How to lead… and follow

There are several different types of teachers in our schools. I recently took a silly, and very accurate, facebook quiz that told me exactly what type of teacher I am. Apparently I am the artsy teacher with crazy hair who is creative but knows very little about anything. This would be a stereotype of one kind of teacher. Other stereotypes include:

  • The talking teacher. The more students can get her to talk, the less work they have to do.
  • The repeating teacher. These teachers repeat the same idea over and over again, taking 15 minutes to explain a simple idea.
  • The cool kid teacher. These teachers see their classroom as a second chance to be the cool kid in school. They know all the relevant references and always use cool illustrations while teaching.
  • The king teacher. This teacher will slap you for looking at them the wrong way and send you to the principal’s office for asking the wrong question.

After explaining what it means to be imperishable in Christ, what it means to be entrusted to God, and that Christians do not have to fear anything in this world; Peter applies the concept directly to the people of the church, answering the questions: How should our leaders lead, and how should we follow?

Therefore, as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of the Messiah and also a participant in the glory about to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you: Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s will; not for the money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

In the same way, you younger men, be subject to the elders. And all of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because

God resists the proud

but gives grace to the humble.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you.[1]


Peter’s argument that we are imperishable, indestructible and incorruptible in Christ, culminates with this instruction. His application is directly to the elders of the church and to the laity. As we discuss the above passage, we should remember that we are entrusted to God, not people or circumstances.


How to lead

As we consider this, let us keep in mind that this is specifically about leaders in the church, or overseers, but it does have implications for the way we should lead in other arenas of life. Peter’s command is that leaders should lead not out of compulsion, but freely. Leaders should not lead because they have to, but because they want to. They should also lead according to God’s will. A true and good leader does not have to have his way. Instead he puts himself aside and leads according to what God desires. This also means that a good leader is not so concerned with pleasing people, but about doing what God wants him to do. This is possible because we are entrusted to God, not circumstances.

Leaders should not lead for the money, but eagerly. They should not lead for reward or for recognition, but because they are eager to do what God has called them to do. I’ve noticed that in many places, spiritual and political leaders demand recognition and respect; and they are so rude when they don’t get their way. I often picture the dogmatic preacher who expects to be called “Reverend” and demands discounts at the local Bible book store: This is not what it means to be a good leader, or a leader at all.

We have been entrusted to God. We have not been entrusted to a position or a title.

Good leaders do not lord their leadership over those who have been entrusted to them. There is an amazing truth here: That God has placed both the leaders and the followers in the church. Since God has placed both, both are equal in worth. The teacher is not worth more than the student, and the pastor is not worth more than the church member.

All are on equal ground before God, but God has given different roles. Peter also states that the role of a leader, teacher or pastor, is to invest in the flock (or the people); showing them God’s word and being an example for how they should live. This means that, in the church, any leader’s primary objective is to set a godly example. It means the pastor’s primary job is to teach God’s Word, so the people can strive to live lives that please God!

Finally, true leaders are promised eternal glory as a reward for what they do on this earth in Christ’s name. This is why leaders do not have to have glory now.

How to follow

Peter’s first word to the “young men” of the church is this: Be subject to the elders. Peter literally wants the followers in the church to be good followers. Followers are to clothe themselves in humility. To be humble, by the way, is to be content with the positions we have. This could apply to church life, life at school, at home and at work. Peter even quotes Proverbs 3:34, reminding his audience that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Because we are entrusted to God, we remain humble: trusting God to exalt us at the proper time. While we are followers, God may very well be preparing us to be good leaders.

Implied within the text, I find this idea: Good leaders are usually the ones who were also good followers. I also find that no matter what leadership might look like, God is ultimately in control. We are also reminded that God cares deeply for us, even the person who seems to fill the most insignificant role. Remember that we are all equal in worth.


Be humble in everything

This text mentions leaders and followers and draws some application for both groups, but it is specifically about humility. Leaders should not lord their authority over anyone and followers should be content where they are, trusting God to move them up at the right time. When we are entrusted to God, humility seems to be our only option. If we are imperishable, then we have nothing left to prove to the world. I don’t have to be prideful or self-serving. I don’t have to draw all the attention to myself. I don’t have to be popular. Those who do not have a significant other don’t have to be upset because of that. We don’t have to have the perfect job or do well in school, even though we should strive to honor God as we work; but grades do not define us. We do not have to have the perfect life here on earth because we will inherit the things of God forever. The challenge here is, no matter what arena of life you are in at any moment, be humble. For, in humility we gain the very glory of God; and we gain it forever!

[1] 1 Peter 5:1-7 (HCSB)

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