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: 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; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. – 1 Peter 5:1-3
Peter wrote his first letter, likely in the mid-60s, to the elect who were dispersed all over modern day Turkey. To the elders of these churches he spoke briefly concerning how to lead. In the modern world, we tend to swing wildly to the other side on any issue when a problem is seen in an “old way” of doing things. Where leadership used to be domineering and authoritarian, younger people today tend to feel that “leadership light” or even no leader at all is a better option. You see this in the title of books that speak of leaderless organizations and how effective and efficient they are (until several years down the road when the media exposes all the flaws in this line of thinking time and again).
The Holy Spirit, through Peter, had a different mindset on the issue. He told the elders of all these churches not to abdicate their responsibility to lead, but in “exercising oversight” lead willingly, as God would have any leader do. In leading, we should willingly lay our lives down for those who follow so that they see the example of Christ set before them. Secondly, because the example of Christ is one of sacrifice, we must not lead for shameful gain. Watching self-serving leaders decimate companies and organizations has caused a great deal of backlash in public and private circles alike, and is one of the main reasons the western world has swung to the “other side” (i.e. leadership with very limited authority or none at all). Those of us who lead must lead with our priorities already set. We don’t need fame, money, or other perks. Set your mind to Christ, so that in your hearts you honor Christ the Lord as holy (1 Peter 3:15a). With pure motives, you will be able to lead with a clean conscience. Lastly, Peter calls leaders not to dominate those under their charges, but to lead by example. This is the big key for young leaders today. What older leaders often fail to understand is that while millennials and other young people often appear to disrespect authority, they actually desperately want a good example to follow but haven’t felt they have found one worthy of following. Leading by example is key for those who have no real need to submit to someone. The church has always been run in such a way that believers willingly submit to elders placed over them within a given church body. If you are older, I would encourage you to be open to mentoring young people. If you are younger and just getting started, I encourage you to learn to willingly submit to someone older and wiser, so you can gain wisdom from their life experiences. Mentoring is crucial for our growth. We all need Pauls in our lives, who take us under their wing; we all need Timothys in our lives, who we can pour ourselves into and reproduce another generation of disciples. To this end our offices and places of work will be filled with people who have been invested in and who name Christ as their Lord and Savior. Lead well, for you have much to share.
Remember, if no one is following you, you are not leading.