I Peter 5:1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. 5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
Peter, who beheld Christ in His glory, with Moses and Elijah by His side, and knowing what he knew about heaven, encourages elders (pastors, bishops, presbyters) to lead and feed the flock well.
1. Feed the flock. The Word of God is milk for the young and meat for the mature. The pastor must skillfully prepare and serve those who come to the table. It is the flock that is "among you." There is no sense in trying to feed the ones who don't show up to dinner. Care for the ones who care enough to answer the dinner bell. When you may avail yourself to do so, leave the ninety and nine and chase down the strays. In the meantime, take care to care for those present and hungry for a good spiritual meal. The meal must be attractive, palatable, healthy and digestible. Make their trip to the dinner table worth their while. Spice the meal up with applicable verses, substantive illustrations, possibly even humor which suffices to get the point across.
2. Seize the oversight. Be the leader. As the bishop, you are the overseer. As presbyter, you are in charge. As an elder, you earn the respect. As pastor, you are the guard and guide of the flock of God.
The captain of a ship does not receive his orders from his crew or passengers, he is submissive to the ship’s owner. The waters do not dictate his course, at times he must head directly into the teeth of the storm. He must take the oversight to care for his charge: the ship, crew, cargo and passengers. When the ship begins to lilt, he must do what is needed to right it. When it is knocked from its course, he brings it to bear once again. He alone is capable and knowledgeable of the intricacies of the ship. Though one seaman may man the crow's nest, he may have no clue as to what is taking place in the engine room. The helmsman, though aware of many of the ship's workings, does not have the interests of all at heart as does the captain. It is the captain who inevitably will go down with the ship if the worst case scenario plays out.
And so the pastor, under the guidance of ingrained biblical principles and the Holy Ghost, takes the oversight of the Old Ship of Zion, the church of the living God. It is his charge and his privilege, granted by God Himself, to see the vessel safely to the other shore.
3. Motives must be proper. As under shepherd of God's flock, the man of God must be driven by pure motives. One's own advancement, popularity, ego, desires and remuneration must be vigorously shunned. He must, of his own volition and of a prepared, informed, studied mind see to the nourishment, protection and needs of Christ's bride.
The man who is "in it for the money" attempting to fleece the sheep for his own dark purposes is, at best, a hireling, and, at worst, a wolf aiming to devour the flock.
If such an individual were to make it through the pearly gates, the greater condemnation would rest on him at the judgment, according to James 3:1.
4. He must be a servant/leader. The paradoxical nature of the Christian comes into full play for ecclesiastical leadership. The pastor, though a leader, serves as example, not as a lord over God's heritage. We learn from our Lord that to know how to win, we learn how to lose. To have any hope of being first, we must go to the end of the line. To be lifted up, we must first humble ourselves.
Many are the tongue-lashings a pastor endures without retaliation. Oft times he finds that sheep bite, and they bite hard. But he must be above retribution. Servant-leadership loves, but deals firmly, when hateful actions are taken against it. He suffers quietly; knowing that it is God Who is keeping notes and arranging rewards.
His is not to drive the sheep, but to lead. The shepherds staff may serve to lovingly and patiently nudge, but is not used to beat ovine creatures. Frustration is sure to ensue when he has led well, nudged in love and still, sheep stray to their own peril. Yet, leading by example he faithfully continues to do.
5. Generous rewards await the faithful elder. At the appearing of the chief Shepherd, a shimmering, priceless, golden, jewel-studded crown will adorn the brow of the good pastor...but only temporarily. Upon realization that our good, great and chief Pastor is the only One truly deserving of such honor, our crowns will be heaped at His feet which appear as burnished brass.
It seems odd that we would cast our crowns to the base of His throne. Normally, we would treat such treasures with great care, gently placing them on velvety pedestals. But not so in Heaven at this reward ceremony. You see, a sea of saints with innumerable crowns cannot possibly individually approach the God of Glory to carefully place their crowns. No doubt, they must come only as close as is physically possible and merely cast their rewards as best as they can toward the mountainous heap of bejeweled coronas and tiaras bestowed back to our gracious Shepherd, Who alone is worthy to receive glory and honor and power and blessing.
Stay faithful, weary and bedraggled pastor. Keep feeding the flock, taking the helm, leading faithfully. Minister with a Spirit-filled willingness.
Peter got a glimpse of Jesus in His glory and a premonition of what awaits God's choicest servants and he gives us the heads up that “Great is your reward.”