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The Right Perspective on Church Leaders

The Right Perspective on Church Leaders

1 Peter 5:1–5a – Perspective: 1 Peter Series – July 10, 2022


Reading of 1 Peter 1:1–5.

(July 16, 2005, The Mirror newspaper from Ghana) “ISTANBUL: Hundreds of sheep followed their leader off a cliff in eastern Turkey, plunging to their deaths this week while shepherds looked on in dismay. Four hundred sheep fell 15 metres to their deaths in a ravine in Van province near Iran but broke the fall of another 1,100 animals who survived, newspaper reports said yesterday. Shepherds from Ikizler village neglected the flock while eating breakfast, leaving the sheep to roam free, the Radikal daily said. The loss to local farmers was estimated at $74,000 – Reuters.”[1] The BBC added this to its July 8, 2005, report of same event: “Every family had an average of 20 sheep,” one villager told the Aksam daily newspaper. “But now only a few families have sheep left. It's going to be hard for us.”[2]

It's not that sheep are stupid, but that instinct to follow each other is instinctual, “hard-wired” from birth, according to one shepherdess.[3]

What the story illustrates: Sheep without a shepherd aren’t free and independent; they’re about to die in a half-dozen different ways. That’s why Jesus has compassion on the crowd in Matthew 9 and says, “They’re like sheep without a shepherd.”

But the story also tells us: Sheep with a delinquent shepherd are worse off than sheep without a shepherd. Because to the sheep and to everyone else, they APPEAR to have a shepherd. In truth, they don’t. They’re going to die in those same half-dozen ways.

Important for us to see:

  • God uses this very down to earth image to describe churches.
  • Organic—shepherds and their flocks.
  • Doesn’t give us org charts, Roman governmental structures, military ones.
  • He holds up the image of shepherds with their sheep. Gritty. Living. Close-to-home for Peter’s readers.

Series: Perspective. This morning, perspective on leadership in God’s church. 1 Peter 5:1–5a gives us a healthy view of leadership in the church.

Our culture is part of this pendulum swing: one extreme is leader worship. Leaders can do no wrong. We hang on their every word. Create cults of personality.

Other extreme is to despise leadership. Leaders can do no right. Reject every word. Make our living writing attack pieces, scouring the world for failed leaders.

Peter doesn’t want us to idolize or despise leaders. Healthy view of leadership.

This is for all of us to hear—church members and church leaders need to have a clear understanding of the role of the pastor.

Sermon: A Healthy View of (1) Shepherds, (2) the Chief Shepherd, and (3) Responding to Shepherds.


I. Healthy View of the Shepherds (5:1–3)

Passage starts by addressing the Shepherds themselves. Read 1 Peter 5:1–3.

“So I…” – In light of 4:12–19 and “judgment to begin at the household of God” (v. 17), “I exhort the elders.”

But before he does, he introduces himself again. Peter’s self-identifiers:

  • “Fellow elder” – comes alongside them.
  • “Witness of the sufferings of Christ” — His moment of failure.
  • But also, to those suffering (2:21; 3:18; 4:12–19), Christ suffered, too.
  • “Partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed.”
  • Fellow sharer, fellow partaker in this coming glory.
  • Not talking down to them, but not weak either!

Then command in v. 2: “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you.”

  • Peter summarizes the task of pastoral leadership in the church with this phrase, “shepherd the flock of God that is among you.”
  • Word for “shepherd” same Greek word as “pastor.”
  • Pastors are shepherds. Really a 1-word job description.

Likely he has the words of Jesus echoing in his head—John 21 after denials:

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15–17)

SHEPHERD tradition for leaders

  • Moses (Exod 3:1–2; Ps 77:20)
  • David (1 Sam 16:11; 2 Sam 5:1–2)
  • Jewish leaders in Israel (Ezek 34)—rebukes the shepherds for feeding themselves and not the sheep.
  • God himself (Ps 23; Isa 40:10–11)

Task of pastoring (and leading) so similar to shepherding if done well:

  • Feeding
  • Protecting
  • Leading
  • sacrificing for
  • caring for
  • knowing
  • scanning the horizon.

And how you’re doing is easy to evaluate: How are the sheep doing? Are they healthy, protected, thriving? Then you’re doing well. Are they sick, attacked by wolves, frail? Then you’re not doing well.

“Exercising oversight”

  • Related to noun episkopos (Acts 20:28; Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 3:2; Tit 1:7; 1 Peter 2:25).
  • The idea of “oversight” implies authority.
  • “Looking out for,” “keeping watch over.”

How? NOT this way BUT this way…

  • “NOT under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you” (v. 2). I.e., “according to the will of God” (Grudem).
  • “NOT for shameful gain, but eagerly” (v. 2). Not just for the money, though getting a salary is very legitimate (1 Tim 5:17).
  • “NOT domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (v. 3).

Real authority (“exercising oversight”) but “NOT domineering.”

“Being examples” — This is where the Shepherd/Sheep metaphor breaks down. A shepherd can’t be an example for a sheep in any reasonable sense.

But remember, shepherds in a church are sheep before they’re shepherds. They’re sheep following the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4).

  • They need to be examples of someone who is following Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd.
  • Not perfect, only the Good Shepherd himself is.
  • But good “examples.”
  • Over the long haul, this becomes more and more critical.

Why does the whole church need to hear this?

  • Discernment – To know what a healthy church is supposed to look like.
  • Protection – So you can spot a fraud. And get out—or get him out.
  • To inspire men toward the office.
  • Because godly leaders and a godly response to leadership is EVERYONE’S RESPONSIBILITY.

II. Healthy View of the Chief Shepherd (5:4)

In terms of getting a healthy view of leadership in the church, verse 4 is probably the most important verse in the passage.

First, there are many shepherds but only one CHIEF SHEPHERD.

  • Earthly shepherds are only under-shepherds, serving the Chief Shepherd.
  • Jesus Christ is the one and only Chief Shepherd.
  • Passage makes this clear: “shepherd the flock of God” (v. 2). It’s HIS FLOCK. He owns the sheep. All the sheep.
  • And then remember earlier in Peter’s letter. 1 Peter 2:25:

For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Pet 2:25)

Do you hear that? In chapter 5 to elders: “shepherd the flock…exercising oversight.” But here it’s Jesus! Over our very souls.

This idea didn’t come out of nowhere. Six centuries earlier Ezekiel prophesied. Rebuked Israel’s shepherds. Then in Ezekiel 34:

I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD…. And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. (Ezek 34:15, 23)

Six centuries later, the Lord Jesus himself fulfills. John 10:

14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. (John 10:14–16)

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)

  • Isn’t that amazing: Jesus is your Good Shepherd.
  • You’ll have many earthly human shepherds—only One Chief Shepherd.
  • Never retires. Never needs a sabbatical. Never has a lapse of integrity. He never drifts into heresy. Never gets distracted by life’s difficulties.
  • He’s ALWAYS watching over you.
  • Guiding you—with his Spirit.
  • Feeding you—with his Word. His voice goes out, and you hear it, listen to it, follow it.
  • Protecting you.
  • He KNOWS you.
  • He died for you. Out of love for you he gave his life for you (Rom 5:8). He let himself be led to the slaughter to save you from judgment (Isa 53:4–8).

Second, that Chief Shepherd will be the final judge of the shepherds in the church.

  • Better than earthly rewards and acknowledgement.
  • Better than the respect of our peers.
  • He brings rewards that are “unfading.”

“Unfading” is meant to contrast with the wreaths Romans gave for athletic or military greatness, “leafy crowns” (Schreiner).

  • Those leafy wreaths disintegrate over time, not even a lot of time.
  • But the crown Christ gives is “unfading.”

Good to remember:

  • For elders: Jesus has the crown you’re really after.
  • For the church: The Chief Shepherd is the one who will judge earthly shepherds.

Teddy Roosevelt

  • Before being President, he was NYC Chief of Police.
  • Famous for cleaning up a really corrupt force late 1800s.
  • One of the things he did was walk around at night—overcoat and hat, so people wouldn’t recognize him.
  • Making sure unsuspecting cops were doing their jobs.
  • No? Demerits and stern rebukes. Yes? Commendations.
  • What police officer thinks of himself doesn’t mean much.
  • What Chief of Police thinks that’s most significant.

We need a healthy view of (1) the Shepherds and (2) the Chief Shepherd.

And third…

III. Healthy View of Responding to the Shepherds (5:5a)

Read 1 Peter 5:5a.

First thing: Remember 5:5a is AFTER 5:4.

  • Tells us Jesus is the CHIEF SHEPHERD BEFORE we’re told to be subject to human shepherds.
  • Always how God speaks to us.
  • God sets up various earthly authorities.
  • Our response to them always w/ knowledge he’s the Supreme Authority.

In 1 Peter:

  • Civil authorities: “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution” (2:13).
  • Slaves submit, “mindful of God” (2:19).
  • Jesus: “continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (2:23).
  • Wives: “the holy women who hoped in God” (3:5).
  • That principle is true throughout the NT.

The response:

  • 5:5a addressed to “young men” being told to “be subject to” the elders mentioned in 5:1–4.[4]
  • How old are these “younger” men? How old are these “elders”?
  • Younger could be anything up to 35 yrs old.
  • The “elders” could be much older than that or not much older.
  • Clowney: “It is not surprising that young men should be singled out in this call to submission. Our culture did not invent the generation gap!” (209).
  • Schreiner: “Younger people would be more apt to act rebelliously” (237).

Young men singled out, but calling for all in the church:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Heb 13:17)

We said earlier, don’t DESPISE. Don’t IDOLIZE. But do—be subject to elders.

What does it mean to “be subject to the elders”?

  • Deference to leadership decisions
  • Willingness to go along with the plan and vision of the church
  • Not walking with a critical or judgmental spirit
  • Following their lead with your time, money, and energy.
  • Committing to a specific church and its specific elders and not thinking of yourself as “A MEMBER OF THE GLOBAL CHURCH AND ALL CHRISTIANS.”


On the godly execution of authority and submission to it in the NT church: Clearly Peter would have us respect God-given authority and submit to it, in the church and in the state. Christian submission to authority, however, is never servile, and Christian exercise of authority is never authoritarian. Our awareness of the Lord gives dignity to our obedience and humility to our rule. In both we serve him.
Edmund Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter[5]


Healthy view of leadership: (1) Shepherds, (2) Chief Shepherd, (3) Responding to Shepherds.

Clear that God’s plan is:

  • An actual connection between SHEEP and certain SHEPHERDS.
  • That’s why we practice CHURCH MEMBERSHIP.


  • Repent? Idolize or Despise. Not submitted to the authorities in your life.
  • Remember: Jesus is your Good Shepherd. He’s your Psalm 23 Shepherd.
  • Calling? Do you feel called to be a shepherd of God’s sheep? To teach, care for them, lead them, help them to flourish. Talk to one of the elders.

Opening story: Distracted shepherds while sheep going to their death.

  • Praise God our Good Shepherd is never distracted.
  • We’re always right there at the center of his gaze.


[1] Original story looks to be from The Mirror, a Ghana newspaper with a section called, “From the Foreign Media.” Dated July 16, 2005. “Radikal” was a real newspaper at the time in Turkey. “Ikizler” is an actual place in eastern Turkey.


[3] Susan Schoenian, shepherdess, from her website.

[4] Edmund Clowney, Wayne Grudem, and Thomas Schreiner in their 1 Peter commentaries all take the position that Peter is addressing younger men being subject to the pastors/elders (not younger people being subject to the older generation in the church). Has to do with the vocabulary used (same word for “elder” used in 5:1 and 5:5), the use of “likewise” in 5:5 which is used by Peter in 3:1–7 to connect related groups of people (wives/husbands), makes good sense to think younger men might have particular issue with submission to church authorities (as Clowney says, we aren’t the ones who invented the generation gap), and Grudem adds that the verb “be subject to” (hupotassō) feels too strong if basic respect or relational reference is what is intended.

[5] Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter, Bible Speaks Today (InterVarsity), 204.

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