1 Peter #17 1 Peter 5:1-7 (MSG) Influenced Influencers Influencing for the Kingdom

 1 Peter #17 1 Peter 5:1-7 (MSG) Influenced Influencers Influencing for the Kingdom

 Ever play follow the leader?  The rules are simple: A leader is chosen, and everyone else lines up behind the leader and then must copy all the actions and movements of the leader.  The one who won’t jump off the roof is out of the game. The last person still following the leader becomes the new leader. And the game repeats until someone ends up in the hospital or jail. Well, at least in the adult version.


To be a leader one has to have followers.  If the leader has no followers, well, they’re just out taking a walk (John Boehner). Do you see yourself as a leader?  It was John Maxwell who promoted the idea that leadership is influence.  So, have you ever influenced anyone?  Sure you have.  When someone listened to you and they did what you suggested, they followed your lead, ah, that means you’re a leader.

Peter gives us a mandate for leaders in the Church. Since you have influenced others in your life there is a message for you here.  Still not convinced you’re a leader?  The Apostle Paul wrote that we are all ambassadors for Christ, God’s emissaries to the world.  An ambassador is an influencer, an influencer is a leader, and that makes you a leader.


1 Peter 5:1-4 (MSG)

I have a special concern for you church leaders. I know what it's like to be a leader, in on Christ's sufferings as well as the coming glory. 2 Here's my concern: that you care for God's flock with all the diligence of a shepherd. Not because you have to, but because you want to please God. Not calculating what you can get out of it, but acting spontaneously. 3 Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way.

4 When God, who is the best shepherd of all, comes out in the open with his rule, he'll see that you've done it right and commend you lavishly.


Peter knows what it is like to be a leader, there is always persecution, difficult decisions to make, and as he will soon address, spiritual warfare. He has received his full share of the sufferings of Christ, pain for obedience, hated for doing good, as he carried out the orders Jesus gave him to be a feeder of God’s flock.  Jesus gave Peter a mission: “If you love me, feed my sheep” (John 21:17). In addition to his loads, he concerned himself with the welfare of those he led. It’s hard to lead well.  Peter encourages us that beyond the sufferings of this life, there is something better, something glorious that we as leaders will take part in. It’s good to remember that there is God’s total redemption coming, the consummation of the Kingdom, when God sets all things right, the way things were intended to be.


Some leaders are recruited to care an entire nation, like Moses.  Some are selected to influence a congregation be to many of few.  Still, others may only lead one.  We all are called to use our influence for the furtherance of the Kingdom.  The main qualification for being a Kingdom leader is the ability to care for people.  To care one must have concern for another’s welfare.   


Philippians 2:4 (MSG)

Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.


If there is a leader that is more interested in taking care of themselves than what is best for those they influence they need to be removed from authority. Self-interest will move such a person closer to using others rather than serving the people.  Abusive leadership has always been a problem within the Church. 


One of the most common ways a leader can abuse those he or she leads is by being dictatorial, “my way or the highway.” I’ve heard—"just do what he says, God’s man, God’s plan.”  A more subtle form of dictatorship is the benevolent dictator.  The benevolent dictator has convinced folks that what they are doing is for their benefit, they seem to be seeking consensus or putting things to a vote on their hand-selected board of directors, or regardless if they receive permission or not, just go ahead with what they have decided all along. Of course, if you confront the response will be religious shaming techniques to guilt you into submission. They will tell you that they are a team player, and they are, as long as you play along with them. People followed Jesus because they wanted to, not because they were forced. The dictator coerces people to do what he or she wants.


Another sign of abusive leaders is they will build certain people up in front of others.  They will praise the one they want to prompt publically. They shower their attention on an individual.  It’s a method to create loyal followers that will be easy to manipulate because of that loyalty.  Such a leader needs a circle of condoners, people who will rubber-stamp whatever the leader wants. 


An abusive leader is not above publically shaming someone.  In a very conservative congregation an engaged couple ended up pregnant before the wedding, the Pastor demanded that the couple confess their sin before the congregation and ask for forgiveness all in the name of church discipline.  That order was more an exercise in humiliation than love.  If you disagree with the abusive leader then you are out of God’s will, you are in rebellion, or you never really belonged in the congregation.  Slandering those who leave is a sign of abusive leadership. Manipulation through guilt is another.


If you see partiality, certain folks in the congregation seem to be treated better than others, it’s because the abusive leader has determined that his or her favorites can further their agenda.  Most often it’s the big contributor who gets the most attention. For an abusive leader, everyone has a place in the pecking order of importance.


In the church setting an abusive leader will be prone to ordering staff to do things outside of their job description or put unreasonable demands upon them.  If there is no staff, volunteers are asked for favors.  Extracting personal favors from members of the congregation is abusive behavior.  Along with this mind games like gaslighting are played to get you to question your understanding of what’s going on.


Another trait of an abusive leader is their need to control.  They have their finger in every pie because they don’t want things to get out of their control.  They don’t delegate, they put people in charge who will do what they want.  No independent thinking allowed.  The Shepherding movement of the late '70s and early ’80s was a prime example of control.  You had to check in with your leader, your Shepherd, concerning every aspect of your life to get their approval.  I wanted to give an acquaintance of mine a queen size bed frame because I was moving, he told me he couldn’t accept because his shepherd said that a twin was sufficient for him.  Control seeks to make slaves.


In the church “Pastor on a Pedestal” is a sign of abusive leaders.  The Leader can do no wrong.  The Leader is always right.  No one holds the leader accountable.  I suspect that the leader who isolates themselves from those they are leading may be a sign of being on a pedestal.  I visited Saddleback Church when Rick Warren was the lead pastor, after preaching, he joined the congregation, shaking hands and greeting people, he was accessible, a sign of a good leader.   I’ve attended other meetings where you didn’t see the preacher until it was time for the delivery and then the leader was whisked away after the presentation. I guess they had more important things to do than rub elbows with the congregation.


Worst of all abusive leaders don’t know that they are.  Their ego has created huge blind spots.  They don’t see how their behavior is negatively affecting others.


God’s leader is to be a shepherd.  You are to be a shepherd.  You may not be the leader of an entire congregation but you have influence with someone, that makes you a leader.  You are to care for the flock, your brothers and sisters in Christ be that many or few.  Because you are concerned with the welfare of others you seek to meet their need (Matthew 20:28). When you do, you are a shepherd; doing what Jesus has already demonstrated.  Jesus' leadership style includes leading by example (John 10:3-4). Good leaders practice what they preach. The Shepherd is trustworthy.  It always takes time to develop trust, but consistency in your words and deeds convinces others that you are the real deal (John 10:4). Folks come to realize that you are there for them. God’s leader provides, and they meet needs, reflecting on the 23rd Psalm “The Lord is my shepherd” the leader's objective is to restore souls.  Jesus said that he had come so that folks could live their lives to the full, a good shepherd encourages others to help others live well (John 10:9).  The Shepherd is invested in the welfare of others, realizing as others prosper, they also prosper (John 10:12).  Because of this investment, they are willing to sacrifice their comfort and, in some instances, their very lives (John 10:11, 15, 17-18). The shepherd is up close and personal striving to build and maintain righteous relationships with others (John 10:14).


You know everything rises and falls on relationships.  Leaders invite the development of strong relationships with others even realizing that like Jesus there may be a Judas in the group. Betrayal is one of those dangers of following Christ.  Not everyone can withstand the refiner’s fire.  God’s way of disciplining His followers, getting them in shape for their mission, comes in so many unpleasant ways (Hebrews 12:11).  Time and time again the saying that people don’t change when they see the light, only when they feel heat has proven true.  We are to endure hardship and pursue holiness. Creating enduring and thriving relationships that benefit the Kingdom is part of the leadership task.  


Peter instructs us that our attitude toward our task as a leader is to be characterized by the willingness to serve and serving gladly. It’s out of concern for others, not personal gain, that motivates a leader.  Always leaders set examples of living life to the full so that others have a model to do likewise. The best method of teaching is by example not lecture or command (Powers p. 146).  This is why Jesus said, “Come and follow,” instead of creating a school of learning.  An additional thought on Jesus’s invitation: the position seeks the person, the person does not seek the position.  God does the calling.  That’s why a good shepherd is often reluctant to lead because they are well familiar with their inadequacies. The call of God goes out and they volunteer.


Jesus, of course, is the Chief Shepherd.  All believers are to look to Jesus’ example in living a life of obedience and love.  We are to have His attitude; we are to think like Him (Philippians 2:5).  The Apostle Paul said that Jesus humbled Himself to follow the One He called Father’s lead. “When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human” (Phil 2:7 (MSG)! Jesus said that He was not doing His will but the will of His Father who sent Him (John 5:30).  Jesus followed His leader.  That following was a demonstration of humility.  Peter writes: 


1 Peter 5:5 (MSG)

And you who are younger must follow your leaders. But all of you, leaders and followers alike, are to be down to earth with each other, for— God has had it with the proud, But takes delight in just plain people.


Plain people are folks who are transparent and honest, they are not burdened with a swollen ego, their noses are not in the air nor their heads in the clouds, rather their feet are on the ground. They might be rough around the edges but they are solid and strong and sensible. In this letter Peter has urged folks to treat one another with love (4:8), and hospitality (4:9) and to serve one another (4:10). To this list he adds be humble, be down to earth, be the plain person you are. Both leaders and leaders in the making, are to develop and display an attitude of humility.  Humility is seeing that everyone is on equal footing.  Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s rather demonstrating that you love others as much as you love yourself (Matthew 22:37).  You want to prosper, and you want others to prosper, and are willing to set aside what seems best for you to help another to prosper, that’s the attitude of humility. As we know from the resurrection, God honors the humble with vindication. God makes the best leaders out of plain people.

The message for persecuted believers is you’re down, but you’re not out.  God will raise you up, and promote you in His time. The same message is for all of us, shepherds.  It’s difficult to be a leader.  It’s often difficult to take care of yourself but then take on the responsibility of influencing others, well that just adds to the difficulty. But regardless, you answer the call.  You allow your concern to translate into action and suddenly find yourself caring for people. 


Verse 7 is a verse of empowerment.  The Message version paraphrases the verse to read “Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.”  The translation more familiar is from King James “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” When bad things happen, if we misunderstand this verse, we think that God must not care, or God is powerless to intervene, or there is no God at all. Peter has been telling us that those are the wrong conclusions.  When it comes to testimonial suffering think refiners fire, the perfecting power of problems.


When we entrust our difficulties to God, Peter tells us that God will help us in our struggles.


Psalms 55:22 (MSG)

Pile your troubles on God's shoulders—he'll carry your load, he'll help you out. He'll never let good people topple into ruin.


Matthew 6:34 (MSG)

God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.


Romans 8:32 (MSG)

If God didn't hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn't gladly and freely do for us?


How should we define this help, this care, this doing for us?  Could our definition of well-being, of being taken care of, be different from God’s?  My definition of well-being and good care means that I have financial stability and physical health, there is happiness in my life, good friends, and good times. My definition of help is I get what I need to defeat my problems.  After all, I know what’s best for me. God’s idea of well-being has more to do with my character than my comfort. God’s idea of well-being is that I become the person he declared me to be, doing the work He has empowered me to do, more concerned with the mission assigned than the easy street that I prefer. The nasty situation I find myself in is the refiner’s fire.  Faith is trust that results in action.  Faith’s trust is being certain that the things of this life are not going to break us, but instead make us, knowing that God works for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).  Faith’s action is obedience and love, even when we find ourselves in the Roman Colosseums of life for seemingly entertainment purposes for the pagan world.  Faith makes it possible for you to continue casting your cares to God, entrusting yourself to His care.


Are you sure you want to be a Christian?  Once you’ve acknowledged that you are a sinner in need of saving and believe that Jesus is exactly the savior you need, you willing bent the knee to Jesus, committing yourself to be his disciple, and having asked God to make you one of his chosen people, did you realize that you decided to allow yourself to be thrust into any situation that God needed you to be in, not only for your benefit but for the furtherance of His work in the world?  Come and follow is an invitation to die to self and to live for Jesus and ultimately be promoted to life eternal (Luke 9:23).  Come and follow is an invitation to enter into the suffering of Jesus with the faith that serving well results in a resurrection (Philippians 3:10-11).  It’s not easy being a leader, an influencer, a shepherd in the Kingdom, the neighbors are going to hate you (John 15:18).  The larger community will make things difficult for you (Ephesians 6:12).  It may cost you more than you thought you could pay to be a Christian (John 16:2).  Are you sure you want to be one? Count the cost (Luke 14:28).


The Jesus follower never resents the testimonial sufferings of life and never rebels against them but understands them to be a refiner’s fire that purifies them as their endurance continues God’s work in the world because they know that the mighty hand of God is on the tiller of their life and that God has a destiny for greater than can be imagined in store for their faithfulness. (see—Barclay's Daily Study Bible: The Laws of the Christian Life (1) (1 Pet 5:6-11)—Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT).


From the teaching we have learned that in reality, we are all called to be leaders in the Kingdom.  If you’ve bent the knee to Jesus you’ve been called into service.  Voluntarily enlisted. Leadership is influence and if you influence just one person, you’re a leader. There are good leaders and abusive leaders.  The good and the abusive are separated by egoism.  The Good leader has victory over doing things the way they want, when they want, regardless of how their decision affects others, they serve out of concern for others.  The abusive leader has not mastered egoism, they serve out of what they can get. 


Take home with you that you have the privilege of bringing every care and concern you have to God.  You don’t have to carry your burdens alone.  Prayer and Fellowship are the avenues in which we find help when things get overwhelming.  Brothers and sisters are called to be shepherds.  God is concerned with your well-being. So when things are difficult you have sound advice from Hebrews 4:16 (MSG)


So let's walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help. 


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