The undershepherd is to oversee and lead like Jesus did. Jesus was never forced to do anything but led because He wanted to, out of love for His Father and for people.
God doesn’t want men leading the church who view church leadership as a joyless duty. He wants men filled with excitement for the opportunity to serve Jesus by shepherding God’s flock. Pray that God would raise up more of these kinds of men at New City Imphal. Men who lead not because they have to but because they understand it is a privilege. They want to lead. Leaders in the church should not feel it is a duty or inconvenience to serve but it is an honor.
Why is this important? If you don’t see shepherding as a privilege, you won’t be a good shepherd. Your poor attitude will come out in everything you do. If you are a pastor or leader or if you are a Sunday School teacher or you lead on the worship team and you view your service in the church as a grudging job not a privilege and a joy, you are in a very dangerous place. Your attitude will leak. It will hurt the sheep. Does that mean spiritual leadership is always easy? Of course not. We must always keep the mindset that it is a privilege to serve God by serving his people.
The Elder Serves Eagerly Not for Financial Gain
not for shameful gain, but eagerly;
Those who serve as the leaders within the Church should not be motivated by financial gain. A godly shepherd is not a hired hand but one who truly loves the flock.
John 10:11–14 (ESV)
11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me
If an elder serves for the money he will leave at the first sign of hard times. So, a godly elder serves the flock like Christ did, not as a hireling.
If you are a spiritual leader, you must serve for what you can give to people, not for what you can get from them. God doesn’t want spiritual leaders who think of the church as a way to stroke their ego or enrich their pockets.
Serving eagerly means serving people because you want to give to them, not because you want to gain from them.
Some people read this and believe pastors shouldn’t be paid. It says the church is not a place for shameful gain. It doesn’t say the church is not a place for honest gain. From the very beginning of the church we find pastors and church leaders were paid so they could devote more of their time to shepherding the church.
Galatians 6:6: Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.
1 Corinthians 9:7 : Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?
Churches have a responsibility to care for their shepherds, that includes paying them for their work. Pastors are to serve for honest gain to enable them to serve people.
The Elder Leads Lovingly Not by Control
not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
There is a world of difference between sacrificial service and forceful authority. Jesus led by love and example and that’s how elders are to lead and serve.
Mark 10:45 (ESV)
45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Domineering is asserting your will over others by throwing your weight around. Domineering is acting as a spiritual bully. There is no room for this in the church.
Church leaders are not to lead by their position of authority but by the Word of God and the example of their lives. The goal is that spiritual leaders say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”
1 Corinthians 4:16: I urge you, then, be imitators of me.
My desire is that all the pastors, elders, Leadership Team, greeters, ushers, and New City Sunday School teachers all lead by example. We should never ask people to do things we are not willing to do or are not already doing ourselves.
e. The Elder’s Reward - The Unfading Crown of Glory.
4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
Shepherding God’s people can be a tiring job. It can involve evenings away from home. It involves ugly messes like trying to reconcile a divorce. Spiritual leadership usually means lots of earthly work with little earthly reward. Peter wanted those who shepherd the people of God to realize that when Jesus, the chief shepherd, returns, he will reward those who shepherd his people. He will reward us with the unfading crown of glory. We don’t know exactly what that looks like but it looks pretty good.
While spiritual leadership doesn’t have much earthly pay, the retirement package is out of this world.
2. In times of trials the Church needs the flock who will submit to the elders (5:5a).
5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.
This translation is good but somewhat confusing today. Peter is not saying that younger people are subject to the elder as in age. The original language literally means that all who are not elders in the Church be subject to those who are.
One scholar writes, The term neoteroi (younger) therefore refers to those who were not elders, that is to say all other Church members.
Hebrews 13:17 (ESV)
17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
If you desire to grow as a Christian; If you desire for the Church to be effective; if you desire a healthy Church; then your role is to follow consistently and obey what the elders of the Church teach and counsel you. Your life will be so much better, the Church so much healthier when you listen to the instruction of the Church leadership.
What does this kind of following look like? How do you support the elders of New City Imphal?
Attend Church Regularly
You, as a member of the church, are responsible to attend church regularly. Scripture could not be clearer about this fundamental responsibility so that you can give yourself to love and good works and encouragement.
Hebrews 10:24–25 (ESV)
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Pray for the Church Leadership Every Day
Pray that we are following Christ like we should. Pray that we are fulfilling our god given tasks to our utmost ability for His glory and your good. Pray for the worship services, sermons, music, visits, discipleship, etc. Pray consistently for the elders.
Follow Your Leaders
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
Christian, this means that you’re responsible to avail yourself of the elders’ instruction and counsel. Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching you’ve learned from them (2 Tim. 1:13). Follow their teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, love, and endurance, along with their persecutions and sufferings (2 Tim. 3:10–11).
Give generously to the ministry of the church
3. In times of trials The Church needs everyone to relate to one another in a spirit of humility (5:5b).
5 Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
In order to do this, you must, as Peter writes, Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another. Literally make humility your garment so that you will be a good follower of the Great Shepherd and then of the under shepherds you have in this Church.
“Clothe” is a unique word that refers to an apron which a servant would put on before doing his tasks. No doubt Peter was recalling Jesus taking the towel and washing the disciples’ feet. Humility (lit., “lowliness of mind”) is the robe with which we all must clothe ourselves.
Humility is being aware of our own insufficiency, but trusting in Christ’s all-sufficiency.
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
The way to be the object of His grace is to humble yourself before Him and before others. It also is the chief virtue for harmonious relationships in the church.
As you are subject to the leaders God will also be at work in your life. God is looking for good Church members who in humility follow their leadership. God is looking for good Church leaders who in humility follow Jesus’ leadership.