So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
– (ESV) 1 Peter 5:1-4
Peter, speaking to elders, tells all leaders to voluntarily, eagerly lead God’s flock among them by example for the purpose of glorifying God. In other words, elders, do what is right by God’s will, providing an example for others to follow so that those that are in your care will live in God’s will giving glory to Him. Notice that he doesn’t say the elder’s flock, he says the “flock of God that is among you.”
Have you ever been in a crowd when someone just stops and looks up and stares in a specific direction. Let’s say he is looking at a beautiful sunset. Without a word, others stop, look and also begin to stare at the wonder of the skies. If any remarks are made, they are about the colors of the sky, the beauty of the event or the handy work of God. No one comments on the original person who started looking at the sunset. No one lifts up that guy that stopped everything and gazed at the wonder. All focus is on the setting sun and the colorful sky. This is how it should be with elders. Their lives should be lived in order to point others among them to the beauty of Christ.
The prophet, Ezekiel, shared a word from the Lord that describes what shepherds should not do.
The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts.
-(ESV) Ezekiel 34:1-5
Later in Peter’s letter, he states “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
If we, as leaders, don’t nourish those among us with the Word of God, or use them as means to exalt ourselves, we are leaving them to “become food for all the wild beasts” who are prowling “like a roaring lion” to gather in and devour the weak.
Live your life by God’s will, as an example to point others in Christ’s direction, feed those around you with the Word to strengthen them, keep the weaker ones closer to you to help protect them and remember the Lord is the Good Shepherd, the leader of the flock and the Protector of His sheep. We are just His help-mates.