Peter concluded his first letter with pointed, stirring words written directly to pastoral leaders. This part of his legacy underscores the importance of church leaders and their opportunity to impact many believers. Given the brevity of Peter’s written legacy, the significance of these instructions can’t be overlooked. Singling out pastors and elders magnifies their importance. It’s essential to consider what Peter wrote about them. He could have written instructions about any aspect of leadership. The specific issues he chose, then, must be very significant. While they addressed pressing issues for the recipients, they are also timeless instructions for leaders in every generation. Their inclusion in this short letter highlights their importance. If you were only able to write a hundred words or so about church leadership, what would you write? Obviously, you would address the most important lessons you had learned! Peter did that in this part of his legacy.
Peter called church leaders to specific responsibilities and exemplary behavior. He also warned them about their greatest temptation and the source of their fiercest opposition. Part of Peter’s legacy was his faithfulness as a church leader. He referred to himself as a “fellow elder,” emphasizing his identification with pastoral leaders more than his apostleship. He accepted his church leadership role along with its additional expectations and fulfilled them admirably, leaving a legacy of effective service. Peter admonished other church leaders to live up to his example and beyond that, to meet the high expectations Jesus has of ministry leaders.
Given all he could have written based on his vast experiences – from walking with Jesus to preaching at Pentecost to leading in Jerusalem – what key issues did he prioritize?
When Peter wrote these instructions to pastoral leaders as part of his legacy, he highlighted four key points. The function of pastoral leadership is shepherding people. The deadening temptation for pastors/elders/ministers is love of money. The foundation for leadership success is transformed character, particularly demonstrated by humility. The opposition to Christian leadership is spiritual, led by Satan and executed by demonic forces.
The brevity and specificity of these instructions has confronted me about my own teaching, speaking, and writing about leadership. These four emphases were Peter’s summation about pastoral ministry after years of effective learning and leading. He emphasized maintaining a shepherd’s focus, resisting financial temptations, developing true character, and fighting spiritual battles. Too much of my teaching has revolved around leadership skills, management techniques, and helping pastors navigate pitfalls of difficult people. Peter’s legacy, reflected in what he learned over a lifetime, convicts me to stress these points when training other leaders. Peter emphasized shepherding as a priority, the necessity of fiscal responsibility, developing character more than skills, and discerning the demonic forces behind our spiritual battles. While other issues may deserve careful treatment, these priorities can’t be ignored. They are, according to the legacy left by one of the most experienced and wisest leaders of Christian history, foundational to effective ministry.
Photograph by Sarah Babineau