Sunday, February 20, 2022

“Shepherds of God’s Flock” [Matt's Messages]

“Shepherds of God’s Flock”
As Foreigners and Exiles - The Message of 1 Peter
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
February 20, 2022 :: 1 Peter 5:1-4

Being a pastor can be a very hard job, but when it’s done right, it’s totally worth it.

The title of this message is lifted from verse 2 of the NIV which says, be “Shepherds of God’s Flock.” And there are two kinds of shepherds of God’s flock mentioned in these four verses.

There’s the Chief Shepherd there in the last verse, verse 4. That’s Jesus Christ. He is the Chief Shepherd of God’s flock, the church. He is the Lead Pastor of the Church. 

And then there are these other men who are called to also be shepherds, or another word for “shepherd” is “pastor.” There are these other men who are also called to be pastors of God’s flock, and they are called “elders.”

And this passage is particularly addressed to them.

“To the elders among you.”

That’s a certain group of church leaders. The New Testament refers to them over and over again. Acts, 1 Timothy, Titus, James. 2 John. 3 John.

The elders (or in Greek the “presbuterous” You can tell what English words we get from that!) are the chief leaders of the New Testament churches.

Whenever a new church was established in the New Testament, one of the marks of the health of the new church was the installation of godly elders to lead it.

And apparently, the churches scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia (remember chapter 1, verse 1?) were led by these “elders.”

And now Peter wants to talk directly to them. And he talks to them as one of them. V.1

“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder...”

“I’m one of you. Yes, I’m an apostle, and what I say to you is authoritative. But I’m coming to you as one of you. As ‘a fellow elder,’ so what I’m about to ask you to do is something that I am also doing. I’m not asking you to do something which I do not understand how hard it is or which I am not willing to do myself.”

I think that Peter comes in like this because he knows that he’s asking them to do something difficult.

He knows that leading the church, especially during times of persecution, is really really hard.

We cannot forget the context here.

Remember what Peter has just told all of them: “[Beloved,] do not be surprised at the painful trial you are [unjustly] suffering...”

Instead: rejoice, represent, and re-commit, right?

One of you texted me this week and said that is your “new mantra” as you go to work out there in the big bad world each day. “Rejoice, represent, and re-commit” in the face of unjust suffering for the name of Christ.

And Peter ended that section by saying, “Those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good” (4:19).

And then he goes right into talking to these elders in particular.

He actually says in the Greek, “therefore” or “SO to the elders among you I appeal...” There is a direct connection

Who is probably going to get hit with the first blast of persecution? The leaders, right? They’ll go after the leaders. If it’s “time for judgment to begin with the family of God” (4:17), then it will probably start with the leaders of that family, the elders.

It certainly started with the top leader in the first place. Peter says that he is not only a fellow elder, but he’s also (v.1 again), “a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed...”

Jesus doesn’t ask the elders of the church to do anything He’s not been willing to do first, either. Jesus was willing to suffer unjustly. He was willing to be crucified.

Peter saw that with his own eyes. 

But Peter also knew that Jesus’ sufferings were not the end. How many times has he said something like this in this letter?

First, suffering. Then, glory.

That’s the pattern. Jesus suffered and was raised victorious and will return in glory. And so will Peter, and so will we.

Peter saw the suffering, and he knows that he will share in the glory. And so will all of the faithful elders. It’s a hard job! But it’s worth it.

The elders of our church right now are Keith, Joel, Cody, Abe, and myself.

Abe has been an elder now for almost two whole months, and he might be a little worried now that he’s heard verse 1!

These other guys have been in the battle a little longer. Keith and I are the only two men still on the Elder team who were on the team then when I preached this text before, twenty years ago.

At our first Elders meeting this January 2022, we started the year by reading and praying over this passage to remind ourselves what we have gotten ourselves into and what we are supposed to be doing as elders.

In many ways, this passage basically is my job description as a vocational elder.

This passage along with a short list of other key passages in the New Testament gives me my job description as a church elder by vocation. This is what I’m supposed to do. As well as all the other church elders and, in principle and by extension, all other church leaders.

And I see about 4 main things that Peter is saying to us here.


Be shepherds of God’s flock.

That’s what Peter says to the elders in verse 2.

Elders among you, “Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care...”

That’s the main thing that a church elder is supposed to do. We are supposed to shepherd or another word for that is “pastor” God’s flock.

The Greek word is “poimanate.” To care for a flock.

Yesterday, at Shannon Allen’s memorial service, I talked about shepherds and sheep.

Sheep need shepherds. They need to be fed and led. They need to be cared for, comforted, and protected. 

Sheep need tending. People need pastoring. And, in the church, that’s the job of the elders, at least to see that it gets done. Be shepherds.

The most important thing that we do as elders is not develop a budget or lay out vision or hire a new administrative assistant or make policy decisions–though all of that can be a key part of faithfully leading a flock. The most important thing we do as elders is to act as shepherds of God’s sheep.

When the pandemic began two years ago, I put four goals in front of myself to remind myself of my most important job as everything was changing.

#1. Number the sheep. So we tried to make sure we had a good list of everybody that called this church their home. We updated the church directory and the all church notification email list. And we divided up all of the families in lists under each one of the elders. Number the sheep. We just did that again at the first of the year. Updated the directory. And made sure that each family had an elder that was responsible for shepherding it. Number the sheep.

#2. Feed the sheep. No matter what, we all need the Scripture taught to us. So when the pandemic began, I made those sermon videos and tried to get them in front of your eyes. Feed the sheep. That’s what I’m doing right now, right here, trying to feed you the Scriptures for your spiritual growth. Feed the sheep. That’s what Stay Sharp is all about starting tomorrow, trying to make sure that our churches are fed with thee good stuff. Feed the sheep.

#3. Tend the sheep. When the pandemic began, that was phone calls, and texts, and messaging, and emails, and video chats, and Zoom fellowships, and porch and driveway visits. And now it’s home visits again and nursing homes and funeral homes and hospital rooms and playing fields. And it’s thinking of all of what our flock needs and trying to lead them to it. Tend the sheep.

#4. Repeat. Number, feed, tend, repeat. Number, feed, tend, repeat. Number, feed, tend, repeat.

Be shepherds.

How am I doing? For me, the hardest part of covid has been trying to shepherd well and knowing just how often I failed to do that.

Elders, be shepherds.

You know, the most important words in that phrase in verse 4 are not the command but who the command is about. “Be shepherds” of whom? Of “God’s flock that is under your care.”

That is so important for church elders to remember.

The flock is not yours.

It is God’s!

This church is not mine. It’s God’s.

This church is not Keith’s or Joel’s or Cody’s or Abe’s. It’s God’s.

This church is Jesus’ church. He bought it with His blood!

Now, sometimes, I’ll say, “At my church, we do it this way.” And you’ve probably said, “I go to Pastor Matt’s church.” And we all know what we mean by that. We say this is “our church.” 

I say, you are my beloved flock. But what I better mean by that is that you are “the flock under [my] care.” And I better treat you that way, as God’s flock. I don’t get to do with you what I want. I only get to do with you what I know God wants.

Elders, be shepherds.


Be eager to serve God’s flock.

I get that also from verse 2. “Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve...”

Be eager.

This one can be really hard because church leadership is not always fun.

Especially in times of persecution!

Church leadership has been hard during the pandemic. I read a reputable statistic yesterday that 38% of pastors in the US have seriously considering quitting the pastorate during the pandemic. Nearly 2 out of every 5 have seriously thought about quitting.

But if we thought that pastoring in a pandemic was hard, just wait until we find out what pastoring during persecution is like!

Peter says that these elders should pastor as overseers, the Greek word for that is “episkopountes” (and you can tell what English words we get out of that, overseers).

The elders should give oversight to the whole church, providing direction and leadership. Not just doing everything but seeing that everything gets done.

But they should only do that work of overseeing only out of a certain kind of heart! Look at verse 2.

“Not because you must, but because you are willing.”

Not because of compulsion.
Not just because it’s your duty.
Not just because it’s your job.
Not just because you signed up for it or they elected you to do it or your name is on some list.

But because you really want to.

You see why that’s tricky? Because we don’t always want to, do we?

Church leaders don’t always want to lead churches! But God doesn’t want us to do it begrudgingly. He wants our hearts to be in it.

And not in it for the money. Verse 2 again. “...not greedy for money, but eager to serve...” There are some really twisted reasons why some people get into church leadership. Or stay in church leadership.

They do it for the money. Or perhaps some other form of payment like the popularity or the power trip.

At Lanse Free Church, I am currently the only elder who is on staff and receiving a salary for being a vocational elder. So this could be a major temptation for me.

You guys support me really well, and I could fall into the temptation of doing my shepherding so that the paychecks keep coming. Writing the next sermon or going to the next meeting just because you’re paying me.

Please don’t stop paying me well just to test me!

But I have to interrogate myself on a regular basis to make sure that my heart is in it. Because my job description says that I need to shepherd God’s flock eagerly. And that’s true for all church leaders. We all need to make sure we’re doing it for the right reasons. 

And if we are not...we need to have our hearts changed.

We don’t just say, “I don’t feel like it any more. So I quit.”

We say, “I don’t feel like it any more. So I repent.”

“...not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be...”

See how God is going after your heart? Yes, if you are not really willing and eager, then you should get out of that leadership position. We don’t want people to serve in church leadership who are not eager. But don’t miss that God wants you to be eager!

And in verse 4, He’s going to give us a  much better motivation.

But first there’s verse 3.

And that’s the third way that He wants elders to shepherd.


Be examples for God’s flock. Verse 3.

“Be shepherds, serving as overseers...not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”

One of the major ways that pastors pastor and shepherds shepherd and elders...eld?

Is to lead by example.

One my pastor friends pointed out to me long ago that sheep cannot be driven, they have to be led. The shepherd goes first and the sheep follow. You can’t get behind of bunch of sheep and say, “Go, go, go!” and they go where you want them to go. No, they scatter. The shepherd has to show them where he wants to go.

Peter remembered when Jesus said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. [That’s the corporate structure!]  Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45).

Even Jesus led by example!

If anyone could rightly lord it over someone else, it would be Jesus. But even He showed the way by being a servant.

Keith, Joel, Cody, Abe, and I want to be good examples for you. We are not perfect. Oh boy, are we not!

But we desire to live lives worthy of emulating.  We desire to set the pace. 

I want to live my life as an example for you. It makes me tremble to say it, but watch me. I’m trying to show you how it’s done. Be like me.

I’m trying to live as foreigner and exile and abstain from the sinful desires that wage war against my soul. I’m trying to live such a good life among the pagans that though they accuse me of doing wrong, they may see my good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.

Be like me.

By the way, if you are not an elder, you can apply this passage to yourself in lots of different ways.

Some of you should aspire to being a church elder (1 Timothy 3:1).

Whether or not you ever actually serve on the official church elder team, guys, you should want to be this kind of a godly man.

Or if you are lady, you can take these principles and apply them to the areas of church leadership to which you might be called.

But another way to apply this to your own life–if you are not currently an elder–is to flip around each point and think about how to help your elders do their job–as one of the sheep in God’s flock.

So if we are supposed to be shepherds, you could say to yourself, “Am I allowing myself to be shepherded? Am I a good sheep?” Have you asked yourself that?

If we are supposed to be eager to serve, you could ask yourself, “Am I making it easy for them to be happy to serve us? Am I supportive?”

If we are supposed to be examples for you, you could ask yourself, “Am I following the example they are setting for us? Am I trying to be like them?”

In verse 5, Peter will tell the younger church members to be submissive to the elders. 

The sheep should regularly ask ourselves if we are allowing ourselves to be shepherded. The flock should regularly ask ourselves if we are allowing ourselves to be led. And, remember, except for the Chief Shepherd, all human shepherds are sheep, as well. We all need pastored. And we all need to ask ourselves if we are allowing ourselves to be pastored.

Are we allowing ourselves to be numbered?
Are we eating what our shepherds are feeding us?
Are we following their lead?

Because we are God’s flock.

We are entrusted to certain shepherds.

Did you see that in verse 3 again?

“Not lording it over those entrusted to you.”

Abe and Cody and Joel and Keith and I all noticed that repetition when we studied it in January. And we felt it deeply. We have been given a trust to keep. May we be found faithful to shepherd this particular group of sheep.

Because if we are faithful, we be rewarded. That’s the last point.


Be rewarded by the Chief Shepherd of God’s Flock, verse 4.

“And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”

I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I want to find out! I want that unfading crown of glory.

The world’s rewards and accolades will all fade away. But Jesus who loves His flock–like nobody loves a flock[!]–is offering unfading rewards to those who love His flock for Him.

We will “share in the glory to be revealed” (v.1)!

Being a pastor can be a very hard job, especially when the persecution hits, ut when it’s done God’s way, it is totally worth it.


Previous Messages in This Series:

01. "Elect Exiles" 1 Peter 1:1-2
02. "A Living Hope" 1 Peter 1:3-7
03. "Angels Long To Look Into These Things" 1 Peter 1:8-12
04. "Be Holy In All You Do" 1 Peter 1:13-16
05. "Live Your Lives As Strangers Here In Reverent Fear" 1 Peter 1:17-21
06. "Love Each Other Deeply, From the Heart" 1 Peter 1:22-2:3
07. "But Now You Are..." 1 Peter 2:4-10
08. “As Foreigners And Exiles” 1 Peter 2:11-12
09. "Submit Yourselves For the Lord's Sake 1 Peter 2:13-17
10. "Follow In His Steps" 1 Peter 2:18-25
11. "Do What Is Right And Do Not Give Way To Fear" 1 Peter 3:1-7
12. "Inherit a Blessing" 1 Peter 3:8-12
13. "Even If You Should Suffer For What Is Right" 1 Peter 3:13-16
14. "To Bring You To God" 1 Peter 3:17-22 (esp. 18)
15. "To Suffer for Doing Good" 1 Peter 3:17-22
16. "Done with Sin" 1 Peter 4:1-6
17. "The End Of All Things Is Near" 1 Peter 4:7-11
18. "Do Not Be Surprised" 1 Peter 4:12-19