Every leader with human motivations will use their authority to do a number of things: to achieve the purpose of the appointment, to fulfil personal ambition, to devise ways of combating problems, to gather a group of supporters, to gain personal benefit and to ensure that the office is held as long as the person wants to remain. However, all this can be done without any Divine help, simply by the energy and wisdom of the flesh. You see it in politics, in business, in the professions and, alas, too often in the church. 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 in planning 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.
So this verse leaves no room for the leader wanting to grow a personal ego, nor for the multiple personal agendas that bedevil many churches. Indeed, it is the leaders' 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