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: '...be 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.