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Lesson 7: Servant Leadership *

Introduction: When I first moved away from home, I joined a church that seemed to be perfect. It was wonderful! I liked the people. I liked the pastor. There were no divisions in the church. The next year, I got married and my wife started teaching in the school associated with this church. Once I started seeing the "inside" picture of the church, I realized that not all was calm, peaceful and unified. Peter has been advising us on various relationships, and this week we study his direction on relationships between the church and its leaders. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. Elders

    1. Read 1 Peter 5:1. When Peter writes to "elders" is he talking about those who hold a church office, or those of an advanced age? (Read 1 Peter 5:5. I've always assumed that Peter is talking about an office in the church, but looking more closely it appears Peter is talking about older people.)

    2. Read 1 Peter 5:2. What is Peter asking of the older people? (To be "shepherds of God's flock. This is clearly a reference to holding an office or position in the church.)

      1. Think about this. Is it logical to link older members and those who hold a position of leadership in the church? Re-read 1 Peter 5:1 to see if you find any clues about this. (Peter says the older people were eye witnesses to the sufferings of Jesus. The idea is that older people know more, they have more experience, and therefore it is logical to make them leaders - shepherds.)

      2. The commentators I read explained that the word "elder" meant an old person, but they also thought that in the early church it often referred to those who held high offices in the church. Why? Because of the link between age and holding these offices. Robertson's New Testament Word Pictures says that an early inscription used the term translated "elders," for town leaders - "alderman." Do you think there should be such a link in the modern church?

    3. Look again at 1 Peter 5:2. Why would Peter write "not because you must, but because you are willing?" (This convinces me that Peter is talking primarily about age, not office. It makes sense that he would write that the older members should serve as "overseers," not because it is mandatory, but because they want to do it.)

      1. In general, people get wiser with age. The problem is that I've known "knuckleheads" who do not change as they age. Is age the primary factor to consider? (Let's keep reading because I think Peter answers this question.)

    4. Read 1 Peter 5:2-3. We have discussed that older people have witnessed important history and should have gained wisdom. What other job requirements does Peter place on older people before they are qualified to hold the office of "overseers?"(They should be eager to serve. They should not be in it for the money. They should not "lord" it over the flock. They should be good examples.)

      1. I've been an "Elder" in the various churches where I was a member for most of my adult life. No one ever paid me any money. Is this a problem in your church?

        1. If money is not a problem, is there a parallel problem that does not involve money? Do any of the Elders benefit personally from holding a leadership position?

    5. Look again at 1 Peter 5:3. Is "lording it over" others a personal benefit? (Peter is describing a character trait that should be disqualifying for an overseer. You should not be doing the job because of personal benefit, whether that is financial, or a matter of ego, or authority. Peter allows Elders to be paid for the job, and enjoy the relative pride and authority that comes with it. However, he writes that you should do the job to benefit others, and not because you are "greedy" to feed your pride or assert authority.)

      1. If you have been an Elder, have you derived personal satisfaction from it? (Helping others gives great joy when they react positively. That is one of the blessings of the position.)

      2. Over the years I've seen a pattern that seems most natural, but is a cause for concern. Church members whose occupations do not reward them with leadership positions, find that the church fills that need. The problem for these leaders is that losing the church position feels like being fired from a job - and the result is very difficult for the person and the church. Is this an unavoidable problem?

      3. For a time I was concerned about my own motives. Was I teaching, preaching and leading because I liked being up front, or because I was trying to bring glory to God? Who was my primary object of glory? If you lead, have you thought about this issue? (Dr. William Shea, one of my denomination's leading theologians, became a member of my local church. He is an extraordinary example of a humble saint. One day I asked him, "Bill, when you teach and preach, do you do it in part because you like being in front?" He said, "Sure, that is a part of it." The fact that this humble man should appreciate that part of the job calmed my concerns. The goal is to advance the Kingdom of God. But enjoying the honor that comes your way is not sin. John 12:26.)

    6. Read 1 Peter 5:4. What is the ultimate reward of being an overseer? (Heaven! "The crown of glory." If your reason for leading is glory here, then you have already been paid in full here.)

  2. Youth

    1. Read 1 Peter 5:5. Why do you think it was important for Peter to write this? (Youth do not always realize that experience is important.)

      1. What overall mutual attitude does Peter command? (That we all, young and old, act with humility towards each other.)

      2. What is the payoff for mutual humility? (If you are proud, God will resist you. If you are humble, God will give you grace.)

    2. Read 1 Peter 5:6. When is the "due time" that God will lift us up? (Young people will get old! At least, that is the goal. This also bolsters the point we studied earlier, that God desires to honor us.)

    3. Read 1 Peter 5:7. What does anxiety have to do with being humble, and accepting direction from elders? (Ask yourself how much of your worry and fear has to do with losing face? Losing something that makes you appear important? Humility is a shield against anxiety.)

  3. Satan vs. God

    1. Read 1 Peter 5:8. Do you have a role in not being "devoured" by Satan? (Yes. Be "self-controlled and alert.")

      1. What do you think it means, as a practical matter, to be "devoured" by Satan?

    2. Read 1 Peter 5:9. Fighting Satan does not seem, on the face of it, to be a good idea. Look at what he did to Job. What, exactly, do you think Peter means when he tells us to "resist" Satan? (The key is the phrase, "standing firm in the faith." We put our trust in God. We have faith in God. The battle is between God and Satan, we are not standing alone against Satan.)

      1. Why is it important to know that other Christians are suffering? (It gives you comfort that you are not alone.)

      2. Why does Peter mention "suffering" in the context of resisting Satan and keeping him from devouring us? (This context is extremely important. The battle has to do with trials and suffering. Satan brings difficulty into our life, and standing firm in our faith in God is the answer to this attack.)

      3. Does our extensive discussion of humility have any application here? (If we are proud, we are less likely to immediately turn to God for help.)

    3. Read 1 Peter 5:10. On the one hand we have Satan who would like to "devour" us, who do we have on the other hand? (God!)

      1. What is God's attitude towards us? (Grace! He is the "God of all grace.")

      2. What is God's plan for us? (To restore us from whatever injuries Satan causes, and to make us "strong, firm and steadfast.")

    4. Friend, do you desire to be "strong, firm and steadfast?" Understanding the right relationship with your government, your employer, your spouse, your suffering, your fellow church members, and the conflict between Satan and God, will put you on the path to being a Christian confident in God. Why not ask God today to help you, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to continue on the path of right relationships?

  4. Next week: Jesus in the Writings of Peter.
* Copr. 2017, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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