Lessons 41—Calling All Ministers
Scripture: 1 Peter 5:1-4
Lesson Goal: To learn the calling and responsibilities placed upon pastors and pastoral staff.
As we begin the final chapter of 1 Peter, we find Peter turning toward a topic different than any presented in the previous four chapters. He begins chapter five with a special exhortation to the leadership of the church, specifically pastors. Peter uses imagery much more familiar to the first century church than to most of us today—the imagery of sheep (flock) and the shepherd. To understand this imagery, let us look at the words of W. Phillip Keller in his masterpiece book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. Keller writes, “It is no accident that God has chosen to call us sheep; the behavior of sheep and human beings is similar in many ways….Sheep do not just take care of themselves as some might suppose. They require, more than any other class of livestock, endless attention and meticulous care.” Please read Isaiah 53:6 and Matthew 9:36. We must remember the importance of these truths at all times, but especially when the church is standing against intense persecution. The leadership must be strong during the time of attack and when threatened by the world and the forces of evil.
(Verse 1) “The elders who are among you I exhort.”
John MacArthur explains that there are three New Testament terms used interchangeably referring to these men: elder (Greek presbuterion), bishop or overseer (episkopos), and pastor (poimēn). Elder emphasizes the spiritual maturity necessary for such ministry; bishop or overseer states the responsibility of guardianship; pastor is the word shepherd and expresses the priority duty of feeding or teaching the truth of God’s Word. Elders are the spiritually mature who have exemplified true Christian character empowered by the Holy Spirit. At all times, but certainly during times of persecution and threat, the leadership of the church should be at its best.
Peter says of himself: “I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ.” He describes himself as “a fellow elder,” not, as William MacDonald says, “some supreme pontiff of the church.”
“a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory to be revealed”
Peter had personally been a witness to the sufferings of Jesus. He had been with Him in Gethsemane. He had followed from a distance during those first hours of Jesus’ torment at the hands of evil men. He had seen the blood, beatings, and bruises. He knew the horror of the crucifixion. He had witnessed the “sufferings of Christ, but as we have already learned in our study of 1 Peter, the sufferings of Christ are always followed by the mention of His glory. Jesus is now seated in glory at the mighty right hand of the Father.
(Verse 2) “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you.” The pastor/shepherd is to feed, protect, guide and pray for the flock. The Lord had called Peter to be a fisherman of men (see Matthew 4:19), and later called him to be a shepherd (see John 21:15-19). “The task of the shepherd carries with it an unequalled responsibility before the Lord. While it includes the positive elements of spiritual leadership toward maturity and Christlikeness and spiritual guardianship to protect the flock, its chief objective is the feeding of the flock” (MacArthur). The greatest responsibility of the shepherd is to preach and teach the truth of God’s Word. “In the spiritual care of God’s children, the feeding of the flock from the Word of God is the constant and regular necessity; it is to have foremost place” (W. E. Vines).
(Verse 2b) “not by compulsion but willingly, not by dishonest gain but eagerly”
Compulsion implies doing something by force. May 30, 2013 marked thirty years of fulltime ministry for me. Throughout those years, I have witnessed many fine men and great pastors become exhausted mentally, physically and spiritually. This exhaustion often leads to fulfilling their ministries by compulsion. The joy in serving is removed and replaced by a sense of duty, force and obligation. Often, because of unrealistic expectations placed upon them, pastoring becomes a chore. This can lead to a loss of motivation and enthusiasm and even bring on depression. I also understand that through the years there have been those who have abused the privilege of pastoring by being lazy. Some sleep late, drink coffee with a select few until midmorning, lunch again with the elected ones, pick up the kids from school, minister to the other threesome with nine holes of golf, and at the end of the day declare themselves worn out because of the rigors of ministry. These few individuals give ministry a bad name. Some dear folks already believe that pastors only work 3 to 4 hours a week. Lazy ministers just reinforce this line of thinking.
Most of the pastors I consider my close friends do just the opposite of those lazy pastors. They often work hard thankless hours, trying to fulfill the expectations of the flock. They run full throttle day after day, not taking time for their families or themselves. I have tried to help our staff of pastors, and they are pastors, to know that there is not merit in killing themselves through exhaustion and neglecting their families in the name of ministry. As a pastor (staff), it is a great responsibility to shepherd the flock of God, but it is a responsibility that comes with great joy and blessing.
(Verse 3) “not as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” Pastors are not to have a domineering spirit. They are to lead by example, not by domination. In order to lead others well, a pastor must first learn to follow well. In order to lead others effectively, one must daily follow Jesus. To follow Jesus closely, one must spend quality time with Him. For me, this is one of the most challenging aspects of ministry. After thirty years, I am still trying to learn how to spend prayer closet time, sit aside study time with Him, and fulfill all my responsibilities as pastor.
(Verse 4) Brackin paraphrase: “One day it will be worth it all.” Please read Galatians 6:9.
As we come to the close of today’s lesson, may I ask you to take a moment and pray for your pastors at Mars Hill Baptist Church? We, as a church family, are so blessed by the pastoral staff God has assembled here. Each serves honorably to the Lord with the spirit of joy in serving. They often spend long hours ministering behind the scenes, and they gladly do it.
Questions for Life Focus
Ask yourself—Do I pray for my pastoral staff?
Do I understand the calling placed on their lives? With that calling, do I understand the responsibilities they carry?
How would you respond to this statement? Most of the ministers at MHBC work only 3 to 4 hours a week.
What are some of the sacrifices that a minister’s family must make?