Faithful Shepherds in a Frantic Culture
If you love the church, you must believe that God’s people deserve men who will be faithful shepherds in the midst of a frantic culture. No matter what era you peruse throughout history, faithful shepherds are always in demand. But is every man claiming “compulsion to lead the church” a man that should be trusted? We must ask questions. Does he have the heart of a shepherd? The zeal of a warrior? The humility of a servant? The perspective of His Master? No matter his insistent passion, does he measure up when the grid of Scripture is laid atop his life?
There are plenty of ways that people approach pastoral ministry today. Some are showmen who enter ministry hoping for a cushy job and a flexible schedule. They’re the type who show up once a week collect a paycheck. Others think the pastor is a CEO, sitting in a big office tapping golf balls into a glass while paying others to do what he won’t. Mix in some innovation, a few big events, a motivational speech on Sunday, and he’s got himself a career! Still, others believe that pastoral ministry is more of a fraternity or locker room full of like-minded friends. They see the church as being more about their loyalty to a denomination and venerated leaders. They wear the team colors. They defend each other no matter what but are confused about what it means to stand firm in the truth. They’re “of Apollos” and “of Paul” so they’re more content to preserve unity even it means tolerating errors. Of course, we mustn’t forget the all-inclusive ideology of today’s liberal mob. These, who insist that the “old book” needs their modern-day editorial brush, see homosexuality, gender, and various imperatives as more relative than restrictive. Good PR matters more than truth.
The culture today is a frantic one. Many in the professing church are spinning in confusion. Therefore, the last thing we need are any more thin-skinned shepherds looking for an easy paycheck and notoriety. We need men with guts who wield the staff and put in the work it takes to care for God’s people. Men willing to take God’s word seriously when it comes to being shepherds! The kind of men who heed 1 Peter 5:1-4.
A Pivotal Text for Every Pastor
When Peter wrote to Christians throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, myriad of Christians were scattered, being persecuted, in need of faithful shepherds who would guide and guard them. Nero had set Rome ablaze and needed a scapegoat so who better to blame than a group of narrow-minded monotheists who were loyal to Jesus Christ? They weren’t popular to begin with but now everything turned against Christians. Persecution soared, the Church was under assault, and the sheep belonging to Christ were in desperate need of elders who would shepherd them through the storms of life they faced.
Peter’s letters are pivotal for Christians and 1 Peter 5:1-4 is especially so, for pastors and elders. The man desirous of being a faithful shepherd, and the church seeking the service of faithful shepherds do well to let Peter’s Spirit-inspired words pierce their heart. If the command is to “shepherd the flock among you,” then what does that look like?
Based on Peter’s words, here are six observations of a faithful shepherd in a frantic culture:
1. A shepherd will suffer
Inferred by the context, and explicitly stated about Christians throughout the New Testament, if sheep are going to suffer then most certainly their shepherds will. Ultimately, Christ the Great Shepherd did and all who follow Him will. Nowhere are we promised an easy life if we are faithful to the gospel and faithful to calling of a shepherd. Jesus was adamant that this world will hate His disciples and it hated Him first (John 15:18). Paul exhorted Timothy, “Join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8), “suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2:3), and “indeed all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (3:12).
2. A shepherd is aware
In 1 Peter 5:2b he writes, “…exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God.” The word “episkopeo” comes from epi and skopeo meaning “upon” and “mark.” This is a shepherd with his eyes wide open. He’s aware. You could say he pays attention to detail. A shepherd is not aloof of the state of his flock, he is not a weekend warrior simply showing up to preach and then disappearing all week. A shepherd is diligent, keeps his eye on the ball, exercising close attention to the details and daily affairs of those entrusted to his care. He knows them and thus can pray for them and preach to them in a way that reaches their hearts.
In sports a coach will often tell the players, “The difference between winning and losing is often about paying attention to details.” The same can be said about ministry, except that in sports wins and losses are at stake. In ministry, heaven and hell are on the line.
And how does he pay exercise this awareness and oversight? Not with an eye rolling compulsory demeanor. Not with a lazy heart or excuses, but “voluntarily.” Lexical definitions describe this word as “of one’s own accord.” Now apply that and you get a shepherd who takes initiative. Nobody should trigger a shepherd. He lives triggered! He takes initiative because his heart is held captive to the word of God, and he desires the best for the people of God, because he knows this is the will of God!
3. A shepherd is eager
Furthermore, Peter writes that an elder ought to shepherd “not for sordid gain, but with eagerness” (1 Peter 5:2c). Coming off the heels of the previous statement about a voluntary heart, Peter pushes the point again and adds that shepherds should be the exact opposite of greedy false teachers in that they are not serving for filthy lucre. You can hear echoes of 2 Peter 2:3 here where Peter would late describe false teachers as exploiting people in their greed. This is a sure mark of a false teacher. But a faithful shepherd? Eager whether or not people recognize all you’ve done, sing your praises, or take care of you. For little or no money, small crowds, no live stream, and old dingy buildings. If that’s what God calls you to are you still eager? Your leadership will be contagious for better or worse. If you’re not eager, expect no one else to be.
4. A shepherd is an example
1 Peter 5:3 exhorts, “…nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. Kleros is “a share or portion given.” This is your part of pie. Tupos is “a statue or something to be resembled.” Literally, shepherding is not “do what I say” it’s “do as I do.” If you take Peter seriously, you’d agree that shepherding is not dominance, it’s devotion. It starts in your own life and pours over into theirs. This begs another question of every shepherd or aspiring shepherd: Is your life a statue worth resembling? If the men loved their wives like you love yours what kind of marriage would they have? If they parented like you how would their kids turn out? If they talked to their colleagues like you talk to yours? If their morning routine was like yours? Are you combative or peaceful? Petty or mature? Are you indecisive or unwavering? It gets convicting doesn’t it? An elder’s greatest sermon doesn’t happen in a pulpit. His greatest sermon is his life.
5. A shepherd is accountable
One day, Christ the Chief Shepherd will return and that’s who every shepherd answers to (1 Peter 5:4a). If you’re an elder, you don’t enact any will upon the Church, but God’s. The Church is not yours. It’s His. You’re not the Head pastor, He is. One day you will stand — more likely, bow — before His judgment seat and give an account for your deeds in the body. Our chief concern must be for what the Chief Shepherd wants!
We’ve all watched as in the past few years as autocratic and domineering men have fallen publically and brought reproach on Christ and the Church. Their model was built on abuse of power and they lost sight of Whom they were accountable to. We don’t glory in this as those who sneer, “Ha! I saw that one coming…” We learn from this and humbly remind ourselves with fear and trembling that our calling is the highest there is on earth and thus our judgment will be the greatest of all those in the Church. We must live accountable now knowing we will be accountable then.
6. A shepherd is rewarded
Though judgment is imminent for all, so are rewards for faithfulness. 1 Peter 5:4b culminates with these joyous words for those who’ve run the race well: “you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”
The highest praise of man should be our lowest concern. We don’t serve with eagerness because of what we get now but what awaits us in the future. This is fitting for Peter’s theme throughout his letter which points to an eternal focus. If you’ve lived 1 Peter 5:1-3, you get the joy of experiencing of verse 4. This is the motivation of a faithful shepherd. This is what is needed in the midst of a frantic culture.
If you ask me, the greatest moment of embarrassment for any shepherd would be to have spent their earthly ministry climbing some the ladder to a destination that doesn’t exist. What do I mean? There’s this idea that if you just publish a book, or speak at a conference, or pastor a larger church that you will have “arrived” somewhere. There are pastors who always seem to be trying to arrive “there.” Let me tell you, there is no “there” there. You can speak at conferences, write books, rub elbows with your favorite speakers and guess what? All that will ever matter, and the only “there” you need to focus on is the day you stand before Christ and answer for your work here on earth.
The King’s approval awaits, brothers. But there is a flock to be served first. In the midst of today’s frantic culture, do it well.
*This article is derived from a sermon by Costi Hinn entitled, "Faithful Shepherds in a Frantic Culture" (1 Peter 5:1-4). This message was preached at The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, CA. Watch below: