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Modeling Biblical Leadership
By Tammy Darling
The first time Christ met Peter, He said, “Thou art … thou shalt be” (John 1:42). Christ looked at Peter and saw who he was going to be — a leader — not who he was. As such, Peter learned a lot about leadership and shared what he learned with others.
In 1 Peter 5:2,3, Peter addressed leaders in the Early Church. “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.”
Today, these leaders may be elders, teachers, pastors, Bible study leaders, or disciplers — anyone in a position of spiritual influence in the body of Christ. Sometimes even veteran Christians need reminders about how they are to lead others.
Leadership training varies. Human teaching may advocate influence by control or manipulation. Biblical influence, in contrast, is summarized by the exhortation to be shepherds. The model for such leadership is Christ, the Good Shepherd.
The essence of Christ’s leadership was love. Most under our care can tell the difference between service offered in generous love versus service offered in obligation. No one felt Jesus was under compulsion to do what He did. Everything He did was done out of love.
Followers of Christ lead with gentleness. Firmness blends with mercy, and concern for others replaces the desire to control or intimidate.
The leader who must always be first, be in charge, and be right is a leader who is preoccupied with power and control. In THE MESSAGE, Eugene Peterson renders 1 Peter 5:3 as: “Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way.”
Peter wisely brought up the issue of motivation (verse 2) and for good reason. We are to serve joyfully and generously not grudgingly or under compulsion — but the choice is up to each individual. We may fool others, but God knows our hearts and what drives us to fulfill leadership roles.
When our motivation is to “feed my sheep” as Jesus states in John 21:15–17, we become cheerful givers of ourselves. We serve when tired. We deal with ongoing problems. We lead from a heart of love and gratitude for the one who placed us in such a position.
As Peter states in 1 Peter 5:2, our desire to influence others should never arise from a desire for economic gain. Peter held up a higher standard for his readers: “Don’t think about what you can get out of leading. Instead, be eager to serve unselfishly and with a cheerful disregard for what you’re going to get in return.”
According to Peter, godly leaders refrain from lording their position over others (verse 3). Leading through intimidation has no place in the church.
Apparently such iron-fisted force was common, even then. Jesus addressed it in Matthew 20:25–27: “Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them … But it shall not be so with you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.”
Godly leaders are to be an example (1 Peter 5:3). Leadership by example has the most power, and yet many avoid it because it invites people to examine our lives. Leading by example moves from ideas to a lived-out life. Leaders should never ask someone to do something or to obey something they are not doing or obeying.
Paul is a great example of influencing by example. He even invited the Philippians to examine him thoroughly and to imitate him (Philippians 4:9). Pretty brave. Are we willing to do the same?
As Peter points out, leadership carries with it a responsibility before God (verse 4). Jesus said that those who have been entrusted with much will be judged more severely (Luke 12:48). James cautioned teachers that they would “receive the greater condemnation” (James 3:1). Leading with eternity in mind fosters humility as we realize we will stand before Christ to give an account of our influence over and our care for others.
It is the simple joys of seeing others discover spiritual truth, God’s transforming power, and the abundant life in Christ that keeps us going strong. As we strive to model biblical leadership, we can be assured we are on the right path.
Honorable leadership is God-glorifying. God’s own sustaining leadership brings joy and peace. As we praise God for His universal and eternal reign, we can model biblical leadership ourselves, thus pointing others to the Ultimate Leader.
Tammy Darling, Three Springs, Pennsylvania