CONTEMPORARY CHURCH LEADERSHIP IN THE LIGHT OF 1PETER 5:1-4

INTRODUCTION

Leadership is both a social as well as a spiritual phenomenon. Its importance in any society cannot be overemphasized. The wellness of a society is largely a function of the rightness of the leaders. The church in particular, needs leadership that conforms to the tenets of the Bible. It must both be spiritual and biblical. Christ-like leadership is pertinent in both the church and society. This type of leadership would require purity of heart, passion for people, and power to serve through prayer. These types of leaders, Adeyemoh states “are known for their character, competence, courage commitment and compassion.” This write up is aimed at looking at the garb that the leadership in the church of our time has on against the backdrop of the expression of Peter in his counsel to leaders in his days and which certainly is relevant for our days. Our days are described as the postmodern age.

ANALYSIS OF 1PETER 5:1-4

The book called First Peter belongs to the group of New Testament letters which are known as the Catholic or General Epistles. The author is generally taken to be Peter (1:1), a chief apostle of Jesus who also was an important leader in the early church. Some hold that it is probably the most known and loved and most read of all the General Epistles. It is written out of love from a Pastor’s heart to help those who were undergoing trials. It is one of the easiest letters of the New Testament to read because it has never lost its winsome appeal to the human heart.

Verse by Verse Explication

Verse 1

Elders (πρεσβυτεροζ).

Their task as elders was primarily a pastoral one. Carson et al hold that in the early days, they were called elders to indicate their status, and also επισκοποι (bishops, overseers) to describe their function. It is the basic office in the church. Among other functions, the elders had charge of the financial administration of the church (Acts 11:30). They were to oversee the flock and were defenders of faith (Acts 20:28,29). These are the functions of an elder among others.

Fellow elders ( συμπρεσβυτερος)

This word is found only here in the New Testament. According to Vincent, this expression is decisive against the primacy of Peter. It is an expression which he uses to emphasize his oneness with those he is encouraging. This, in the opinion of Mcknight is both a statement of modesty (being an apostle) and sympathy. Peter did not approach his readers from on high as a super apostle. He is a leader who looks across to others, not down.

Verse 2.

Feed (ποιμανατε).

It could be rendered tend, according to Vincent, “since the verb denotes all that is included in the office of a shepherd – guiding, guarding, folding, no less feeding which is later expressed by “βοσκω”. There is a play on words, since the verb tend (ποιμαινω serve as shepherd, pastor) and the noun ‘flock’ (πομνιον) come from the same root, it can read, ‘shepherd the sheep of God’ (Grudem).

That is under your care (οπισχοντε).

This phrase could also mean “to the best of your ability” (Carson et. al.). However, it is important that sense of possession is ended by stating that the flock is God’s flock and not theirs.

By constraint (αναγκαστως)

The word is found only here in the New Testament. The import is that service should be done with proper motive that is, with personal willingness and a sense of divine call different to a sense of internal or external compulsion.

For filthy lucre (αισχροκρδως)

The word is from αισχρος, disgrace and κερδος, gain. The word filthy is intended to convey the idea which lies in αισχρος, base or dishonourable. It becomes such if that is the motive of the minister’s service (Vincent, 2005). Greed is an unworthy motivation for leading God’s people. Elders are not to serve in churches in order to gain a profit. Peter’s instructions are concerned with how Christian leaders acquire their living (Mcknight, 1996:261-2). The point that Peter is making is that no man dare accept office or render service for what he can get out of it. His desire must ever be to give and not to get.

Verse 3

As lording it (κατακυριενοντες).

There are other words used for the exercise of legitimate authority in the church.  They include προισταμαι, to be over (1Thess 5:12; 1Tim 5:17); ποιμαινω as 1Pet 5:2, tend. But the one used here bears the idea of high-handedness (Vincent, 2005).  According to Grudem (1999: 187), κατακριην means forcefully ruling over, subduing; and carry the sense of a harsh or excessive use of authority. The word always involves bringing something into subjection by the use of force, whether physical, military or political. Here Peter forbids the use of arbitrary, arrogant, selfish or excessive restrictive rule. Elders rather should govern not by the use of threat, emotional intimidation or flaunting of power but rather by the power of example whenever possible.

Heritage (κληρων).

From κληρος which means a lot. The adjective κληρικος is where the English cleric derives, which is contracted into clerk, which in ecclesiastical writings originally signified a minister; either as being chosen by lot like Matthias or as being the lot or inheritance of God (Vincent, 2005). Barcklays (1976: 267) equally states that the phrase translated those allotted is curious in Greek; it is τον κληρον, the genitive, plural of κληροζ which is a word of extra-ordinary interest. It begins by meaning a dice or a lot (Matt 27: 35). It came to mean an office gained or ass

igned by lot (Acts 1:26). It then comes to mean an inheritance allotted to someone as used in Col 1:12 for the inheritance of the saints. In classical Greek, it very often means public allotment of land. Very often the distribution was done by drawing lots for the various pieces of land available for distribution. The sense which can be inferred here is that the office of the eldership is never earned by any merit of our own but always allotted to us by God. It is never something that we have deserved but always something given to us by God’s grace.

Examples (τυποι)

Vincent notes that Peter uses three different terms for a pattern or model υπογραμμος, a writing-copy (1Pet 2:21); υποδειγμα or παραδειγμα, an architect’s plan or a sculptor’s or painter’s model (2Pet 2:6) and then τυνος. The word primarily means the impression of any engraved or hewn work of art.

EVALUATING CONTEMPORARY CHURCH LEADERSHIP

From time immemorial, the church has had forms of government. There are three main forms: which are employed in different mix from a church setting to another. O’Donovan (1996:169-70) states concerning the three thus: one is the Episcopal from of Church Government. It has a clean link of authority from leaders to Church members. At the top is an individual leader. Where this exists, the members of the church don’t usually have administrative authority. They, however, may exercise their spiritual gifts in various ways.    Another form of Church government is the Presbyterian form of Church Government.  It is a form of Church Government which relies on the leadership of a group of elders in each local church. They may be appointed or elected elders. Congregation form of Church Government is the third form of Church Government.  It has strong association with the Political idea of democracy.  In this form of Church Government, administrative business is carried out in congregational meetings in which everyone has an equal vote. Each local church is usually independent of other churches but for a loose types of association for fellowship.

Each of the forms mentioned above has its strength and weakness. Each also had run with record reference in the positive and otherwise. Thus, this work does not focus on the forms as on people who run the forms. A lot appears to depend on this than the form employed. The contemporary Church leadership will be concerned with what type of leadership we see in the church today.

Peterson Eugene (1993:1), speaks concerning the American Pastors as having abandoned their post and have gone a whoring after other gods. He opined that Pastors in America have metamorphosed into what he describes as a company of store-keepers and the shops they keep are the churches. He stressed that they are pre-occupied with shop keepers’ concerns which include how to keep the customers happy, how to lure customers away from competitors down the street, how to package the goods so that the customers will lay out more money.

Whereas, Peterson writes concerning American Pastors, this is generally the case in other parts of the world. This is the case in Africa and Nigeria has a large share in this. The settings of some of our churches affirm that the Pastors are store keepers. A short street lined with different churches, and the sound system is not only set to face and blare at each other, but the timing is such that when one is preaching, the other praying and yet another is singing praises. Much more, ushers are positioned at strategic point to allure would be “customers” in to the shop they keep. The pastor’s responsibility is to keep the community attentive to God. It is this responsibility that is being abandoned recklessly.

The number game is so intense. Goodguy, in observing this commented that he understands it is easier to measure the length of a river than its depth yet, it is necessary to measure the depth. Equally, we need to look at the foundation and changed lives in daily walk as much if not more than how many people attended the worship service this week (http//tomtypes.com: 2010). This appears to be in contradistinction to Jesus. He fed five thousand. The crowd was in awe of him, they were all out seeking him in the morning because he left in the night. He told them what it takes to follow him the people concluded it was too tough, they left. “The first mega church destroyed in twenty four hours” (Goodguy, http//tomtypes.com: 2010).

Goodguy hinted on another trait in the contemporary Church leadership. It is self-promotion. He expressed that “when did the pastors become cheer leaders for how great our church and present false everything is always awesome all the time type attitude, it is dangerous” (http//tomtypes.com: 2010). This, when in later time is found not so hurts the individual who may not only walk away from the church but from Christ also.

The trend goes more dangerously at advertisement on miracles, there larger than life size posters that announce the man of God as the miracle worker, and Jesus is only in a shallow mention if at all. Worst still, some of the claims are not automatic and some are even untrue!

Leadership is not meant for monetary gain. Biblical injunction to the church at large is that love for money draws on evil and leads away from the faith (1Tim 6:10). The church contemporary leadership does not appear to be sound in approach and attitude to money. (Gbadamosi, 2010:121) related an advert in a daily newspaper announcing a seminar to be conducted by a financial expert. The theme of the seminar was “How to Run the Church Organization Profitably”. He commented that the expert must have captured and interpreted the prevailing mood of the time correctly. The expert stressed that the church, as a business entity should be run such, to make a handsome profits of it. The organizing financial consultant argued that the church should not be content with only saving souls, but should be able to reap some monetary gains in addition. The target audience for the seminar was Presiding Bishops, Presidents and Founders, and Prophets. They were going to be taught modern business principles with well-oiled administrative machinery to maintain strategically enduring business empires that the church has translated to.

The church has become cash-driven enterprise. “Money answers all things” has become a maxim for the contemporary church. No wonder, all we are getting is about all that money and good organization has the capacity of giving. Gbadamosi opined that if the Gospel wheel requires huge chunk of money to it rolling as we portray it, Christianity would have gone extinct right from the onset (2010: 121-122). But it would also hold true that if money were the force that advances the gospel, this would have been the best time the church progresses. The picture, certainly is clear that it is not so.

The grip of monetary gain is demonstrated in a Pastor who connived with armed robbers to attack and snatch the offerings from the church where he pastors, so that the “loot” would be shared later at a pre-agreed formula. This would have remained a secret if they had no disagreement at the sharing.

Being an example to the flock is divine expectation on the church leaders.  However, in the contemporary church leaders the display is not in what would be regarded as Christ-likeness. Rather, the display comes in the elegance of appearance. Some leaders do not demonstrate marked difference from the people of the world. They are obsessed with having on costly designer suits, latest Italian shoes and jerry curled hairstyles and gold chains around their necks and even bracelets on their wrists. They have the aim to prove that Christians are no pushovers. Some claim that they need to appear trendy in order to reach the corporate world and the people of this generation. However, it is clear that it is only deep that calls to the deep. The carnal cannot birth the spiritual.

Immorality is another vice characters of the contemporary church leadership. It is an open secret that some front runners in the church: president and founders, pastors, and presiding bishop are caught in this terrible web of immorality. Some ‘lord’ it over members by demanding for them illicitly.

It is clear that there are similarities between leadership in the church and any other organization. Similarity in terms of law of human behavior, social laws, psychological laws and organizational laws that are rooted in creation and apply to all organizations including the church. But Kelderman (2005:14), stresses that there are differences also. The church is a unique organization in which Christ and the Spirit dwell. The church has a unique source of life, is directed towards particular ends, and goals. The church is also governed by particular commitments and practices such as prayer, worship, study, witness and service. All these give peculiar shape to the church’s life and ministry. The church cannot be explained in organizational terms alone, thus the need to guard against approaches to leadership that merely accommodates the broader culture.

It becomes clear that church leaders are not CEOs of some business corporations.  They are neither politicians, comedians, nor military dictators or some who seek to display their talents or giftedness. This is because leadership in the church is spiritual leadership. It is pastoral leadership (Koranteng–Pipim). Our position requires that we act with authority; our faith requires that we live in submission (Peterson, 1993:167). In the New Testament, Christian experience is cordially balanced between the responsibilities for what one believes and how one behaves. According to Oke (2008:58), a critical issue in the church of our days that is we fail to recognize character transformation as a pre-requisite for leadership.

On the issue of Power, London and Wiseman (1993:48-49) opined that every pastor is tempted to use power abusively. This gives no regard to either the church is big or not. There is an ego-craving to be in control. It might be a contradiction to call anyone an “executive” or to call a bishop or his counterpart a CEO or to call oneself “boss” over other team members in a Christian organization. A leader is a fellow servant. The son of God that chose to be called a servant of God, must bemoan the present climate in many Christian organizations where self-seeking for prominence and power goes on.

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION

Real leaders are in short supply. Constantly people search for them. Throughout the Bible, God searches for leaders too. According to Sanders to be a leader in the church has always required strength and faith beyond the merely human. If the world is to hear the voice of the church today, leaders are needed who are authoritative, spiritual and sacrificial. Authoritative, because people desire leaders who know where they are going and are confident of getting there; also an authority that emanates from the exemplary life of the leader. Spiritual because without a strong relationship with God even the most attractive and competent person cannot lead the people to God. Sacrificial because this follows the model of Jesus who gave Himself for the whole world and who calls us to follow in His steps.

This is the sense of what Bridges stresses when he states that it is evident that this ministerial standard presupposes a deep tone of experimental and devotional character, habitually exercised in self-denial, prominently marked by love to the savior and to the souls of sinners and practically exhibited in a blameless consistency of conduct (2006:27).

The simple description of the work of the elder is to tend the sheep. Tending sheep is only possible for leaders who so love the Chief Shepherd and the flocks that they sacrifice their lives daily to be instrument in getting the sheep prepared for the shepherd’s coming. They do this by lovingly nurturing the hunger and thirst of followers; by removing distractions and irritations; by protecting and defending the flock. They do this also by comforting their wounds and distresses and discipling them.

The care for the sheep manifests by sacrificing personal interests and giving time and energy to the flock, treating them as equals. Attitudes of aloofness, arrogance and dominance are not only damage to effective leadership; they do not belong in church leadership.

REFERENCES

Adeyemo, Tokunboh “Leadership” in African Bible Commentary. Ed. Tokunboh Adeyemo, Nairobi: Word Alive Publishers, 2006.

Barclay, William.  The Letters of James and Peter. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976.

Bridges, Charles. The Christian Ministry. Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2006.

Carson, D. A. et al.  New Bible Commentary 21st Century Edition. Leicester: University Press, 1994.

Gbadamosi, Olawale.  The Prodigal Church.  Lagos: Divine Inspiration Resources, 2010.

Goodguy, T. S. F. Concerning Trends in Contemporary Church Leadership.          http//tomtypes.com/2010. <accessed 10/03/15>.

Grudem, Wayne.  1Peter. Leicester: Inter Varsity Press, 1999.

Kelderman, Duane. Effective Leadership in the Church. Grand Rapids: Christian Reformed Church, 2005.

Koranteg –Pipim, Samuel. Leadership in the Church: Are We Honestly Mistaken?

London, H. B. and Wiseman, Neil B. Pastors at Risk. Illinois: Victor Books, 1993.

Mare, W. Harold. New Testament Background Commentary. Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publication, 2004.

O’Donoran, Wilbur. Biblical Christianity in African Perspective. Carlisle: Pernoster Press, 1996.

Oke, Odunayo. Contemporary Issues in Christian Leadership. Lagos: Charis Ventures Publication, 2008.

Peterson, Eugene H.  Working the Angles. Grand Rapids: WmB. Eerdmanns, 1993.

Vincent, Marvin R. Word Studies in New Testament. Biblesft Inc., 2005.

Worford, Jerry C. Transforming Christian Leadership. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999.

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