Building Those in Hardship Into a Team
Section 6.3 of 1 Peter (1 Peter 5:1-7)
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God;
and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;
nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.
And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders;
and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.
Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
The third sub-section of the sixth section of the First Letter of Peter follows the call to trust in the faithfulness of God. The people will experience suffering, not just one of them. So we see Peter continuing on in giving guidance, but in closing, focusing more on those who have certain roles among the people. Where earlier Peter provided specific guidance within the roles of general life, such as the respectful citizen (1 Peter 2:13-17), the obedient slave (1 Peter 2:18-20), the submissive wife (1 Peter 3:1-6), and the honorable and understanding husband (1 Peter 3:7), he now moves to within the congregations.
“Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed…” He begins with the elders. Peter compares these individuals to himself, which leads us to understand that these are not just elders in general, but leaders of the congregations who it appears may have been witnesses to the sufferings of Christ (depending on how we can understand the grammar here). It is unique, however, that he mentions “and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed.” At the same time that he lifts them up into an equal position of leadership, he also points out that they as well as the non-elders all share in the same inheritance. You are the leaders, but this does not mean you are receiving something special or more than those you lead.
“…shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily…” The model of Servant Leadership within the worldview of Biblical Judeo-Christianity is frequently characterized by the humble Shepherd. The caretaker of the flock who directs and guides the flock in the way it must go, but who also loves and has compassion for his flock. Peter here is calling these elders to step up to the plate, and to lead these people during this time of hardship willful, and not to feel compelled into it by the circumstances as though that gives them authority. “…according to the will of God;” is attached to this call to voluntary leadership. They are to lead out of the mindset of God’s command for them to be leaders. They are not to be compelled into leadership, but are to willfully take the position because it is their God ordained duty to do so.
“…and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.” Peter is calling upon these elders to lead out of duty, with a sense of eagerness to do so. There should be no desire for gain, but only and eagerness to please God. Peter includes the call to not allow the authority to go to their head. “Lording” it over them is similar to how a boss or supervisor might flout their position of authority over you, holding themselves as something above others instead of being a part of them. Peter calls them to be examples to the flock, having an eager desire to guide them into doing what is right, not through threat of force, but by example. That is the true essence of leadership.
Included in this is the statement “…over those allotted to your charge…” I point this out separately only to demonstrate that the leadership of the church was something that was well thought out by the people themselves. There was no central authority among the early church. These leaders were to be set over smaller groups out of necessity and duty, not out of appointment by a higher authority controlling the rest. These leaders were set by common means. That is to say, what was culturally natural in identifying leadership, that being the elder. This leadership model demonstrates a body of people that are being formed together through shared vision and beliefs, not out of force or coercion. As a group of people comes together through their shared convictions and confessions, leadership arises out of the people as they find those whose belief is strong and understanding sound within that shared belief. Peter is here trying to call out this naturally forming leadership to get themselves together, to fulfill their duties with eagerness and honor, and voluntarily setting themselves into the position of being examples for the others to emulate within the context of their shared beliefs.
Peter then continues, “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” This must be understood within the greater context of the letter. Peter is calling upon elders to fulfill their duty of leading a group of people through persecution and hardship. Anyone who has been in such positions of leadership will tell you the difficulty and hardship that such positions can bring to bear upon the soul of the leader. These are not desirable positions of authority or power. This is true leadership through adversity and trial. Anyone who studies the bible carefully from a perspective of leadership can tell you that the model being utilized is that of Servant leadership, not dictatorial or centralized leadership in any one group of men. Those who would attempt to assert that the Christian religion is one devised to bring control and power to a small number of men is simply ignorant of what is actually contained within the text, and ignorant of the history of the leadership of the early church, and the massive persecutions they faced for being leaders.
Peter moves on to the young men, “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders…” This is where we can see Peter trying to get these congregations organized in a manner that will strengthen the church. The men were acknowledged as being the leaders of the congregations, and were given roles of responsibility for themselves and others during a time of hardship and persecution. The people must have been greatly disordered by their ordeals, and Peter is attempting to make a call for strengthening their unity through the establishment of clear lines of leadership and respect from elder to youth. “…and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another…” As Peter raises up leadership, and positions those who are to be followers, he brings them all together with a call for all of them to behave with humility toward one another. Though the youth are called to give way to the elders, Peter also calls the elders to humble themselves before the youth. One must be able to see that Peter is forming a leadership core among the young and the old that is grounded not in some centralizing authority, but in the building of a team.
Peter tops this organizing of authority and submission with this quote from the Septuagint form of Proverbs 3:34, “for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” This would be a statement that would settle any thought in the minds of the youth being told to submit to their elders that would make them jealous. It would also set the elders in their place, knowing that they must not let their position of leadership go to their heads. This section as a whole can be used as a great example for how to establish leadership over an organization that is undergoing change and difficulty in forming into a unified whole and team.
Peter continues “Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” We see Peter easing out of this giving of orders mentality and brings himself to call upon all of them to be humble before God. He returns to his intent of counseling a group of people who are suffering, calling them to cast their anxiety upon a might God. Not just a mighty God, but one who truly care for them and their needs. As a man who has had to form groups of rough and rowdy young men into teams, I can tell you, Peter’s actions here demonstrate how wise he is in this process. He brings them together through setting over them a shared mission, a common value, and a great vision. In organizing any group to be able to get people through hardship and difficulty, you must unify the leadership at each level by making every leader clearly submissive to a greater, shared authority. That shared authority that all submit themselves to in a team is the values, mission, and vision of the team and its purpose for forming. Peter is demonstrating himself to be an outstanding leader, getting his men into order after receiving reports of their being dismay and chaos among the ranks. For those who are in positions of leadership, reference this passage regularly. Evaluate it within the context of team building, and you will have all you need to understand how to bring a team together to a greater purpose. After all, Jesus did call Peter a rock. Clearly, the man was a sound leader in spite of his faults.