Peter wrote to first-century church leaders in regard to the responsibility of caring for the flock of God. His words were words of wisdom and truth to the foundation of the Church, thus they are significant to the building of God’s Church in the generations of men. Peter, a sent authority (apostle) to the Church, understood that he was not just a sent authority, but also a fellow worker with those who held the responsibility of caring for the community of God. He saw himself as a fellow presbyter (elder) in taking care of those in the community of God that had been entrusted to his care. He wrote letters of instruction to the responsible leaders of his day, setting a foundation for instructions to the leaders of our day.
1 Peter 5:1-4 The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
When someone has been given the responsibility of leading in the community of God it is important for them to embrace all that goes with the task. Leaders must embrace the suffering of Christ and a partnership with the glory of God to be examples to and leaders in the community of Christ. Every leader must set an example in embracing the process of God’s grace in their own lives so that those they lead can also do the same. The suffering of Christ is not suffering for our own needs, but a willingness to lay our lives down for the sake of others. Leaders set an example in giving their lives for the sake of others. This empowers those they lead to do the same.
Suffering and pressure is part of the process of walking in the grace of God. As leaders in the body of Christ we are not just gifted to lead by the grace that is given to us in Christ, we are to also be examples of the character of Christ to those we lead. This is perhaps the greatest testimony of our leadership to the lives of those that we stand before in the spheres of our influence in life. The process of God’s grace in each of our lives is one of revealing the testimony of Christ in us. This means that the character, nature, way, power, and authority of Christ must become embodied in each of our lives. Whether it is the promises of God or the pressures of testing, both are part of a process in our lives that makes us partakers of God’s divine nature. The promises are the substance of life that He gives us and the pressures of testing are the proving of what is being given to us by God within our lives.
Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
The true test of what is in us is made known by the pressures that come against us from the outside sources of our lives. This dynamic of the inward life of Christ and the outward pressures upon our lives causes the testimony of Christ within us to become a force of life that changes the character of our lives. In this process of grace we face tribulations or pressures in life. All who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
2 Timothy 3:12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
Leaders must set an example that members of the community of Christ can follow. When we face the pressures of persecution we choose to persevere. Perseverance is not just a holding on to something in pain. It is a position of attitude from within our hearts. It is a choosing to cheerfully endure in the midst of the pressures that are against us. This is not just a thing of our soul. It requires us to draw from our spirits to receive the life of the Holy Spirit within our hearts. In the presence of the Lord there is the fullness of joy and true perseverance is drawing upon the presence of God in our hearts in order to see His life flood our souls with the testimony of true endurance. It is not a thing of misery, but a decision to embrace the life of Christ that is within us. True perseverance always carries the substance of a choice to be cheerful and to endure. It is a cheerful endurance. When we find the secret of true perseverance we discover the key to seeing the character of Christ in us manifest. Our own character changes by the life of the character of Christ within us. The beliefs of our hearts become transformed by His life within us and this empowers our actions to be those of the character of Christ. Those inspired actions activate the imaginations of our hearts. Our imaginations begin to create the truth of Christ and His kingdom that defy the pressures that oppose us. This in turn releases an influence of the change of character in our lies. This is seen as hope – a testimony of Christ in us revealed through the substance of our lives.
God appoints leaders in the expressions of His community in the earth to be shepherds of His flock. They are an example of the testimony of all that God is doing in their midst and they are those responsible to lead for the purpose of God in the community. Five-fold ministry should be a part of the governmental leadership of the local church. The character of elders and responsibility as the sent leaders to the local church body are what qualifies governmental leaders to lead. It is likely that the lead individual of a ministry could be an apostle and not a pastor by grace gift, since God is restoring the element of inheritance and the ‘sending forth’ of ministry to the church body. There may be many apostles by grace gift in the local house, but there is only one lead elder. Tradition has made the lead elder the senior pastor while other ministers within the local church have been known as associate pastors. It is perhaps more proper to refer to other five-fold elders as associate ministers or individual terms that describe their function in lieu of the traditional term “associate pastors”. There may be many associate ministers, but there should be one who is the senior leader. In the sense of responsibility, all of the overseeing elders are given the responsibility of pastors (shepherds) to the local flock and therefore are associate pastors together. It can be said that they collectively carry the responsibility of providing pastoral care to the flock and they work with one another in bearing that total responsibility.
Elders are a team called a presbytery. That presbytery is a team of proven leaders who have been appointed by God to govern the local church by serving them in ministering of the Word of God, the ministry of the Spirit, and the practical daily functioning of that body. They lead the local community by whole heartedly embracing all that the Holy Spirit is doing in the local community. This includes the direction of the Holy Spirit in becoming a corporate expression that releases a heavenly influence to and through the lives of those who have been joined together by God for His will and the influence of His kingdom to come into the earth. It also includes the character change and the substance of the expressed word being written by the Holy Spirit in their midst. God sends a leader to the leaders for this purpose and the leaders serve together in leading the community in a response of cooperation with the work of the Holy Spirit in their midst.
Food For Thought,
Ted J. Hanson