1 Peter 5:1-11
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. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (ESV)
| || |
Just Dying to Lead
Tuesday of Pentecost 23
18 November 2014
After being elected the fifth vice president of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in July 2010 by a "landslide" of three votes (it doesn't pay to take yourself too seriously!) and re-elected in 2013 by a much larger margin, I have been pleasantly surprised by the respect accorded to me by my colleagues in the holy ministry and laypeople whom I have been privileged to meet around our church body. I am not sure what I expected, because I always thought that our church leaders ought to be accorded deferential and respectful treatment, no matter whether I agreed with them or not. I have been aware that their labor is not easy, but fraught with trials and burdens. Now I am finding out in a personal way.
As I have grown older and more responsibility has been conferred on me, I have learned that leadership has its challenges and that the way things look from the outside is enormously different from the way they are on the inside. For example, every parish pastor has had to suffer severe criticism for a decision he has made, but for which he was unable to offer any justification in public, usually because he knew information that is privileged, or that, if known, would hurt other people. Sometimes leaders have to suffer to protect other people. That's what they do. This makes them worthy of a double honor (1Ti 5:17).
True leadership is only possible when the leaders respect those whom they lead. The respect for leaders in my church body makes the task of leadership a delight. I am bowled over by the honor accorded to me. Of myself, I am unworthy of it. It gives me delight to know that my Lord is the one who is being honored by the respect accorded to me. As many of my readers are aware, I was the host of a weekly radio program, Dying to Live, on which I usually had a layperson as a guest doing what I called a "reverse interview." After I deliver the program's message the layperson and I talk about it. They often challenge me with good questions; questions that I think will help the average listener. My program producer, Ken Garza, comes from an evangelical church background, and so I was surprised when he shared the opinion that my guests were verging on disrespect for me in their questions on the program. I actually thought the opposite. I presumed that my guests were too tame. Apparently not.
In any case, I am the shepherd. They are the sheep. I am there for them. They need my help and if it means approaching me with some aggression, I need to remember who they are. They are the blood bought lambs of the chief Shepherd (1Pt 5:2-4
). The shepherd gives his life for the sheep. I should be just dying to lead. That is the shape of Christ's ministry, because the sheep are so precious to the Lord. Jerome encouraged the bishops of his day to honor and respect their pastors and people. Only then will there also be reciprocity of honor and respect.
Jerome of Jerusalem
"Be obedient to your bishop and welcome him as the parent of your soul. Sons love their fathers and slaves fear their masters. The Lord says, 'If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear?' (Mal 1:6) In your case, the bishop combines in himself many titles for your respect. He is at once a monk, a prelate, and an uncle who has before now instructed you in all holy things.
"This also I say that the bishops should know themselves to be priests, not lords. Let them render to the clergy the honor which is their due that the clergy may offer to them the respect which belongs to bishops. There is a witty saying of the [Roman] orator Domitius [Ahenobarbus] (d. 48 B.C.) which is here to the point: 'Why should I recognize you as leader of the Senate when you will not recognize my rights as a private member?' We should realize that a bishop and his presbyters are like Aaron and his sons. As there is but one Lord and one temple; so also should there be but one ministry (Eph 4:4-6). Let us ever bear in mind the charge which the apostle Peter gives to priests: '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' (1Pt 5:2-4).
"It is a bad custom which prevails in certain churches for presbyters to be silent when bishops are present because they would be jealous or impatient hearers. The apostle Paul writes, 'If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets For God is not a God of confusion but of peace' (1Co 14:30-33)."
Lord Jesus, you have sent shepherds to lead Your precious sheep to the still waters and green pastures of Your Word. Grant them steadfastness in faith and confession that they might always say what You have given to them. Help the mutual consolation of the brothers to be built by Your free spirit, that the body of Christ might grow and flourish in accordance with Your promises. Amen.
For Jim Keller, who is suffering from leg and joint problems, that the Lord Jesus would grant complete healing
For the Council of Presidents of the LCMS, that the Lord would give them wisdom, discretion, and an extra measure of the Spirit
For President Obama, his administration, the Congress, and the courts, that they would be upheld in every good deed
Art: Crucifixes Uppsala Cathedral (medieval)
© Scott R. Murray, 2014