Even in churches that have solid biblical leadership and practices, doubt and discord are still all too common.
Today we'll hear why on Truth for Life and we'll learn how to best battle it. Alistair Begg is concluding a series titled What is the Church? We're looking today at the opening verses of 1 Peter chapter 5. I want this morning to come to the brief study that we have engaged in in the church for a final time by considering the priority which the New Testament gives to the establishing of effective leadership in the church.
How are we going to determine this? Well, it's to be handled as a result of leadership that submits to the leadership of Jesus and submits to the instruction of the Bible and is prepared to bring the Bible to bear upon the flock that is under their care—men of authority, men of maturity, and men of responsibility. Now, when you begin to put this together and compare Scripture with Scripture, you discover this—that God is ordained that the church is not an autocracy, nor is the church a democracy. The priesthood of all believers is in the Bible to encourage our personal devotion.
It is not in the Bible to establish corporate democracy. That's why in Hebrews 13, if you turn back a couple of pages, you discover that the writer is saying, Listen, folks, I want you to obey those who are your leaders. I want you to submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. And I want you to obey them. Why?
Because they're perfect? No. I want you to obey them because they know everything?
No. I want you to obey them so that their work will be a joy and not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. Why is it, then, that if you can go to the structure of the New Testament and find that it is as straightforward as this, why is it that this matter is such a battleground in many a local church?
Well, I can't tell you every reason why. I don't have time, but I can tell you one reason I believe it to be the fundamental reason, and that is that it is an indication of spiritual warfare. Ever since Satan rebelled from heaven and was cast out, he has sought to smuggle in the sins of independence and rebellion and disobedience. The evil one thrives when God's people are apprehensive of leadership and authority, because he knows that no army can be effective in real warfare absent clear leadership and absent distinguishable commitment on the part of the followers. So then, he who makes war against our souls says, if this group is going to go forward effectively, there will need to be clear, godly, effective leadership that is true to the framework of the Bible and that is followed by a distinguishable commitment on the part of the people. So what I will do is I will go amongst these people, and I will seek to sow cords of discord and doubt and discouragement and confusion, thereby calling them to question the very authenticity of leadership and so fail in the task to which they have been called.
Now, I wonder, as you go back to 1 Peter 5, do you find it as striking as I have found it that of all the designations that might be given to these individuals, it is this one of shepherd that's provided. Be shepherds of God's flock. In other words, the model for leadership in the New Testament church did not come out of the realm of business or commerce. He doesn't say, be executives of God's church. He doesn't say, be vice presidents of God's church.
He doesn't say, be middle managers of God's church. Nor does the picture come out of the world of athletics. Nor does the picture come out of the world of the academy or the university. But the picture actually comes out of the fields of Judea. Now, think about that for a moment. Of all the things and all the pictures and models that God may lay hold of to say, now, let me give you a picture in your mind's eye of what it will be to be a leader of the people of God.
Here is what it is. Not a fellow in a pinstripe suit walking with a briefcase and a tight-rolled umbrella. Not even a fellow running around like a fiend with a whistle around his neck and wearing Adidas tracksuits. Certainly not somebody walking around with gigantic big books and a big egghead and dispersing information. But note this. Effective shepherding involves the ability to plan, which is actually a part of a business model. It involves the ability to coach, which is part of an athletic model.
And it involves the ability to research and to teach, which is part of an academic model. But having said that, all of that is subsumed under this picture of a weather-beaten face with hands that know what it is to be amongst the sheep, and with a fragrance that lets the people know upon the return of the shepherd just exactly where he's been. Because to be a shepherd demands tenderness, but it also demands firmness. It calls for a doggedness in the face of trials.
It recognizes that if this task is to be completed, then it is going to take everything in the person. So I say to you again, the issue in leadership in the New Testament is not about age. That's why young men may lead and old men may not. That's why the idea of older women teaching younger women is not actually about age. Because there are old women you wouldn't want to teach anybody anything. And there are young women that you can learn from tremendously. Who wants to learn from an old age gossip?
Who has never read her Bible and doesn't love anything? It's not age. It's not ability.
It's not even availability. It is attitude of heart. And it is an attitude of heart which is, first of all, and most significantly, known to God alone. Because who knows the thoughts of a man's heart except the spirit of the man that is in him? And when we look at leadership, be it bold or be it directive or whatever else it may be, we may be tempted to say, aha, well, the attitude must be all wrong.
But listen, the attitude is what happens to is what happens in the secret place when the man goes before God and says, I'm not fit to be a shepherd of these people. I didn't ask to be put here. Lord, if you have anybody else for this job, bring them forward, would you please? I sometimes think that the only reason I still do what I do is because I'm unemployable. Maybe the only reason I'm still here is because I know where I can go. There's no job I can do.
I'm stuck. And for those of you who say, well, you know what? I'm going to be one of those leaders, because frankly, you leaders need yourself sorted out.
You're just waiting for me to show up. Let me tell you this. If you find yourself desiring leadership in that way, you don't even understand what you're thinking about. And if you find it easy to discredit leadership, even where it exists with integrity and with godliness, you have never begun to grapple with the magnitude of what's involved in leadership. Now, that is true in any position of leadership, as all of us know, in whatever realm we serve. Whether it's a mother in providing meals or whether it is a teacher in governing our children or whatever it might be. Well, let me tell you, in the church of Jesus Christ, it's even different.
Why? Because we are at the very apex of spiritual warfare. My pastor, when I was a theological student, said this, we are prone only to observe the observable and to be unaware of the hidden battles of the soul, the conflict which is incessant with the powers of darkness, the unspectacular and yet enormously demanding, unseen demands of leadership. And when you finish it up, remember, let not many of you become teachers, for he who teaches us will be judged with a greater strictness.
So I say to you again, if you have got some rising egotistical desire for leadership, you don't understand what it is you're aspiring to. And if you find it easy to criticize the elders of the church, this one or any other, then you do not understand what is involved in the secret night of their souls. And I'm not, for one instance, addressing this to my own personal being. I'm thinking about the very plurality of what's involved and the men in this church who serve as under Christ while at the same time seeking to fulfill the other responsibilities that they have been given.
Called to provide, called to protect, called to supervise, called to discipline, called to direct, called to instruct, and all of it taking place with a clear awareness that this is God's flock, that Jesus is the chief shepherd, verse 4, and the elders are the undershepherds. Of all the things I cherish, and I don't have a lot of stuff that I really cherish—most of it, I understand, is garage sale material—but one of the things that I really like is the shepherd's crook that I have in my house. Because it was my grandfather's on my father's side, a grandfather that I never met. He died before I was born.
But he was a shepherd. And every so often I take it, usually when I'm in the house by myself, and I turn it upside down and use it as a golf club and hit things around my study. And then other times I turn it around and pretend that I'm a pipe major, and I march up and down my study holding it the way they hold that thing and throw it up in the air. Why I would tell you this, I don't know. You think I'm in need of hospitalization. But other times I just sit with it and look at it, and I look at the handle in particular, and it's all nicked and cracked and done.
And a couple of times I thought I'd have my wife who's technical, in charge of technical challenges, to buff it all down for me and make it a lovely, nice, shiny crook with a new lacquer and everything on it. And then I said, Oh no, I wouldn't do that. Because it was this little thing here that took lambs into protective custody. And it was this upon which he presumably leant, as he looked out at the vastness of the hillside and said, Can I ever, ever find all of these sheep, let alone look after them? And as I was thinking like that, I came across this quote, On some high moor across which at night the hyenas howl, When you meet him, sleepless, farsighted, weather-beaten, armed, leaning on his staff and looking out over his scattered sheep, every one of them on his heart, you understand why the shepherd of Judea sprang to the forefront of his people's history, why they gave his name to their king and made him the symbol of providence, why Christ took him as the symbol of self-sacrifice. Now, if you have a King James version, you've been looking in vain for Be shepherds of God's flock, because in verse 2 it actually says, Feed the flock of God. Why, then, does it say, Feed if the verb is poimanean, which is to shepherd? Well, clearly, because the shepherd's ultimate responsibility is to feed the sheep, not to tickle the sheep, not to stroke the sheep. You stroke dogs and things, I mean, lambs a wee bit, but by and large, sheep. Mm-mm.
We won't go any further than that. Certainly not to entertain the sheep. Hey, hey, hello, sheep. Nice to have you here. Good to see you.
Glad you came. Hello, sheep. Here we are again. You know, that kind of stuff?
No. The real test, ultimately, is to feed the sheep. Entertainment's relatively easy.
Tickling can be done without any sincerity at all, and stroking people's backs may be the worst form of manipulation you ever saw. But let me tell you what makes its greatest demand upon the shepherd—finding the right food and making sure that the sheep are where they can be developed, so they can learn. Because when they learn, then they grow, and as they grow, then they're stabilized. And that's what we're to do. We're to feed the flock, not to lead the sheep where the majority fancy going, but to lead them where there is rich pasture, the kind of food necessary in order that they might grow and be established. And that's why shepherding takes place by the crook of the Word of God. It is God's Word that goes and not man's Word. That's why when he writes to Titus, he says, I want you to appoint elders who are apt to teach, who hold firmly to the truth so that they can encourage others by sound doctrine and so that they can refute those who don't know what they're talking about. The real test of an eldership is whether these men are able in the Scriptures and whether they can feed the flock. You know, it takes your kids to grow up and be university students and go away to come back and realize how fantastic their mother's cooking really is.
Not that they ever disdained it when they were there, but they just didn't realize how fantastic it was. Once they've had fifteen trips to the pizza parlor, once they've eaten the gruel that has been provided for them under the disguise of oatmeal, once they've drunk seventeen gallons of watery orange juice, and once they've swamped their way down through as much lemonade as a person can handle and they come home and have a refrigerator, oh, it's like nirvana, you know, it's like heaven, it's like, oh, give me all of this, oh, I never realized how fantastic this was. Feed me, feed me, feed me! I love this! No, I don't think the preaching's always that good.
Certainly, I listen to it, and it doesn't always impress me, but I'll tell you this. Go ahead and take a vacation. Go where you choose. Then I'll get you a tea.
You'll come running back to the refrigerator. You know, feed me, feed me, feed me! You want tickling? Sorry. You want entertainment? Sorry. You want stroked? Sorry. You want fed?
We're here for you. Now, the manner in which that is to be exercised is summarized, and I point this to you, and we're through. Look at what he says. How is this to be exercised? First of all, it needs to be done for the right reason.
How do you get that? The end of verse 2. Now, he wants to serve his overseers, not because you must, but because you're willing. You see, the real question is, why are you doing what you're doing? It's a question about motivation. Why do you preach? Why do you listen? Why do you serve?
Why do you study? Make sure, he says, if you're going to be a shepherd of the church of God, that the reason for doing it is not constrained, but a willing heart, for God looks for a willing spirit in his service. Secondly, not only should the work be done for the right reason, but the task should be fulfilled for the right motive.
That's the significance of the statement, not greedy for money, but eager to serve. The King James version is quite graphic. It says, not for filthy looker, but of a ready mind. There's something about filthy looker, isn't there? That's L-U-C-R-E.
It's apparently this stuff here, some of it filthier than the rest. Are you doing this for the money? Are you finding satisfaction in the privilege of service? Or do you only find satisfaction in the rewards for service? Do you find satisfaction in the role itself rather than what you might get out of the role? Of course, that's a question to be addressed to those of us who've been set apart to this unique privilege.
And we will give an account. So it's to be done then for the right reason, it's to be done with the right motive, and finally it's to be done in the right manner. Not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. Not driving the people, but leading the people. Not by the power of coercion, but by the influence of example.
I tell you, those are three very challenging couplets. For the right reason, for the right motive, and in the right manner. And all in light of the fact, as verse 4 says, that the shepherd will appear, the account will be given, the crown will be received.
And in it all, the great example is Jesus himself. Isn't it? Small wonder that the sky lit up then? Not over the commercial centers. Didn't come to the business park, you know? The angels came zooming down, hey, where's the corporate headquarters here? We're looking for the corporate headquarters of Bethlehem. We're looking for the man there.
Mm-mm. They didn't come zooming down over the intelligentsia of the day, over the academics, over the university. What a strange place to come. Down over the fields, with the weather-beaten faces of these guys going about their business. Shepherds that could not even testify in a court of law because they were regarded ipso facto as beyond the power of testimony.
That's how disregarded they were. And God says to his angels, okay, go, get singing, and go to my boys. And where does he go? He goes to the shepherds. But you, Bethlehem, though you be the least of all the rulers in Judah, out of you will come forth one who is to be the ruler of my people Israel.
It's kind of upside down, isn't it? And he will stand as a shepherd of his flock in the strength of the Lord, and in the majesty of the name of the Lord is God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth, and he will be their peace. Well then, let us pray to this end, that God in his wisdom and in his mercy will grant to his under-shepherds that are after the heart of the chief shepherd, that these under-shepherds will so live and teach and live and die so as to introduce us to Christ. Many of you have been apprenticed. Some of you are here in Cleveland because you are apprentices. You're not called apprentices in the medical world.
You're called interns, I guess. You're on a rotation, and you're here, and you want to learn as much as you can. And I see you every so often with big books and coffee shops and struggling. And I wish you well. The brightest of you will do this.
You will learn very, very quickly that the best thing you can possibly do is get yourself under the shadow of somebody who is effective in what it is that you aspire to be. And as you live in his or her shadow, then all of the book knowledge and all of the hands-on will be fleshed out as a result of the influence of the one under whose shadow you live. That's where effectiveness lies, is being an elder in the church.
It's living under the shadow of Jesus. I am at my most ineffective not when I've forgotten what it says, not when I have ceased to believe what it says, but when I have stepped out from underneath the shadow of the shepherd of Judea. For with my fellow elders, our responsibility is so to nurture you that you may live and die saying, the Lord is my shepherd. You're listening to Truth for Life.
That is Alistair Begg explaining that effective shepherding of God's flock is to be done for the right reason with the right motive in the right manner. So are you planning a special vacation for this year? You want to make it meaningful as well as fun? There is still time to join Alistair on the deeper faith 2023 Mediterranean cruise. He is the guest speaker on a trip that runs from August 26th through September 4th.
It begins in Rome, Italy and sails to various Mediterranean ports including Malta, Greece, Croatia and Slovenia. He'll top off each day's adventure by sharing evenings with Alistair as he teaches from God's word. For further details or to book your cabin visit deeperfaithcruise.com. Whether we're home or on vacation, learning from the Bible is vital at every age and today we want to let you know about a book that you can read with your young children or grandchildren. The book is called His Grace is Enough and it's a story that uses colorful illustrations and a fun engaging rhyme to teach children that our mistakes are forgiven when we trust in Jesus. His Grace is Enough is suitable for children ages three to seven. It's a book that will spark plenty of conversation about how we can't fix ourselves but we need a savior to do that for us. Request your copy of His Grace is Enough when you give a donation at truthforlife.org slash donate. I'm Bob Lapine. I hope you enjoy your weekend and are able to worship with your local church. Next week we'll begin a new series titled They Just Don't Get It Do We? Sometimes the disciples' expectations blinded them from the truth of Jesus' teaching. Join us Monday to see how to avoid making the same mistake. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
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