So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. - 1 Pet 5:1-5
On Sunday night I had the beautiful opportunity to participate in the commissioning of Elders in Village Belfast. Like Peter in the text above, I was able to stand with them as a fellow elder, and to charge them with the task God has called them to. One of the texts we explored together is 1 Peter 5:1-5. This passage is striking because it stands so strongly against the corporatizing of the office of Elder. Elders are not primarily a board, they are shepherds.
Shepherd the Flock of God
They are God's sheep, entrusted to the Elders' collective care. This cannot be missed or forgotten. All that follows is dependent on it. The oversight that the Elders are called to exercise is delegated authority from the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ Himself.
Not under compulsion, but willingly - The call to shepherd God's flock is a glorious opportunity and should not be entered into or continued if it is begrudgingly held.
Not for shameful gain, but eagerly - The call to ministry in God's church is not the same thing as a call to a paycheck. The church should care for those who serve in leadership, and may call some to do so full-time (1 Tim. 5:17-18), but leading the church is not a path
Not domineering, but as an example - Elders are, first of all, servants, called to care and provide for the church, serving as examples to those entrusted to their care. It is not an office of power to be wielded, but of a life laid down for the flourishing of others, in service to the Chief Shepherd.
What a helpful reminder for all of us in Jesus' Church. This is my prayer for the Elders of Redemption Hill Church in DC, as well as the newly commissioned Elders of Village in Belfast - that we might shepherd the flock entrusted to us by the Chief Shepherd, knowing that giving ourselves up now will be rewarded by Him in the end.