Vision 2014 5) Commitment to Leadership

Commitment to Leadership

Text: 1 Pet 5:1-4

 

Over the last four weeks we’ve been looking at the things that we think are critical if we are going to fulfil our mission as a church, transforming people into fully devoted followers of Christ. Firstly, only God can change people’s lives, so like a two year old reaches up to their dad for help, so we need to raise our arms in prayer to our heavenly Father. In our second sermon we looked at the image of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, and how Christ serves us and how he calls us to humbly serve others. In the third sermon Jeremy talked about beautiful feet, how we are called to share the gospel, and the power of the gospel to change people’s lives. And last week Jeremy talked about how we are called to disciple people, to teach them about what it means to follow Jesus. Well this week I want to talk about leadership. We believe that if we are going to achieve our mission of transforming people’s lives we need to have good leadership. We need people who are passionate about Jesus and about his body, the Church. We need people who are passionate about making a difference in people’s lives. We need people who will pass on the baton to the next generation. We need good leaders. This morning I want to reflect on the idea that Jesus is our ultimate leader, but also how Jesus appoints certain people to lead his church.

 

1) Jesus is our Leader

So firstly, let’s take a look at the idea that Jesus is our leader. When you think of the word ‘leader’ what does it conjure up for you? Maybe you think of great leaders throughout human history like Alexander the Great. Maybe you think of religious leaders like Ghandi, or revolutionaries like William Wilberforce. Maybe you think of politicians like Nelson Mandela. Maybe you think of leaders in sport like Wayne Bennett. Often when we think of leaders we think in terms of people who have achieved great things, people who are able to motivate others, people who have influence. But when it comes to Jesus we’re talking a whole different level. Jesus achieved great things, he did amazing miracles, he taught amazing things,  he rose from the dead; Jesus motivated a whole movement that has lasted 2,000 years; Jesus has influenced the whole course of human history. But more than that the Bible talks about Jesus as being the supreme leader. Jesus isn’t just a great person, Jesus is God in the flesh. The Bible uses terms like ‘the Lord.’ Jesus is the Lord. He is the Lord of the Universe, he is the Lord of every person on this planet whether they recognize that fact or not. But this morning I want to look specifically at how Jesus is the Lord of the Church. The New Testament uses two images that illustrate Jesus’ leadership over the church.

a) Jesus is the Head of the Church

The first is the idea that Jesus is the head of the church. In his letter to the church in Ephesus Paul says, ‘22 God placed all things under [Jesus’] feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body... (Eph 1:22-23a)’ And later he writes, 23 …Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. (Eph 5:23b)’ Jesus is the head of the church. What does that mean? This was rich Old Testament language. In the Old Testament it talks about certain men being the head of their tribe (Num 1:5-15), or the head of their family (Ex 6:14). It is even used of God as the head of his people. Abijah, one of the kings of Judah says, ‘12 God is with us; he is our leader (or our head). (2 Chron 13:12)’ The point of headship in the Bible is all about who has authority. Abijah was saying that their leader was God, that God had authority over their lives. The point of tribal leaders was that they had authority over their tribe, the point of male headship is that the man had authority over his family, and the point of Jesus’ headship is that he has authority over the church. God had placed all things under Jesus’ feet, God had appointed him to be head over everything for the church, God has given him all authority. When we call ourselves Christians what we are really saying is that Jesus is our head, that Jesus is our supreme authority, that Jesus is our leader. That’s what we mean when we call Jesus our Lord, that he is the Lord, that he is the Lord of our lives as much as he is the Lord of the universe. We are saying that in our lives Jesus calls the shots. That’s what Jesus was talking about when he told his followers to ‘19 Come, follow me… (Mt 4:19a)’ Following Jesus is all about making him the leader of your life. So I want to ask you this morning: Is Jesus your Lord? Do you submit yourself to his authority? Have you yielded your life to his leadership?

b) Jesus is the Chief Shepherd

The second image the New Testament uses about Jesus’ leadership is the image of a shepherd. In our text Pater actually refers to Jesus as ‘4 …the Chief Shepherd… (1 Pet 5:4a)’ In the letter to the Hebrews the writer refers to Jesus as the ‘20 …great Shepherd... (Heb 10:20b)’ And Jesus refers to himself as ‘11 …the good shepherd …who lays down his life for the sheep. (Jn 10:11)’ This imagery is completely different from the idea of headship. Whereas headship is all about Jesus’ authority over the church, and his authority over our lives, the image of a shepherd is very pastoral in nature. We don’t really do the shepherd and sheep thing very much here in the suburbs, but you only have to read Psalm 23 to get an idea of what it’s all about. It’s the one that starts, ‘1 The Lord is my shepherd… (Ps 23:1a)’ David talks about God as a shepherd, who ‘2 …makes me lie down in green pastures, [who] leads me beside quiet waters, 3 [who] restores my soul. [Who] guides me in paths of righteousness…4 …[who is] with me… [and] comforts me. (Ps 23:2-4)’ The point is that a shepherd cares for his sheep, a shepherd looks after his sheep, a shepherd provides for his sheep, a shepherd protects his sheep. And Jesus picks up on that very same idea in John 10. He says, ‘27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. (Jn 10:27-28)’ As the shepherd Jesus lays down his life for us so that we can have eternal life. Of course the sheep listen to the shepherd and they follow the shepherd, but the big idea here, is that the shepherd saves his sheep, that the shepherd protects his sheep, that the shepherd provides for his sheep. As the chief shepherd Jesus saves us from our sin and gives us eternal life. Jesus’ leadership isn’t just about his divine authority, but also about his loving care. We follow Jesus, we make Jesus our leader, because Jesus laid down his life for us, because he rescued us from hell, because he gave us eternal life. We follow Jesus because he loves us and cares for us, because like a good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep, so Jesus laid down his life for us. I want to ask you this morning: Is Jesus your Saviour? Have you put your trust in Jesus’ death on the cross? Is Jesus the shepherd of your soul? Has he rescued you form death and given you eternal life?

c) How Jesus leads us

Jesus is our leader because he has authority over our lives and because he saved us, but how does Jesus lead us? How does Jesus exercise his authority over our lives?

a) By His Word

Firstly, he leads us by his word. Jesus tells his disciples that they must make disciples, and they do that by, ‘20 …teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Mt 28:20a)’ That’s what Jeremy preached about last week. We follow Jesus by obeying his word. And to keep it simple God’s word, which includes Jesus’ words, are all included in the Bible. When we say we follow Jesus, what we’re really saying is that we follow the Bible, because Jesus leads us and guides us and instructs us through the Bible. Earlier we read that those who follow Jesus listen to his voice, and James says that listening to Jesus means doing what he says (Jam 1:22). So do you read your Bible, do you listen to what it says, do you do what it says?

b) By His Spirit

Secondly, Jesus leads us through His Spirit. Jesus doesn’t just tell his disciples to make disciples by teaching them his word, he also promises ‘20 …I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Mt 28:20b)’ Jesus is with us through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. And Jesus promises that ‘13 …[the Holy Spirit] will guide [us] into all truth. (Jn 16:13b)’ The Spirit opens our eyes to the truth revealed in Scripture. It’s not just a book, it’s God’s book with God’s Spirit. But the Spirit also helps us to follow Jesus. Paul says that ‘3 …no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor 12:3b)’ Jesus only becomes our leader because the Holy Spirit changes our attitude towards Jesus. And the Spirit also helps us continue to follow Jesus. Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit, how the Spirit helps us to become more like Jesus. That’s what our Sunday School kids are learning about, how the Spirit helps us to be loving, and joyful, and patient, and kind, etc. But Paul also tells us to ‘16 …live by the Spirit… (Gal 5:16a)’ and to be ‘18 …led by the Spirit… (Gal 5:18a)’ and to ‘25 …keep in step with the Spirit. (Gal 5:25b)’ Through the Spirit Jesus not only speaks into our lives, he enables us to follow him. So this morning: Are you walking with the Spirit? Are you allowing the Spirit to guide you and change you and make you more like Jesus?

c) Through Faithful Leaders

Thirdly, Jesus leads us through faithful leaders. And this morning I want to explore this idea in some more detail, so I’m going to make this a whole new point.

 

2) Jesus appoints Leaders

Jesus appoints leaders in his church. The Bible says, ‘7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. (Eph 4:7,11-12)’ Jesus appointed leaders to prepare God’s people for service and to encourage, or build up, God’s people. Church leaders aren’t our idea, they are Jesus’ idea.

a) Two types of leaders

That passage mentions a few different kids of leaders, but I want to focus this morning on two specific types of leaders in the church, elders and deacons.

i) Elders

Let’s start with Elders. Firstly, the whole point of elders is that they are old, that’s why they are called elders. Well, actually that’s not strictly true. In the Old Testament, it was normal for elderly people to be appointed as elders due to their wisdom and experience, and that practice carried over into the synagogue as well. But it’s interesting that when Paul lists off the prerequisites for an elder he doesn’t mention ‘they must be old.’ Instead, Paul lists off a bunch of character qualities, he ‘2 …must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome… etc. (1 Tim 3:2-3)’ Basically, the idea is that an elder must be a committed Christian. An elder is someone who submits to Jesus as their leader, for whom Jesus is their Lord and Saviour. An elder is someone who is a fully devoted follower of Christ.

ii) Deacons

So what about Deacons? When the Apostles asked the church to appoint deacons they just asked for people ‘3 …who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. (Act 6:3b)’ Basically, people who were lead by the Word and the Spirit. And later Paul lists off pretty much the same character qualities as he did for the elders. Like elders, deacons were committed followers of Christ.

b) Why did he appoint them?

So why did Jesus appoint elders and deacons in the church?

i) Elders

Let’s start with the elders again. We read about elders all throughout the Gospels but they were Jewish elders in the synagogue. The first we really hear about elders in the church is in Acts 12 where we read that, ‘23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in each church… (Acts 12:23a)’ So what were these elders meant to do? Years later when Paul is almost at the end of his ministry he calls a group of these elders together and he says, ‘28 Keep watch over all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God. (Act 20:28)’ And Peter pretty much says the same thing in our text, ‘2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers… (1 Pet 5:2a)’ There are two words in those verses that describe an elder’s function.

1. Overseers

The first is the word ‘overseer.’ The idea is that they are to oversee, or supervise, the work of the church. Elsewhere Paul talks about ‘17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church… (1 Timothy 5:17a)’ Basically, elders are to keep watch over the flock, they are to make sure the church stays true to their ultimate leader, Jesus Christ. According to our Church Order elders are to ‘oversee the doctrine and life of church members, supervise all aspects of the worship services and the catechising (not castrating) of the youth, and to equip and encourage God’s people in evangelism and other works of service.’ Elders oversee the church.

2. Pastor

The second word is the word ‘shepherd.’ Elders are to be shepherds of the church of God. Like Jesus is the chief shepherd the elders are under-shepherds. In fact, this is where we get the word Pastor from. A shepherd pastors, or cares, for their flock. Once again our Church Order says that elders are to ‘faithfully provide pastoral care for the congregation.’ Like Jesus loves and cares for his sheep, so elders are meant to love and care for God’s people.

3. Teach

A third word that describes the work of elders is the word ‘teach.’ Elders are called to teach God’s word. Paul talks about, ‘17 …elders whose work is preaching and teaching. (1 Tim 5:17b)’ In Acts 20 Paul talks about ‘savage wolves’ who will attack the church (Act 20:29). What Paul is talking about are people who will ‘30 …distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. (Act 20:30b)’ It didn’t take long before false teachers arose and tried to twist the truth about Jesus to their own advantage, so one of the roles of the elders was to teach the truth. The elders were to protect the church from heresy, or false doctrine. So the elders main functions are to oversee the church, to pastorally care for the church, and to protect the church against heresy by teaching the truth. Basically the main task of elders is to keep us focused on Jesus.

ii) Deacons

So what about deacons? Deacons are completely different from elders. While the word elder means ‘old,’ the word deacon means ‘servant.’ Deacons where appointed in the church to serve those in need. It all started in Acts 6. The widows of Greek Christians were being overlooked in favour of the widows of Jewish Christians, so the Apostles’ said, ‘that’s crap!’ and appointed deacons to sort it out. According to our Church Order, deacons are firstly to ‘exercise the ministry of Christian mercy to those who are in material or social need… by means of prayer, counsel and assistance, [and secondly to] stimulate the congregation to faithful, obedient stewardship of their resources on behalf of the needy; and encourage and instruct them in works of Christian mercy.’ The idea is not that the deacons help the needy, but that they encourage us to help the needy, they are to stimulate the church in works of mercy. Deacons serve the church by encouraging us to serve the needy.

c) How do leaders lead?

So if that’s who and why, what about how, how should leaders lead? That’s what Peter is dealing with in our text.

i) Willingly

Firstly, elders should be willing. Peter says, ‘2 …serve as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be… (1 Pet 5:2b)’ Being an elder shouldn’t be seen as a duty, but as a privilege. Paul says, ‘If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. (1 Tim 3:1)’ There is nothing more exciting than to lead God’s people.

ii) Eagerly

Secondly elders should be eager. Our text says elders should ‘2 …not [be] greedy for money, but eager to serve. (1 Pet 5:2c)’ Elders should be eager to serve. Leaders in the church should be passionate about their faith. They should be passionate about serving others, about encouraging people in their faith, about building up the church. They should be eager to serve.

iii) By Example

Thirdly, leaders should lead by example. Peter says that elders should ‘3 not lord it over those entrusted to you, but be examples to the flock. (1 Pet 5:3b)’ An example of what exactly? The first half of the verse gives it away. Rather than lording is over others they should be examples of humility. Like Jesus humbly served us by laying down his life on the cross, so elders should be examples of humble serve. Leadership in the church isn’t about being famous or popular or about being put on a pedestal, but about being a servant. Leadership is about putting others before yourself.

iv) Be Committed

Finally, Paul talks about elders ‘12 …who work hard among you... (1 Thess 5:12b)’ and ‘17 …who direct the affairs of the church well… (1 Tim 5:17a)’ And he encourages leaders to ‘8 …govern diligently… (Rom 12:8d)’ Leaders need to be committed. Leadership takes hard work and diligence. It’s no wonder Peter says, ‘11 …If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides. (1 Pet 4:11b)’ This willingness and eagerness and leading by example and commitment comes from the Spirit, it comes from being yielded to the leadership of Jesus Christ.

 

So what does this mean for us sitting here this morning? I mean, we know what it means for elders and deacons, but what about the rest of us? This morning I want to leave you with three words for you to apply in your own life.

1. Do you Honour our leaders?

Firstly, the word, honour. The Bible says that we are to honour those whom Jesus has appointed to lead his church. Paul says, ‘17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. (1 Tim 5:17)’ The word translated as honour, means to value something, to hold it in esteem. Do you honour the leaders in our church?

2. Do you Love our leaders?

The second word is the word love. Again Paul says, ‘12 Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. (1 Thess 5:12-13a)’ Paul says we are to hold the leaders in our church in the highest regard, not just because we respect what they do, but because we love them, because they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Do you love our leaders? Being a leader in the church isn’t always easy, but it feels a lot easier when you know that you’re loved by those you’re leading.

3. Do you Obey our leaders?

Thirdly, the Bible tells us to obey our leaders. Hebrews 13:17, ‘17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Heb 13:17)’ Do you take the advice of our elders seriously? Do you listen to what they say? Do you make their ministry a joy? Do you obey the leaders that God has appointed over this church?

 

I want to finish this morning by asking: Is Jesus your leader, is he your Lord and Saviour, is he the head of your life, is he the shepherd of your soul? Do you submit yourself to his leadership? Do you obey his word, the Bible? Are you lead by the Holy Spirit? And do you submit yourself to the leaders he has appointed over his body, the church? Do you respect and love and obey your elders? Do your support the ministry of the deacons? Are you willing to get involved, helping them serve the needy? And are you willing and eager to step up to leadership yourself, so that you also, like Christ, can be an example of humble service to others. If we are going to achieve our mission of transforming people into fully devoted followers of Christ we’re going to need great leaders. So it’s with great excitement that we get to welcome Scott and Allen as our new elders and Derk as our new deacon next Sunday. I’d like to encourage you to pray for these guys this week. Amen

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