Every leader with human motivations will tend to use their authority to make themselves great. They want certainly to achieve the purpose of their appointed job and devise ways of combating problems. But they will also want to fulfil personal ambitions and gain personal benefit by gathering a group of supporters to ensure that their role in office is held as long as they want to remain. This is the world of business, the professions, and politics. No Divine help is sought; they simply apply the energy and wisdom of the flesh. Alas, all too often, church leaders are tempted to act in the same way, following the world’s tactics of personal power.
In a way, that is hardly surprising. All the converts were people of the world and outside of Christ before they repented and believed the gospel. As some had abilities to lead, they naturally took on those roles, but they brought with them the self-centred motivation and methods of the world. It is foolish not to realise where we have come from because we will easily bring our past into the church (Ephesians 2:1-3). Peter, when he was a disciple, also had the same problem and needed the Lord’s rebuke (Matthew 16:21-23).
Peter now advises church leaders to have a different viewpoint. Firstly the time framework is much longer. Elders should know that their work starts in the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross; and the work (which is still His work, although delegated to elders) will not be completed until He comes back again in glorious majesty, to lead all His people in an eternity of glory. Secondly, the work is not according to the wisdom of the elders, but the wisdom of God who planned that grace and peace shall come only through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:2). Thirdly, their work is not to bear witness to their own labours, but to the work of Christ in His passion, and to His work of preparing a people who will share in His glory.
This verse leaves no room for leaders wanting to grow a personal ego, nor for the multiple personal agendas that bedevil many churches. Indeed, it is the leader’s work to ensure that the cross-to-crown agenda of the Lord Jesus stays in pole position. Leaders are there to dethrone alternative priorities, and personal passions (which is why they become targets for attack). Leadership is to prepare the church to share in Christ's glory. Interestingly, many Christians think they practise their faith by church involvement; but the Bible is clear that leaders are to prepare God's people for acts of service (Ephesians 4:11-13) - and so good church leadership will be demonstrated by confident believers in the workplace, as well as humbly serving within the fellowship.
© Dr Paul Adams