“For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” 1 Corinthians 1:25
Given a cultural climate that is antagonistic toward any authority, is there any way to stop the erosion of authority that is even invading the church? I believe that there is a way, in one word and at the same time in one name and that is ‘Jesus’. Did He say; “I am the way, the truth, and the light”. So to stop the erosion of authority we must look to Jesus and His Word. A parallel passage to Acts 20:28-31 is found in 1 Peter 5:1-3, let’s turn there and follow alone as I read.
1 Peter 5:1-3 1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight (serving as overseers), not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful (dishonest) gain, but eagerly (willingly); 3 not domineering (being lords or masters) over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. ESV
Allow me to answer this question. Why are we spending time focusing on the leadership of the church? And the answer is the last statement of the third verse; ‘being examples to the flock’. When Paul makes the statement ‘be imitators of me, as I am of Christ’, that actually happens, brothers and sisters. A local church fellowship will take on the characteristics of their leaders. Therefore when you assess or appraise a fellowship, you must look at the leadership. Because the fellowship emulates the leadership.
So, if we are going to look at the church, we must spend time focusing on the leadership of the church.
First this is an exhortation to the elders of the church. Peter is urging them, advising them, and cautioning them as a fellow elder and not as an outsider and also one who has witness the suffering of Christ as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed. My brothers and sisters, we will always need exhortation in spiritual matters. It is a sad situation when we find someone who feels that they know it all and can’t be taught anything. And if I expect you to listen and learn then I must be willing to model that same behavior before you.
· Listen to the exhortation – shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight (serving as overseers)
· Acts 20:28 implies the same thing; 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
· Shepherding this imagery implies;
o Care of the flock
o Protection of the flock
o Discipline of the flock
o Guidance of the flock
· We are also aware of the Lord’s recommissioning of Peter found in John 21:15-17 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. ESV
· The whole flock lambs and sheep as well
· I’m also convicted by this phase; ‘that is among you’
· Some time we get so wrapped up in who has left or who might come that we overlook who is here – the ones that is among you
· We are being advised to shepherd, oversee the ones who are here, continue to pray for the others but the ministry is to the ones among us - Amen
· Did not Jesus say where there are two or three gathered in my name, there am I among them? Yes He did!
· It is not about the numbers too many times we get caught up in numbers leaning to our own understanding
· Do you hear that New Hope? And can you also see that this exhortation can be applied to any of the ministries within the church.
o Sing the songs you know and have rehearsed with the members you have on a given day
o Teach the child or children who have showed up for your class
o Work with the men or women that you have
o Sometimes we get so upset and bothered by who didn’t that we miss the blessing on who did
o Sometimes we are so busy looking for the future blessing that we fail to see the blessing that we have now!
o I keep on praying for more and I have not used what he has blessed me with now
· That is a good exhortation and reminder for me a current pastor of New Hope!
· But before moving on I need to say something else. Shepherding reminds me of the twenty third Psalm and Jesus the good Shepherd of the church. He is my model that I follow.
· That twenty third Psalm reminds me that I am one of His sheep also therefore I am among the members of the flock, but called to be a leader, one of the pastors over this flock.
o Some may try to emphasize the “among” relationship and refuse to follow the authority of the shepherd
o Others want to put the pastor on a pedestal and make him a “super saint” who never mixes with the people
o To be effective as a pastor both relationships are needed
o As Brother Brad would say; if you ask the question is the pastor among the flock or is he over the flock? The answer is yes
o We must be among the flock so that we can get to know you, your needs and problems, and we need to be over the flock to lead you and help you solve your problems.
o In other words, there must be no conflict between our pasturing and preaching because they are both ministries of the overseer, a faithful shepherd
o As a preacher, I need to be a pastor in order to apply the Word to your needs. As a pastor, I need to be a preacher in order to have authority when I share in your daily needs and problems. In other words helping the flock through the preaching of the Word of God
· I needed to share that before moving on, and ask for your prayers for us as under shepherds of New Hope serving the chief Shepherd Jesus Christ
· Now, this exhortation comes with three contrasting ways of dealing with the task of a pastor and serves as an example to any ministry,
o As we see, for example, in 1Timothy 3, the description of the pastor is given and when it comes to the Deacon the description starts of; ‘Deacon likewise’ likewise to the pastor.
o So with each of the three, you can say likewise to any ministry in the church
· Notice first, not under compulsion which means not under constraint, coercion, compelling or being forced but willing as God would have you.
o New Hope is not forcing me to be pastor but this is a ministry, as I have said before, that I enjoy doing.
o It’s a want to do it job, not a have to do job!
o Likewise with all of the ministries be it deacon, choir, clothing, kitchen, teaching, and on
· Second, not for shameful gain, but eagerly
o Covetousness means more than just money it means material gain,
o It can also mean reputation, position and power
o 2 Timothy 2:4 gives us as pastors a warning 2 Timothy 2:4 4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. ESV
o Eagerly is from the heart, I look forward to the preaching of the gospel and pasturing the flock
o One question are you excited to be here this moment, does your ministry excites you? It should!
· Thirdly, not domineering (being lords or masters) over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
o Two words sum this up “servant leadership”
o You can not drive sheep, you must go before them and lead
o The church need leaders who serve and servants who lead
o One author is quoted as saying; “the trouble with the church today is that we have too many celebrities and not enough servants”
o Forgive me New Hope if I have moved to celebrity status and please reinstate my servant ranking
· The first two are contained in this last one, a willing and eager servant for the flock.
· Being an example for the flock because the flock takes on the characteristics of the leader
· And you can not expect the flock to do what the leadership is not doing, that is the meaning of likewise.
· Back to what I said at the start of this message; So to stop the erosion of authority we must look to Jesus and His Word.
o We have looked at His Word now let’s look at what Jesus himself said; turn to Mark 10, starting at verse 42 and follow or listen
o Mark 10:42-45 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” ESV
· That’s the answer for the church today, the way you stop the erosion of authority today is you stop being an authority figure, in the world’s sense of the word, and become the servant that Jesus modeled.
· We must learn to humble ourselves, think small of ourselves, being the servant the slave and letting the Lord fill us and use us. Pasturing His way and not our way!
· It is the foolishness of God, New Hope, that is wiser than men and it’s the weakness of God, my brothers and sisters, that is stronger than men.
· Let us pray