The text in front of us today is a brief instruction on how to be a faithful leader. Leadership is tough; it can be lonely, frustrating and downright discouraging in some seasons. But leadership can also be fulfilling, exciting and downright exhilarating. In leadership you often have a front row seat to some of the most horrific things in people’s lives, but you also have a front row seat to some of the most miraculous things in people’s lives.
Think about your role in leadership for a minute. You may not be a CEO of a company or a boss with employees or an elder or a deacon in a church, but the responsibility of leadership is something that is shared by all of us. Your role in leadership is directly tied to whatever you are responsible for. You may be responsible for your children, your spouse, your friends, your vocation or some defined area of responsibility in this church or another organization but at the end of the day we all have responsibilities, therefore we are all leaders and faithful leaders are in short supply these days.
I do not think I am over exaggerating when I say that the world, we live in is in desperate need of faithful leadership. And I also think that the church should be at the front of the pack in her support of representatives who actually meet the biblical criteria of faithful leadership. What the world does not need right now is another entity (namely the church) willingly turning a blind and compromising eye to characteristics in leaders that grieve the heart of God. This is why I think Peter addresses the elders, pastors, shepherds, leaders of the church in this passage.
Peter has just said that “it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God” (1 Pet. 4:17). When you evaluate and correct a family living in a household you start at the top; you start with the parents because ultimately parents are the leaders of the household. In the same way, Peter naturally moves into giving instructions on how to be a faithful leader because he knows that corrective judgment in the household of God must begin with her leaders.2
Leaders go first; they lead the charge; they inspire others to follow in their footsteps; they influence the direction of the family or the organizations they serve in. There will never be a moment this side of Heaven where an organization or a family unit does not need to be evaluated and corrected; faithful leadership must constantly be developed therefore Peter lays down some fairly basic instructions on how to lead faithfully. Look at the text with me…
1 PETER 5:1 – 7
1So 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: 2shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. 6Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.
#1: FAITHFUL LEADERS ARE TEAM PLAYERS (V. 1)
We all know that there is no “I” in team. One of the most destructive characteristics of an unfaithful leader is the evidence of self-centeredness and egotistical pride. We most often think of this destructive kind of leader as the one who is the loudest, always talks about himself and his accomplishment. But let’s not forget that the leader who sits on the sidelines quietly pouting because he does not get his way is also a self-centered and egotistical pride-filled leader. Whether you are loud or quiet is not the issue; the issue is whether or not you are a team player.
Notice how Peter is a team player in the first verse of our text when he says, “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” (1 Pet. 5:1). What is Peter doing here? Peter is identifying himself as a “fellow elder” who personally watched Jesus suffering at the cross as a perfect and faithful substitute for unfaithful leaders.
Let’s not forget that Peter’s experience of the crucifixion was from the sidelines as a leader who denied even knowing Jesus and yet Peter says that he is a fellow shareholder in the promise of Christ’s return. Peter is a faithful leader who knows what it is like to totally fail in the team playing leadership category, but he has also experienced the transforming effects of the grace of the crucified, risen and returning Christ.
#2: FAITHFUL LEADERS ARE GOOD EXAMPLES (VV. 2 – 4)
It does not matter what sector of the world you evaluate right now; it is very hard to find faithful leaders who are good examples. From the White House to the church house to the family house, good examples are hard to find. And Christians are oftentimes just as guilty of failing to be good examples in this world while pointing the finger at everything in pop-culture that is unholy.
I believe Peter knew just how easy it would be for believers to be consumed with making war upon the culture in the name of preservation or transformation while totally undermining their own efforts by their own bad examples. Once again, let’s not forget that Peter was a well-known leader in Jesus’ crew who was oftentimes consumed with making war against the culture because he believed that Jesus was going to overthrow the current social and political rulers.
I do not think that Peter ever foresaw the night of Christ’s crucifixion coming; the cross rocked his world, and his picture of faithful leadership was transformed through his own failures as he came face to face with the sacrificial grace of the crucified, risen and returning Christ.
Peter’s leadership was transformed from the self-centered, self-preserving, self-promoting, egotistical, power hungry, cowardly realm of the world he lived in. Peter became a leader who was known for self-sacrifice, humility, servanthood and courage because he had caught the vision of a kingdom and a shepherding Savior who is not part of this world.
Peter quite simply became a faithful leader, by the grace of God, who was a good example, which is why he possessed the moral and the spiritual authority to instruct the leaders of the church to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Pet. 5:2 – 4).
I have always said that you cannot give what you do not have. If you do not possess the characteristics of a faithful leader then you cannot pass those character traits along to others. As I have already said, Peter had not always possessed the character traits of a faithful leader, especially when it pertains to being a good example. But because Peter had met the crucified, risen and returning Christ, he had been transformed into a faithful leader who was a good example.
Peter was able to give away what he had received: he was able to instruct the leaders in the church to be shepherds of the sheep that had been purchased by the blood of Jesus. He was able to instruct them to lead with energy and zeal not because they begrudgingly had to, but because the cross of Christ had created a deep convicting want to.
He was able to instruct them to lead faithfully, not for what they would get out of the leadership experience (such as fame, fortune or friendships) and certainly not as abusive, manipulative bullies with underlying self-serving motivations, but as good examples who know that their rewards in heaven will far surpass the rotting rewards of this earth.
A leader who lives in the shadow of the bloody cross, in the doorway of the empty tomb, with the promise of eternity in heaven in the pocket of his heart… this leader will be faithful in his example because his model of leadership (in politics, in the home, in the city, in the church, etc.) has been radically transformed by the example of the chief Shepherd who gave his life for filthy, rotten, rebellious, back-stabbing, run-away sheep. What does the picture of our perfect Shepherd giving his life away for run-away sheep do for you? For me, it is deeply humbling which leads me to the last point.
#3: FAITHFUL LEADERS ARE SUBMISSIVE AND HUMBLE (VV. 5 – 7)
The model of leadership we see all over the place is the kind of leadership that is full of self-centered pride and self-advancing ego. Men lead their wives to get sex, women serve their families to gain affection, politicians seek seats of influence to gain power, CEO’s rule their companies with iron fists while lining their bank accounts with the profits of other people’s labor, and church leaders spiritually manipulate their flocks so they can spend their time flying around in personal jets in their thousand-dollar suits while staying in million-dollar hotels.
The world around us does not have a thing to offer when it comes to the picture of faithful leadership that submits in humility to a power that is bigger than itself. But Peter had experienced the bottomless pit of leadership according to the world’s values and he knew what it meant to be a faithful leader who was submitted in humility to the sacrificial King of the universe.
This is why Peter could say, “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:5 – 7). Peter knew what it was like to be a proud leader who had been humbled by his own sin and then simultaneously exalted by a Savior who joyfully submitted to the will of the Father in a horrific death on a cross for his enemies so that they could become family. What else could motivate a sin-filled person to submit in humility?
I think the key in all of this, is the final phrase of our text where Peter basically wraps everything up in neat little package when he says that faithful leaders can be team playing good examples who submit in humility as they practice casting all their “anxieties on him because he cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7).
Worry is a powerful motivator that has the ability to totally destroy a leader. Think about all of the stupid decisions you and I can make because of a little dose of worry. Worrying about finances can cause you to overwork and neglect other important things. Worrying about whether or not someone loves you can cause you to manipulate people. Worrying about your child or a friend who is making bad life decisions can cause you to fly off the handle in anger. Worrying about how bad you might fail in a dating relationship can cause you to live a life in secret bondage to pornography. Worrying about whether or not you will say the right things can cause you to stay silent when you need to speak against evil.
Worry is a powerful motivator that can totally destroy a leader’s ability to be a team player, to be a good example and to be submissive and humble. But the beauty of this text is that the author, Peter, failed in all of the instructions he gives here, but it did not stop him from giving the instructions he gave. Why? Because he had learned the secret of casting all of his worry upon the whip-scarred shoulders of a Savior who cared for him enough to go to the cross in his place, to die a sinner’s death for him, to leave the tomb empty three days later and to give him the promise of eternity with a Father who cares for him despite his failures.
Has your leadership been infected with worry? The Father cares for you and his shoulders are big enough to carry your doubt and your fears. Have you struggled with being a team player because you have been too worried about yourself? The Father cares for you and his shoulders are big enough to carry your doubt and your fears. Have you failed at being a good example of a faithful leader in your home or your marriage or your relationships or your workplace? The Father cares for you and his shoulders are big enough to carry your doubts, your fears and even your biggest failures. Have you struggled with being submissive and humble because you are worried about protecting your own lot in life? The Father cares for you and his shoulders are big enough for anything you bring to him.
I pray that you would find grace and mercy for your worry at the foot of the cross. I pray that you would find encouragement and strength in the doorway of the empty tomb. I pray that you would find courage and joy in the promise of Heaven.
Leadership is lonely. Leadership is hard. Leadership is a daily grind that does not always produce immediate results. But if you cast all of your anxiety on him who cares for you, you will find the grace to lead faithfully as a team player, as a good example, as a submissive and humble person in the shadow of the bloody cross, in the doorway of the empty tomb in light of the hope of heaven. – Amen?
1 Unless otherwise specified, all Bible references in this paper are to the English Standard Version Bible, The New Classic Reference Edition (ESV) (Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, 2001).
2 David R. Helm, 1 – 2 Peter and Jude: Sharing Christ’s Sufferings (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2008), 158.