Jump Start # 2776
1 Peter 5:1 “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed”
Poor Peter. He probably wouldn’t cut it today. In the context of this passage, Peter addresses the office and work of elders or shepherds. They were the spiritual examples and leadership in a congregation. They were entrusted with leading and feeding the flock of God. They were to help others get to Heaven. Their role involved teaching, encouraging, warning and lifting weary hearts.
Our verse kicks off this section by revealing that Peter, himself, was a fellow elder. He was an apostle, a preacher and now, we learn, an elder. And, this is why I started with “Poor Peter.” Because in many congregations today, Peter would not be selected as an elder. Too many mistakes. A tainted past. A man who denied Jesus three times. As a Christian, he was rebuked by another apostle for being a hypocrite. And, in our world today, those things are not easily forgotten, let alone forgiven. And, I just wonder if that’s the reason so many men do not step up to be a leader among God’s people and why so many congregations do not have elders. We expect perfection. We bring up one’s past and never give a guy a chance to change. Once a hypocrite, always a hypocrite. Those would be the things said today.
I recently read a sad history of a congregation covering more than thirty years. Most of those years were without elders. The fussing, fighting, people leaving, preachers getting fired filled this account. The political maneuvering to get certain agendas passed and the near fist fights illustrated troubled hearts that needed leading. Yet, without qualified elders, it was these people who were setting the course of the congregation.
What a great question to consider, “Could Peter serve as an elder in the congregation you attend?” Could you forgive his denying? Could you give him a second chance on the hypocrisy?
Here are some things to keep in mind:
First, a man in his twenties is often not the same man who is in his forties or fifties. Life and the Scriptures have a way of setting our vision properly and building our character as the Lord wants. But too many won’t allow the man in his fifties to be the way he is today. They will forever remember the impetuous and fiery young man who often put his foot in his mouth. They may recall a man who for a period of time was weak and even in the wilderness spiritually. God allowed the prodigal to come home, but sometimes we won’t. We want to forever remember him as the guy who never attended much, even though that may have been two or three decades ago.
Second, we often begin with the premise that we must look and look into someone’s life and past until we find something amiss. Only when we can’t find anything, then, reluctantly, we must allow that person to serve as an elder. What a wrong and terrible way to consider a brother in Christ. Would you like someone to x-ray your life over and over until they uncovered something that doesn’t set well with them? It is amazing that in Acts 14, elders were appointed so soon after some of those congregations were established. Today, we assume a person must either grow up in the congregation or at the very minimum, be a member for decades before he would even remotely be considered to serve. They didn’t wait that long in Acts. Could it be we are adding our own criterial and qualifications to God’s list?
Third, because of a complete misunderstanding of the role of elders, some feel that they will lose control of the congregation if men are appointed. Such is a unbiblical thought. Serving as shepherds is nothing about power. It’s not about control. Any man who thinks he has the control of the congregation is in grave jeopardy of his soul. He is misusing people, passages and his influence in a manner that is not Scriptural and right. Leading is about helping people. It’s not about writing checks, barking out orders and being the top dog. It’s about teaching, showing, sharing the way of Christ. It’s about helping people be better. It’s about loving, forgiving and building souls for the Lord. Folks that say, “We don’t want elders here,” need to spend more time in their Bibles and get a clearer picture of what shepherding is all about.
Fourth, Peter wore many hats. He was an apostle. He was a preacher. And, from our verse, he was an elder. Too many hats for some. Pick one, some would say, not all of them. But it worked for Peter. He could do it and he did it well.
When a congregation appoints men into the role of elders, it ought to be one of the most joyous days for the congregation. It’s something for the history books. It’s a wonderful thing. And, for those who are currently serving in this role, you are showing others and giving them a taste of what it’s like. The horror stories of the past have come from men who didn’t serve well and from congregations who didn’t understand their relationship to elders. We ought to mentor young men into this role. We need to make serving in the kingdom one of the greatest things a person can do. The church needs great and powerful leaders today.
Peter as an elder. Sure is something to think about.