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: 2 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; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” – 1 Peter 5:1-5
We were in Kenya with PLI International. PLI-I is a leadership and mission training group that has had far-reaching impact in Ethiopia, Kenya, the Philippines, Brazil, and some other countries they cannot publicly acknowledge. In Kenya the “big man” is everything. If you are a “big man” that means you have power, sway, impact, and influence. People defer to you if you’re a “big man.” Although it has little to do with one’s stature physically, it doesn’t hurt to be of large stature.
During the presentation to a group of Kenyan pastors our teacher began making some important points about leadership and privilege. He expressed again and again that a pastor’s title was not something to be used to gain influence or impact. In fact, he said, we are to serve others; our calling was one of service and ministry not of honor and privilege.
At the end of the presentation a Kenyan pastor (who I had known to be somewhat of a “big man” in the Kenyan church) stood up and spoke to the group. I cringed as I thought what he might be about to say. But the Holy Spirit had worked in his heart and brought him to a conviction that every pastor in Kenya needed to hear the teaching he and they had just received.
Our leader’s teaching and the insights Peter offers above shaped those pastors on that day. It was a good day for the rule and reign of God in the Kenyan church.
I try to keep this in mind as well. I have a high privilege of serving as a pastor of a large and dynamic church. I do all that is within my power not to lord it over others, or to use that as privilege, but to shepherd and guide God’s people with a humble spirit. Where I fail, I pray for God’s forgiveness. Where I succeed, I give all glory to God.