SHEPHERDS AND SHEEP
SHEPHERDS & SHEEP
Part 5 of GRIT. 1 Peter 5:1-6.
Peter Foxwell. The Cornerstone Church. October 28, 2018.
This is part 5 of a series called GRIT. We're learning how to stay in faith when times are hard. We're talking living as over-comers. Do know what the definition of an overcomer is? Someone who gets knocked down and gets up again over and over again until they get to heaven. This is a room full of over-comers.
Over 20 years ago, I was in a dark season of discouragement. Kim and I went on an extended vacation to try to re-energize. We spent a couple of weeks in Florida soaking up the sun, spending time together as a family. I'd made up my mind to quit the job I was in as soon as we got back.
After Florida, we had a week in a time-share in the Adirondacks. It was cold, but we had another great time together as a family. And the whole time, guess what I was thinking about? Quitting my job.
Finally, the dread day to return home came. Driving home along the toll road in Pennsylvania, I started listening to a tape of pastor teaching on being an overcomer. In the space of one hour, everything changed. I did a total 180. I wasn't going to quit. I was going to press on.
That elder/pastor was doing what God called and gifted him to do. His teaching fired up my faith. I got a fresh vision of what God can do. I became an over-comer.
Today, I want to show you how our elders and their wives can fire up your faith like that.
First I need to clear up some confusion. I am not the top dog at the Cornerstone. Our church is led by a team of elders/wives. We are all pastors. That's the NT model.
I also get paid to teach and oversee the daily operations of the church. But that does not mean I'm more important than the other elders. I'm not even first among equals. We serve the church according to our diverse callings, skills, and availability. As a team.
Let me introduce our elders and their wives: Peter/Kim, Scott/Claudia, Dennis/Tami, Larry/Nancy, Joe/Shawn.
So, here's how the elders/wives can fire up your faith.
A. BE A STUDENT
(1 Peter 5:1) To the elders among you ...
Elder means what it says - someone who is older. Age and experience matter because elders are to be models/examples of faithful discipleship. Age alone doesn't make a person a model of faith. There has to be spiritual maturity and that only comes from years of faithfully following Jesus.
Our elders have fought the fight of faith. They've won and lost battles against temptation. They are over-comers. They know the Christian faith and can pass it on. They know the power of a Spirit-filled, Spirit-led life, and they're becoming like Jesus.
All of the churches started by the apostle Paul were led by teams of elders (Acts 14:23). When Paul sent his friend Titus to Crete, he asked him to appoint teams of elders in each of the new churches.
(Titus 1:5) The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.
Paul told Titus what to look for in potential elders. It wasn't skills. It was a lifestyle that was a good model for the church to follow. For example:
(Titus 1:7) Since an overseer manages God's household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.
Our elders/wives can fire up your faith if you will be a student of their lives. They are veteran disciples and you can learn a lot just being around them, serving with them, watching them. If they lead a small group, join it. Study them without being a stalker. If there's an area of your life where you need wisdom, invite them for coffee and ask questions. Be a student.
B. BE A SHEEP
(1 Peter 5:2) Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care.
Have you been told that sheep are stupid? Well, they're not. I grew up around them. Sheep are valuable and vulnerable so they need shepherds to feed and lead them. That's why shepherd and sheep is a good metaphor for church leaders and followers. All of our elders/wives are pastors (shepherds) who feed and lead you spiritually.
Elders feed us:
(1 Timothy 5:17) The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. (Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 3:2)
Some members of elders' teams are more focused on teaching/preaching. This may be because of their gifting, training, skills, or availability. Our elders/wives teach in small groups, one-one counsel, and in various ministries of the church. I do the bulk of Sunday teaching, but Brian, Tami, Scott and Joe have all done some.
Elders lead us:
(1 Timothy 5:17) The elders who direct (lead) the affairs of the church ... (Hebrews 13:17)
The verb, "to direct," means to lead in a caring way. Elders lead for the good of the people, not for their own selfish goals or greed.
Elders protect us:
(Titus 1:9) He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. (Acts 20:28-31)
Elders protect us from false teachers. That might seem a bit overbearing, but it's for our good. The truth sets us free, but lies keep us captive.
Sheep like to wander off and get in trouble. When I'd go hill walking in Scotland, I'd see dead sheep at the bottom of cliffs. The devil, the roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8), loves Christians who go it alone. He'll fill your head with lies and discouragement. Our elders/wives can fire up your faith, but you've got to stay close and let them lead and feed you.
C. BE A SUPPORT
(1 Peter 5:2) ... watching over them ...
(Acts 20:28) Keep watch (be on guard) over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.
Picture a flock of sheep at night and there is a pack of wolves circling their enclosure. They want to eat the sheep, but the shepherds are awake, standing guard, clubs in hand, to watch over and protect their flock.
God has assigned elders to our church to watch over his people. Why? Because we are surrounded by spiritual enemies who want to capture our minds and derail our faith. I know that sounds melodramatic, but it's true. In fact, because of the Internet, we all have easy access to millions of spiritual minefields. We need our elders to help us stay on track and out of danger.
Several years ago, I found out that one of my friends - a married man - was meeting with a woman alone to make plans for the ministry they worked in together. I stumbled across them by accident. I was sort of stunned because that's like common-sense 101 - if you're a married guy don't meet with a woman alone. I talked to him later and calmly threatened his life - kidding! I met with him and counseled him about wisdom and temptation and so on. I thought he agreed with me, but he didn't. He completely blew me off and got himself in a lot of trouble. For a while, it looked like his wife was going to leave him.
Do you think that conversation was easy? Do you think it's fun to care about someone and have them reject your help? Some of that fall out fell on me and I didn't like it.
That's why your support of our elders/wives is so important. We are accountable to God for your spiritual health and safety. That's scary and overwhelming, and that's why one church leader wrote this:
(Hebrews 13:17) Have confidence in (follow) your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
Your elders are here to guard you, to keep you safe from spiritual dangers. That is really hard work, and it puts a target on their backs that the devil loves to aim at.
I'm asking you to support our elders/wives in their work so they'll grow in confidence. They'll do a great job when they feel encouraged and positive.
This was heavy stuff. I found it hard to prepare and hard to deliver. I think that's because the devil doesn't want you to hear it.
Friday, as I was working on this teaching, I thought: "Why do we need elders when we can Google every faith-question we have?"
It's true, we can Google our faith and we can get a million different answers in a millisecond. BUT ... how do we know what to trust? And how does Google know our situation, our personality, our struggles?
We need flesh and blood, trustworthy, spiritual leaders who know us, love us, guide us, pray for us, and support us all the way to heaven. That's what your elders and their wives are here to do for you. If you'll let them.
Now that you've heard this teaching, do you receive it?