Shepherding and Being Shepherded
Shepherding and being Shepherded
1 Peter 5:1-11
Today I want to talk more about our church community, and what we want it to be like. I want to get into the topic of community in an unusual way. I have pastored in two very different cities over the past decade, and I have noticed two very different reactions to people when I tell them that I am a pastor. I don’t mention this to draw attention to myself or to seem offended by reactions, but I mention this as a way to explore what these reactions reveal about people’s view of the Christian life.
First, I was in Maryland and on the outer rim of the sprawl of Washington DC the culture was much more non-Christian. When I told people I was a pastor I would just get strange looks. It was typically followed up by a question like “What is that?” or “What do you do?” At times I felt like a unicorn that had been spotted. I couldn't tell if people wanted to shoot me or frame me. People were not sure what to make of it. I think this reaction reflected the culture in which most people had never been to a church or had never really been engaged in a religion enough to get to know the people or leaders of it. It was a foreign concept to many.
Moving to Atlanta and being back in the Bible belt I have found that I get a very different reaction. Most people know what a pastor is and are familiar with it. But it seems more often than not when I tell someone I am a pastor the follow up reaction is something like, an apology for something they just said or did. Usually after someone says a bad word, bad joke, or takes a sip of beer in jest they will say “You're not going to tell anyone about that, are you?”or “I know I shouldn’t do this but…” and then they will tell me what church they go to.
I frequently tell people don't change on account of me. And don’t be something you're not. But also know if you have questions about what I think or believe or what the Bible teaches then I’m always glad to talk about those.
What this reveals, is that I know this is wrong, but I'm doing it anyway, and I'm not worried what God thinks about it and I just want to be approved of by others. I think this reveals an approach to the Christian life that is satisfied with not following Christ as long as others think you are.
I don’t want us to be content to hide from others or to be less than genuine in our lives. The church community needs to be different from this. This distinction is what can set the church apart from the community and really let our light shine.
Today I want to talk about the Christian life and and how we relate to others and I want to do it through a focus on pastoral leadership and then I want to apply it in a broader way.
I want to look at a passage that helps us reflect on the leadership of others, ourselves, and also how the Christian life gets lived out.
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: 2 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; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 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." 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:1-11 ESV)
We are to shepherd and be shepherded with a pure commitment to the glory of Jesus. Impure motives lead to wrong acting and doing, and a fake community.
Two things for Leaders
This is to encourage or urge someone. We saw this last week in Romans 12:8. It’s a gift in the church. Think about those who lead and want to urge you to go a particular direction: It’s a hot summer day and the quarterback urges his teammates to keep working. The manager urges his people to work hard and keep pressing on. A political candidate urges his people to continue in the cause. That is leadership. It is important to urge and encourage.
Many times leaders think leadership is to demand and domineer. To force people to do things. That is not spiritual leadership. Notice for a minute this is Peter. He walked on water with Jesus. He saw him transfigured in glory. Called by Jesus himself to reach others. Shouldn’t Peter just come to these other elders and lay the smack down. Get in line or else!
He doesn’t do that. He positions himself not as above them but beside them. As a fellow elder, as a sharer in the glory to be revealed. He says not to be domineering.
Robin: Authority. Spiritual authority.
This is really the nature of shepherding. Shepherds: guide, care for, look after. He to whose care and control others have committed themselves,
A CEO who barks out commands. Military general does the same. That is not what shepherding is. That does not engage the heart and intellect. It creates outward conformity without inner devotion, and in church it creates fake facades. That is not what godly leadership is. Leaders care for people and work to get them to do what they should do.
How powerful is the way people live. You can either contradict or complement the message you preach.
Leaders are called to set an example (v). If you want to teach in the church you also have to look at how are you living. You can teach a message that if everyone did it the church is exploding, but if people follow your example is the church exploding or dying. As you lead in your work is the example you provide to others compelling? Never a perfect example but should be a sincere example.
I share this because we need leadership as a church. We need people setting an example with our vision of a church. Let’s encourage one another. Are you setting an example in loving God and neighbors. Let's talk about who’s your one. Talk about saving the lost.
I was with a group of pastors a few weeks ago and people were sharing what is going on with their church. It is a hard time for churches. People are not running into churches today. It can be discouraging. We don’t want to give up. We want to work harder and smarter and we want this to permeate our churches. If the church is going to move forward we need a body of people leading the way. We are going to need leaders who are doing these things genuinely and wholeheartedly. Leaders reflect the community they are a part of.
Two things for being led.
Be Eager to Learn
Eager to learn from others. This passage talks about elders being faithful with those under their care. To be faithful with someone under your care means someone needs to put themselves in a position of learning from you. It means you are looking to someone for advice, teaching, help. It means your not hiding from others.
“Not domineering over those entrusted to you,” (1Pe 5:3 NIV).
It is entrusting yourself to others. Looking to them for advice, teaching, encouragement. No trust then no guidance from others. Churchs are built on trust. There are a lot of reasons to lack trust today in church and everything else. But don’t let that keep you from pursuing the things God calls us to and the things he does to bless us. Let's get it right. Learning from one another and exhorting each other to the right things.
What does it look like to be pastored well. Listen to elders - hopefully you are hearing them say obey God’s word above mine. Individualism severs this relationship in so many ways.
Burnt and don't cook?
Now let me get to my goal in this. My goal is not to have everyone in the church coming to me for questions. My goal is for everyone in the church to have healthy circles of relational network where you are caring for others and being cared for. Are you hiding from others, or are you trusting them and seeking after guidance?
I want you to make the most of those relationships. Ask friends for advice. Ask good questions.
In the church there is the priesthood of all believers, so how are you making the most of the people around you?
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1Pe 2:9 ESV)
It’s not just are you hiding from pastors but are you hiding from the people near you. Do you have genuine relationships with people eagerly wanting to know God and do they know you. This is part of us having a Christian community. That we are helping, caring for each other.
So how do we do this? Let me give you one practical way.
-If you are lying or having to cover up then stop.-
Ask questions of others. Sometimes we struggle with things and don’t realize the people around us could help. Sometimes the people around us might have answers but are unwilling to share because they don't know if we are open to that. Asking good questions of those you trust and want to learn from.
Recently I was a part of some people working through organizational and relational issues and they were advised to present their issues to each other, but not in ultimatum, demands. The best way was as a question to better learn from the others. Not complaining “well everything is wrong and this person did that, my wife did this, and my business partner did this.” Those are true but what do you want me to do with that.
This is something that can change your relationships. It can change your church community. I want this to be in our small groups. Small groups are a time to study Bible and talk about mission. But they are also a time for us to go deep in our community with each other. Let's talk about what we really need prayer for. Go into it thinking about what you are struggling with and how you can get advice.
I want our groups to focus on applying God’s word. We can talk about the command to love others, but that will look very different for different people. How can I love my grandparents when they disapprove of my Christian faith. How can I love my boss when he is so degrading to everyone else. How can I love my father when he abused me. You have a discussion with a group of people and you are going to grow in so many ways. Don't need more to study, but to live out what you heard.
Same thing if we talk about anxiety and stress. Anxiety, be sober-minded, watchful, humble yourself. Resist the evil one. We have challenges and need help. Called to
Humbly. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (1Pe 5:5 ESV). Other things mentioned here are
Pride causes us to put up fronts. We live in an area where people work really hard at looking good. I was walking through downtown and stopped for a moment to notice how good looking everyone around me was, and I thought they work really hard at this. It comes to me naturally. I don’t want to judge but I think they would all say they spend a lot of time making sure things: hair, arms, legs, clothes, cars look good. We don’t like to look messy or ugly, so the thought telling another what is really going on is unsettling and maybe scary. But here is the thing. It is hard trying to be so hardcore all the time. It is tiring. It’s like walking around with your stomach sucked in and chest puffed out.
for waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers. (Pro 24:6 NIV)
God knows all that you do. He knows who you are. Why try and pretend to be something you are not. Why cover up our blemishes, let's try and remove them with all their roots. Pretending is hypocrisy.
I fear for the church today. I fear many who have been in churches, led churches, are playing games with God. Some have grown up disliking Jesus because you’ve seen your family work so hard to be one way on Sunday that is so different from all the other days. That's a lie. If you do that then you are a hypocrite and you should humble yourself under God’s mighty hand and repent in fear and trembling.
There is help when we trust ourselves to others. We see that in this passage. “Same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brothers throughout the word (5:9).” The people Peter is writing to were suffering for their faith, and he is encouraging them. If we are eager to know God we will find out we are not alone in our suffering.
Someone sharing relational struggles. Everyone else understands.
It is a lie of the devil that tells you everyone else is OK. And that lie could destroy you. It will keep you from getting help. It will keep you from getting advice and encouragement and prayer. It cuts you off from others. I want us to have small groups where we can talk about these things and get help. Parenting.
Restoration. We believe God works in our lives and works through others. They were experiencing restoration. Who better to know that we can experience restoration than Peter. He turned his back on the Lord but Jesus forgave him and brought him back to the fold. Have you ever noticed how transparent Peter is about his struggles, his doubts, his disappointments.
B. Pursue God.
Community is not the goal. The goal is to know God. Sometimes people preach on community and it sounds like community is our savior. That is a surefire way to be destined for failure. Marriage problems join a small group. Don’t know what to do career wise then join a small group. So much practical advice in a multitude of ways comes out of small groups, but it is not the Savior.
Notice in this passage “He will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1Pe 5:10 ESV). It is God who restores.
Let's humble ourselves and be genuine in our walk with God and others. Let's help people cut off from the church. People who lost faith, disobeyed. People who have disappointed and hurt you. Let's bring them back in. Let's encourage them. Set an example of love and genuineness. We all need bringing back in from time to time.
Many people are struggling with others because you are not following the chief shepherd. God uses other people.
Put aside your pride that won't let others in. Put aside your individualism that is leaving you alone and dying. Put aside your rejection of God’s word. Follow him. Trust him.
How does this passage encourage you in being a spiritual leader?
How does this passage encourage you to be shaped by others?
How does shepherding and being shepherded lead to a distinct and redemptive church community?