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18 months ago we started the process of appointing new elders at the Village Church. Last November John and I recommended Ben and Jase to the membership; a couple of weeks ago the membership unanimously affirmed that recommendation; and yesterday morning we acknowledged Ben and Jase as new elders. According to Ephesians 4 Jesus gives gifts to his church - he's given us Ben and Jase - and we're really grateful to him for both of them.

Yesterday morning we also looked at 1 Peter 5:1-4 and made a few comments: Firstly, in these verses, Peter gives us a definition of an elder. An elder isn't a manager, or a director, or an executive. They're business titles, and the church isn't a business. The church is God's flock and the elders are the shepherds. Peter says to the elders of the churches he's writing too: ' shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, watching over them...' (v2).

Peter is clear that the Village Church doesn't belong to the elders - it's God's flock. But the elders have a God-given responsibility. And the responsibility isn't a project or a program - it's a people - the precious people who belong to God's flock. God himself has called Ben and Jase to love the members of the Village Church - to watch over them as a shepherd watches over their sheep. Just as a shepherd knows his sheep so they are to know the members. Just as a shepherd feeds his sheep the solid food they need they are to feed the members the spiritual food they need. Just as a shepherd protects his sheep from danger so they are to protect the members from sin and false teaching. And just as a shepherd leads his sheep so they are to lead the members in trusting and obeying Jesus. As elders, there will be projects and programs but they should never be their number one priority. Our number one priority is loving, caring, and watching over the members of the Village, like a shepherd with his sheep. Let's pray that 1 Peter 5:2 would define Ben and Jase (and John and I) as elders of the Village Church.

Secondly, Peter gives us a description of an elder. How should elders shepherd the sheep? Well, in verses 2 and 3, Peter tells us. And he tells us how by giving us three pairs, and in each pair Peter says, "Don’t shepherd like that but shepherd like this..."

The first pair is in verse 2: Be shepherds of God’s flock 'not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be…' God wants elders who have a heart for his people. Who, for example, pray for them (not just in elders’ meetings because the Pastor tells them to but at home as part of their daily devotions). Or God wants elders who take the time to talk to people - who pick up the phone, or send text messages and emails, or who go for a walk or a cycle or a drink (when that’s allowed), not because another elder is doing it but because they want to.

The second pair is also in verse 2: Be shepherds of God’s flock '…not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve.' Being an elder isn’t about what you can get, it’s about what you can give. It’s not about being served, it’s about being a servant. And the word that's really challenging here is the word eager. Eager elders are what God wants. Elders who are the first to arrive and the last to leave. Elders who serve in public but also in private. An eager elder serves even when nobody sees them, nobody apart from God.

The third pair is in verse 3: Be shepherds of God’s flock '…not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.' The Village Church is God’s flock, entrusted to the elders. And the elders lead, but not from above. Elders lead from alongside (after all, elders are sheep shepherds, and we mustn't forget that). And elders don't lead from behind. Being an elder isn’t about sheep shoving - pushing and pushing and pushing - trying to get people to do what you want, when you want. No, elders should lead from the front - or as Peter says - by being examples. Let's pray that 1 Peter 5:2-3 would describe Ben and Jase (and John and I) as elders of the Village Church.

Thirdly, Peter gives us the destiny of an elder. Eldership can be difficult, demanding and draining. And there isn’t much glory in being an elder. Or there isn’t much glory in being an elder in the here and now. But one day there will be glory: '...when the Chief Shepherd appears (Jesus) you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away' (v4).

For Ben and Jase, saying ‘Yes’ to eldership wasn’t the easy choice but it was the excellent choice. God loves for his flock, more than anything in the whole world, and for elders who shepherd his flock God will reward beyond their wildest dreams. There isn’t glory in the here and now but one day there will be, and it will be a glory that never fades. You could win a World Cup but that glory would fade. Within months (let alone years) that glory would be gone. I love football but I can’t remember who won the Premier League five years ago. At the time it was glorious (for them at least!) but that glory has faded - it’s been forgotten. But that won’t be true for elders. The glory Peter is talking about is bigger and better than we can imagine. This glory will never fade. God will never forget who shepherded his flock through the highs and lows, the ups and downs; through life and death. Or imagine Jesus Christ saying: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’ Imagine being known as a good and faithful servant, for eternity! If Ben and Jase shepherd us well that’s their destiny. Let's pray that would move and motivate them (and John and I) to give their all in the here and now to shepherd the members of the Village Church.

Kate Short encourages us to read 'Before You Open Your Bible' by Matt Smethurst and join the book discussion at 8pm on Thursday 11th June...

We live in a world which offers quick fixes. If you take a look at the front page of magazines or TV adverts, we’re sold false promises that whatever problem we have can be solved in just a few short steps or in one product. 

As we approach the Christian life, I think we quite often like to find the ‘one solution solves all’ book or sermon that is going to drag us out of spiritual lethargy and set our faith ablaze; the podcast that will re-energise our often weak prayer lives or poor Bible reading habits.

I don’t think those sermons or books exist. I think we all know that deep down our lukewarm attitude in our relationship with Jesus is a heart issue - our prayer lives and Bible reading habits are weak because we don’t treasure Jesus and because our hearts are so easily distracted and enticed by other things. 

But, if there was ever going to be a book that would provide the answer to our lazy Bible-reading, then I think it’s this one.

Matt Smethurst takes us through nine heart attitudes we should aim for when approaching the Bible. We can be so familiar with lots of the Bible’s content that we have lost the wonder and astonishment of knowing that it is God choosing to speak to us, choosing to communicate. We see in its pages God ‘choosing to forfeit his personal privacy to befriend us’. We have intimate access to the mind of God and his plan to rescue his people. The book wows us again with the privilege it is to be able to see some of the Creator’s thoughts and plans, especially given that our hearts are naturally bent against him. 

The book is short, but in it Smethurst targets our heart issues directly and practically. He calls out our lackadaisical, lazy minds but in doing so reminds us that the Author of the Bible wants us to flourish, he wants us to live lives filled with joy, no longer enslaved but free to live for and know him as we were originally designed. He reminds us of God’s eternal, miraculous and abundant grace and this reminder is the fuel for consistent, joy-filled Bible reading. 

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, I’ll let you read the book yourself and we can chat about it on Thursday, but if you’re feeling dry in your relationship with God’s Word, you’re finding it difficult to fit into your day or you are easily distracted when reading, then please can I urge you to read it. God’s Word is a ‘recurring feast’ and the more we read the more we experience this; ‘Before You Open Your Bible’ prepares our hearts to unpack and discover the banquet.

Have a think about some of these questions as you read:

1. What is your relationship with God’s Word at the moment?

2. What stops you from reading the Bible?

3. What encouraged you in the book?

4. How has it re-oriented your view of Bible reading?

5. What challenged you in the book?

5. How would you like to change as a result of reading it?

I’d love to see you again for a casual chat about the book over Zoom on Thursday 11th June.

Judith has written an encouraging post for us to read and reflect on:

We have been reminded in recent sermons to, 'live by faith, not by sight'. But what do we do when we are so overcome by fear and doubt that we panic that our faith might be failing? It’s as if we are floundering and crashing around in a sea of fear, grief, uncertainty and possibly guilt.

The well known story of Jesus calming the storm which was read to the children in our service recently has taken on a fresh meaning for me. We know it so well – Jesus and his disciples in a small fishing boat crossing the lake when a surprise storm breaks. Huge waves, hurricane force winds, maybe thunder and lightning. The disciples, experienced as they were in fishing and controlling boats in turbulent waters had never encountered anything like this. They were failing to gain control and were terrified. Does that panic and anxiety sound familiar? Where was Jesus? We know He was there, with them, right there in the boat. But He was asleep!

One night early in the pandemic I found that I was unable to sleep. Eventually I got up and read this story – not in my Bible but in the adult version of the Children’s Story Book Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. Of course we know that this is not just a made up story for children but it’s a true historical account of a real event. So, what did the panic stricken disciples do? They cried out for help – they called on Jesus to rescue them. I wonder what they expected to happen. We know, of course that the storm subsided but how did Jesus do it? By speaking just 3 words, 'Quiet, be still'.

That sleepless night I was aware of a very real fear in my heart but as I re-read this familiar story I became aware of God speaking to me, too. The paragraph in the children’s story which I now find myself returning to frequently reads: 'Then Jesus turned to His wind-torn friends. “Why were you scared?” he asked. “Did you forget who I am? Did you believe your fears instead of me?"'

My heart was quietened and stilled. I was greatly comforted but also challenged because I was giving in to my fears instead of crying out to Jesus and exercising the faith that God had already, by His amazing grace, given me. My faith is weak but my Saviour is strong. The title of this chapter in the book is, 'The Captain of the Storm'. The storm was too big for the disciples but not too big for Jesus.

Begone, unbelief

My Saviour is near,

And for my relief

Will surely appear;

By prayer let me wrestle and He will perform;

With Christ in the vessel,

I smile at the storm.

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