Let’s begin today’s message with a poll.
Ironbridge is moving swiftly towards a new chapter.
For several decades we were guided by a shepherd, we went through a time of transition, and next week we are welcoming a new pastor.
So here are our options, and don’t worry, I won’t tell Pastor Michael.
Raise your hand if you are just plain excited for the future of Ironbridge.
Raise your hand if you are hopeful but nervous.
(I thought about doing this poll by sound)
As you can see, the room is mixed.
In today’s scripture, 1 Peter 5:1-11, Peter is writing to a church with mixed feelings.
They have strong leaders, but their leaders are tired.
They are multigenerational, but the generations are struggling to connect.
They want to be strong in faith but they are fearful because of their suffering.
They want to be a healthy church, but they are struggling to know how.
Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter is going to show them how they can become a community that God exalts.
Now, we have barely started the message, and you may already have a check in your spirit.
“Hold-up, becoming a community God exalts?
That doesn’t sound right.
Shouldn’t we be a community that seeks humility?”.
Thankfully, we do not need to reconcile friends.
God desires to raise up, highly esteem, dignify, and exalt his bride.
He tells us this motive in today’s text, “so that he may exalt you at the proper time.”
God desires to exalt his people, because, through his people, Jesus is displayed as desirable to the world.
When we are salt, communities slow their decay.
When we are light, people find hope in the gospel.
God calls and entrusts us to be his ambassadors, what an honor, and what a gift to the watching world when we are true to our calling.
Are we a people who actually believe that the health of chesterfield depends upon the people of God being valuable and visible, because we are seeking to show the world the beauty of Jesus’ love?
If so, this morning we will learn from Peter, four ways to become a community God exalts.
Our leaders are easy to follow because they are eager to shepherd.
When God wants to change a community, he begins with the leaders.
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:
Look at Peter’s posture of humility in this intro.
He was one of the twelve disciples.
He was in Jesus’ inner circle.
He was appointed by the Holy Spirit to be one of the leading apostles over the early church.
He could have said, as an apostle, I demand.
But instead he begins, as a fellow leader, I encourage.
Where did he learn this type of leadership attitude?
Look at our passage, “and a witness of the sufferings of Christ”.
Jesus on the cross, dying to save, is the image of true Christian leadership.
Laying down your life out of love for another.
This is what elders in the church are called to do.
Elders are those who have been entrusted with spiritual leadership in the church.
The new testament uses the terms elder, overseer, bishop, and shepherd-teacher interchangeably.
Being an elder has little to do with age, popularity, or business competence.
Rather, this group of God-appointed, and church approved, men are to possess a character that matches God’s qualifications for this role.
(The character of these men should exemplify the qualifications outlined in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1: above reproach, not arrogant or easily angered, not violent or greedy, not addicted to alcohol, hospitable, a lover of good, self controlled, upright, holy, disciplined, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, respectable, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money, not a recent convert, and thought of well by outsiders.)
So if this is who they are, what is this group of pastors called to do?
2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, Notice, what he doesn’t say, “CEO the company underneath you”.
The congregation is not a collection of customers to be pleased, but a flock to be cherished.
If Pastors are living to please people, then preaching the truth in love would be the wrong game plan.
If making people happy was the goal, then we need to make this place as much like Disney World as possible.
As a refreshing alternative, Paul was honest about his desire as a pastor to the church of Galatia, Galatians 1:10 “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?
Or am I trying to please man?
If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Shepherds are sometimes going to make leadership decisions that the sheep don’t like.
But the shepherds will do this sensitively, because these shepherds are among the flock.
(Let’s be real for a second, all that I just described cannot be done through “online church”.
Imagine that you owned some sheep and wanted to interview for the shepherd role.
One of the candidates admitted that he loved guiding sheep, but he was unable to be with them.
You rightly looked concerned.
In response, he assured you that he was going to utilize video to shepherd the flock.
You would be wise to find a different shepherd.
To actually be shepherded, the sheep must know and see the guide.
This cannot happen watching teaching on youtube or in isolation online.
I encourage you to invite your pastors to lunch.
Take them to your child’s game with you.
Have them over for dinner while your home is still a mess.
(And if you really want to bless them, invite them for a round of golf.))
Shepherds must be among the sheep.
But this does not negate their calling to lead the sheep.
exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
There are three pot-holes that can destroy the alignment of elders with the word of God.
Pastoring merely out of obligation.
Pastoring for greedy wealth.
And misusing their authority.
In the last decade alone, have we not seen countless examples of churches left in shambles, because their leaders were guiding out of greedy motives?
With all of these sad examples fresh on our hearts, it may be tempting to think that the solution is to strip authority from shepherds.
Especially, if we have been wounded by shepherds in the past.
But the end result of this plan, is sheep roaming around on their own.
The very scene that caused Jesus to have gut-level compassion when he saw that the people “were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
Jesus’ solution for weary sheep is to give them qualified and caring shepherds.
Look back at the positives in this verse, picture leaders exercising oversight willingly in love, eagerly as God would have them, living as examples of Jesus’ care.
After all, they do not own the sheep, the text gives us the clue that the sheep are temporarily “in your charge”.
Shepherds are stewards who will be held accountable...
Pastor Michael’s first Sunday fell on me and my wife’s family vacation.
On that pivotal Sunday morning, though my body was in the Adirondack's of New York, my heart was at Ironbridge.
The service was not live streamed, so all that we could do was pray and wait to hear the result of the vote.
We really wanted the vote to pass.
That morning we went to a service in New York and the Pastor preached on Psalm 23.
As I was listening, an overwhelming peace calmed me.
“No matter what the outcome of the vote is today, the Lord is my Shepherd.”
“No matter what Ironbridge decides, Jesus will restore my soul and lead me!” “No matter what happens, we will not be Shepherd-less, for Jesus himself is our Shepherd!”
4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
When this passage was written, victorious athletes were given crowns made of olive branch .
I looked it up this week, an olive wreath will last approximately 2-4 weeks in that condition before it fades.
All of that training and exercise, for 2-4 weeks of glory.
Glory in our modern day lasts even shorter than that.
Athletes practice their whole lives to make it to the super bowl.
The day after we are talking about our favorite potato chip commercial from the night before!