Text — I Peter 5:1-11
Subject — Congregational Care
Theme — The characteristics of congregational care
Proposition — The characteristics of congregational care should create within us certain expectations for Elders and Churches
General requirement for Christians to shepherd one another
1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6)
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Rom. 12)
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (I John 3)
8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (I Pt.)
6 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
Of course all of this implies a certain involvement in one another’s lives that extends beyond a couple hours on Sunday. This would have been perhaps more common in First century churches since those Churches were completely local and people schedules during the week weren’t enhanced by automobiles. These passages came home to these people because these people were neighbors.
However, beyond the general care that was to be the privilege and responsibility of every Christian there was laid upon certain men the charge of a particular care for the household of God. (Titus 1:5, Acts 14:23)
These men were called Elders, Pastors, Presbyters or Bishops. Some of them were given the general charge of care while to others of them were added the responsibility of teaching. The unique responsibility of these men was to be to the small congregations what a Shepherd was to a flock of sheep. As a shepherd was to look over the well being of his sheep — protecting them, leading them to feed and water, tending to their cares and hurts, — so the Shepherds of the congregation were to protect God’s people, be instrumental in their spiritual feeding and watering, and be among them to tend to their cares and hurts. As a Shepherd loved his flock, so the Elders were to love the congregation.
Here Peter deals with the issue of Elders and as he deals with the issue of Elders we would do well to understand that when we consider Congregational life, both now and in our future — Peter teaches us what we should expect from the Elders of a congregation.
As Peter inks this exhortation he reminds them of his position.
a.) Fellow Elder — Interesting that Peter merely names himself as one such as they
b.) Witness of Sufferings of Christ — Mark of Apostleship
c.) Partaker of glory — Note Present tense
Peter clearly teaches here that the Elders have a leadership position. As Shepherds, they are to be overseers.
This metaphor of Shepard is not unique to Peter though Jesus did say to Peter directly that Peter was to … “Feed Christ’s Sheep.” Throughout Scripture we find this metaphor of Shepherd used to describe God’s leaders.
God Himself is addressed as a Shepherd in Psalm 80
1 Hear us, Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who sit enthroned between the cherubim,
In Ezekial the leaders are upbraided for being lousy Shepherds
1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?
Similar language is used in Jeremiah 23
And the theme of Shepherd is picked up in the Psalms, Ezra, Zechariah and other books.
When you turn to the NT Jesus is the good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep and Peter notes here is the Great Shepherd.
So, when Peter turns to this metaphor he is turning to one that has a long and storied history in the Hebrew mind. Shepherds are to be God’s overseer’s who are answerable to God.
We should say at the outset that this call to Shepherding implies immediately the tenderest of relationships between the shepherd and his flock. It is true that the Shepherds are the overseers but they are overseeing they whom they love as their own and when you get right down to it they are but Sheep themselves who have need of being shepherded.
Peter gets to the nitty gritty of this Shepherding matter when he turns to give some qualifiers of what he is expecting in Shepherds. What I find so fascinating about this list is how resilient it remains some 2000 years later.
I.)Shepherd Characteristic #1 — Shepherding is done willingly (not by compulsion)
This is a implicit warning against laziness in the ministry
The ministry requires great effort on those who take it up effectively. You must become an expert in theology, people skills, you must become proficient in the languages, you must know your Bible, history, economics, sociology, law, etc.
Then on top of this you must be involved in the lives of your people as much as possible.
It is not the physical labor of the factory worker, or the meticulous skills of the airline agent, but it is work none the less… and hard work at that.
II.)Shepherd Characteristic # 2 — Shepherding is done eagerly (not for dishonest gain)
This is a implicit warning against greed in the ministry
I probably don’t need to go into all the stories about greed in the ministry.
Greed is a great hindrance to the ministry, not only for what it will cause men to do in order to get gain, but also for what it will cause men not to do or say in order to get gain.
Often, men who are in the ministry for gain will not say those things that need to be said for fear of losing profits by speaking against the wickedness of our times, or by speaking against some sin in a congregation.
III.) Shepherd Characteristic # 2 — Shepherding is done by example
This is a implicit warning against power tripping in the ministry
Calvin offers that one way power tripping is seen is by Pastors exempting themselves from the expectations that are laid upon the flock.
There is a danger among Christian Churches today to do a kind of Hollywood model of ministry where some Rock Star becomes the Pastor and the congregation becomes a bunch of groupies and woe be unto anybody who questions the Rock Star to closely. Often in these kinds of Churches there is a kind of ecclesiastical tyranny that goes on in the leadership as the great leader’s whims becomes diktat.
Instead what Peter offers in place of that is rule by example. The Shepherds do not pronounce edicts that everyone must follow upon pain of ex-communication or shunning but rather they set the example to be followed or not followed.
Shepherding, by its very definition is not done by driving people. Besides, quality people can’t be driven and when you try to drive them you’ll just get (and deservedly so) revolt.
The model here is example …
Jesus washing the feet of the Disciples (Jn. 13).
Jesus casting aside his privilege in order to serve (Phil. 2:5-11)
Jesus warning against the Political model of Leadership (Mark 10:42-45)
As an Elder you have to be willing, in most cases, to state your concerns to people without demanding of people that it is your way or else.
The phrase … “Those entrusted to you” is interesting because it reminds Shepherds that they are responsible for a particular flock.
Of course we know that the end of all this Shepherding was Jesus Christ. The Shepherd’s chief responsibility was feeding and watering their people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ which proclaims forgiveness of sins, and standing with God, and the rest and peace that comes from that. The Chief role of the Shepherd was to herald the good news of Jesus Christ for sinners. The chief role of the Shepherd was to speak up both the objectivity of the Gospel which is Christ for us and the subjective consequence of the Gospel which is Christ renewing us by His Spirit and His Law-Word.
The under-shepherd is to remind people who God declares us to be and what we can’t help but become in light of God’s Declaration.
The fullness of the Reward is delayed — vs. 4