"The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed." (1 Peter 5:1)
The leaders of the early churches were critical not only to the ministry of each church, but also to its survival. Correspondingly, numerous New Testament passages deal with their qualifications and function. In our text, Peter exhorts these men to proper leadership through service and informs them of a reward waiting for them.
First, we notice that Peter addresses a group of elders, not a single individual in sole authority. No example is given in the New Testament of any church which has grown past infancy which has not incorporated the wisdom of a group of spiritually mature men into its leadership, although there may need to be one who presides among this group.
The primary function of such godly leaders is to "feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof" (v. 2). Note especially that the flock they shepherd is God’s flock among them, not their own flock. A true flock leader takes strong and careful "oversight" but does not usurp ownership.
These leaders are to serve "willingly," not under "constraint." Their motive should be "of a ready mind" and "not for filthy lucre," or financial gain (v. 2). Moreover, these leaders must not be "lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock" (v. 3). They should lead by serving, thereby establishing a mindset of service in the rest.
Finally, Peter reminds the leaders that faithful, sacrificial service will be rewarded, for "when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away" (v. 4).
May God continue to grant willing, faithful, sacrificial servants to lead each local flock. JDM