Some interesting observations on the year 1997:
- The Dow Jones Industrial Index passed the 7,000 point mark for the first time ever. That level sounds like the poverty line in today’s economy, but was an early sign of the .com boom in ’97.
- Steve Jobs came back as the CEO of Apple computers. At the time, Apple was in big trouble. Thinking that the Mac was circling the drain, Microsoft invested $150 million in the company. Today Apple is on the rise . . . I wonder if Microsoft regrets that decision?
- William Jefferson Clinton is sworn in for his second term as President of the United States. Yes, Americans still believed in a little place called Hope.
- In the first sign that hell might actually freeze over, the Florida Marlins won their first World Series. As someone who is an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan, I need to point out that the Marlins have now won two titles in the last decade, while the Chicago Cubs have won zero titles in the last century.
- The movie “Titanic” was released. This James Cameron production would end up being the highest grossing movie of all time until Cameron’s “Avatar” would set the new mark just a few months ago.
Personally, 1997 was a significant year for me for another reason. In May of 1997, I took my first paid ministry position as the Youth Pastor at Ovilla United Methodist Church in Ovilla, Texas. At the time, I had 23 years of life and 9 months of seminary under my belt, so of course I was an “expert.” In all actuality, I was running scared. Now, 13 years later, I have been at this for a while. My job responsibilities and churches have changed over the years, but the basic gist of my job has not changed: to Pastor a segment of God’s flock.
This week, I have been reading 1 Peter 5:1-4 – verses written as a charge to leadership in the local church. When you do anything for a long period of time you run the risk of falling into ruts and patterns of behavior that may be good, or may be bad. As I read these verses today, I was challenged to reconsider the basic definitions of my role as “Pastor” and to ponder the implications of these verses for all who seek to serve Christ in His Church. The verses say this, “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”
Some interesting (and challenging observations) from these verses:
- “I appeal as a fellow elder.” Peter was writing this letter to a group of churches that were scattered around modern day Turkey. It is most probable that Peter was the only one of the original Apostles who would have even seen this letter. In that regard, it is remarkable that Peter does not approach the leaders of these small churches and say, “Listen to me . . . I am an Apostle. I am Peter. I saw Jesus. Do what I say!” Instead, he comes to them humbly and says, “Brothers, we are colleagues and co-laborers pulling in the same direction for Christ. Let’s talk this thing through together.” What humility! May this kind of humility flow forth from the lives of all of the leadership in Christ’s church.
- “God’s flock that is under your care.” Peter was reminding all of them that the church was not Mark’s church or Bruce’s church or John’s church . . . it was Christ’s church. This is a very important thing for all Pastors and church leaders to remember. The church exists for God, not for any particular leader. Leaders have a responsibility to care for the people in their “flock” but they are to care for them according to God’s agenda and for His glory. Sadly, some churches become more known for their celebrity Pastor than for their risen Savior. May that not be the case.
- “Not because you must but because you are willing.” God has graciously called me into ministry. He has invited me to serve in His church. After this invitation was extended, I could either say “yes” or “no.” I am not serving at Wildwood because God is holding me captive here. It is an everyday choice to say “yes” to God’s gracious offer. The moment I begin serving under compulsion is the moment I begin to die as a true Shepherd of God’s flock.
- “Not greedy for money but eager to serve.” There are hundreds of ways to make a living in this world. No one should be in ministry “for the money.” This sounds like the punchline to a joke because pastor’s salaries are famously small (Wildwood does a great job of providing for our staff . . . I am speaking of general perceptions). However, it is possible for church staff to see themselves as “professionals” and not “pastors.” As John Piper has said in his book, “Brothers We Are Not Professionals,” this should not be the case. Our paychecks should not influence our love for people or our service in the Body.
- “Not lording it over those entrusted to you but being an example.” Pastors don’t just tell people where the truth is, they live it out and tell others to “Follow me as I follow Christ.” I should never apply a passage for others that I am not willing to apply myself. If the spiritual life of the Pastor is growing, you will probably find a vibrant congregation that is following his example. The first priority of the Pastor should be to walk with God.
- “You will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” Peter concludes this passage by reminding all church leaders of the reward that awaits in eternity for those who faithfully shepherd’s God’s flock today. Serving Him is worth it.
13 years later, the reminders of 1 Peter 5 help me to remember what it means to shepherd the people of God. I am so thankful for the opportunity to do that each day.