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Leadership #6 - 1 Peter 5

1 Peter 5:1-4

Teaching Moments

1. Peter addresses elders here as an elder himself. Thus, he identifies himself with other leaders in the church and shares their responsibilities. He is one of them, not above them. He is called to the same standard to which they are called.

2. Peter also mentions the themes of suffering and glory which are prominent in 1 Peter. Glory follows suffering. Cf. 1 Peter 4:13. Christ first suffered, and then he was glorified. Elders will suffer with Christ, and then receive glory. This section begins and ends with the idea of glory, but also involves the idea of suffering. Just as elders will receive a crown of glory when Christ appears, they are also called to suffer (willing servants who are examples to the flock). Suffering comes first, then glory.

3. Three Greek terms come together here to describe the nature and function of “elders”.

   a. “Elder” means older person. It probably refers to the fact that these leaders were older, respected leaders in the church rather than novices in the faith.

   b. “Shepherd” is something we have studied previously. Elders are told to “pastor” God’s flock. This is the verb form of the noun in Ephesians 4:11: “pastors”. Elders are shepherds.

   c. “Overseer” refers to the function of supervision and management. The object of their supervision is the flock—people. They are servants to people, care for people. The noun form of this verb is translated “bishop.”

4. Note the contrasts in the text:

   a. “Compulsion or necessity” versus “willingness.” The contrast is between being forced into “eldering” or a willing servant. No one forced is a good servant. Willingness is necessary for service.

   b. “Greed for money” versus “service”. What is the connection between “eldering” and “money”? It probably refers to the fact that congregations shared materially with their elders (“paid elders”) rather than the fact that they controlled the money or dictated monetary decisions. In other words, no one should become an elder out of covetousness for money or out of a desire to control the money.

   c. “Lording it over” versus “example”. “Lording it over” is the same word that we noted last week in Mark 10:42ff. Elders do not dictate, they lead. They do not rule by fiat but by being out front as an example of service and ministry.

5. From a friend of mine, Terrell Lee: “The mutual submission and humility Peter commands throughout the epistle should be modeled by the elders before the church so that the whole church learns to show humility to one another. In this paragraph Peter goes back to admonishing specific individuals in the churches, just like he began in 2:13. The elders are the spiritual leaders and must make sure they do not go beyond their assigned role or function which is one of serving the flock and modeling the appropriate behavior of submission and humility. They must avoid turning a position of service into a position of power. They themselves are in submission to the Chief Shepherd.”

Discussion Questions

1. Think back to someone you respect as a church leader. What is one trait of this leader that stands out to you?

2. Does “oversee” have a negative or positive ring in our culture? Why? What do you think the emphasis of “oversee” is here in 1 Peter?

3. What is the contrast between necessity/compulsion and willingness? Why is this important? How do we balance the sense of duty (to become an elder because we have the gifts and opportunity) with the willingness (the sense of inferiority or lack of experience that hinders that willingness)? How can the church encourage willingness without backing people into the role?

4. What is the contrast between greed and service? Why does the subject of money arise in relation to elders? How does service contrast with greed? Why is Peter so concerned about “greed” in the context of advising elders?

5. What is the contrast between “lording it over” and “example”? How does this reflect different leadership styles? What is the leadership style of “example”? How are elders to model mutual submission and service rather than “lording it over”? What is “lording it over”?

6. Why are we sometimes more willing to be submissive to one person but not to another? What makes the difference?

7. Why is there a temptation to “lord it over” the people one leads?

8. [Here is a question from Terrell Lee]. What is a leadership style?

   a. What is the difference between top-down and bottom-up leadership? (Top-down is the leaders’ calling the shots while bottom-up is the leaders being sensitive to the people.)

   b. What is a pyramidal style of leadership? (The appointed leaders make all the decisions for the church.)

   c. What is a participatory style of leadership? (The members share in the decision-making processes of the church. Cf. Acts 15:22 We will discuss this text further down the line in our Bible classes.)

   d. Which leadership style do you believe is more in harmony with Mk. 10 and 1 Pet. 5—pyramidal or participatory?

9. In terms of decision-making in the church, what is your view of the role of elders? What does “oversee” mean here? What does “lord it over” mean here? What does “example” mean here?


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