1 Peter 5:1-4 is a passage every pastor ought to know well. It is Peter’s exhortation to the elders to shepherd their flocks well. In this passage, he commands these pastors to shepherd, “not for shameful gain, but eagerly”. Tragically, many pastors so often lead out of selfish motives. It is a tragedy that needs to be repented of, but here are some ways, Pastor, that you might be leading selfishly without even knowing it.
1. Be in it for the Praise
As a Pastor it is easy to get caught up with what other people think about you. You preach that sermon because you know you will get a few extra “amens”. You long to have people come up to you after the service and tell you, “That was a great sermon!” We want to be liked and loved, so we shy away from the truth because it might make us look bad. Pastoring for the praise is a constant struggle for pastors, but ultimately it is leading out of selfishness. You are leading the church in fear of your own ego, rather than sacrificing your reputation to be obedient to what God has asked you to do. We must not fear man, but fear God. As a result, sometimes God will ask us to preach a truth that might be hard for our congregation to hear, but regardless we must be obedient to the Lord. Do not Pastor for the Praise.
2. Be in it for the Power
“My way or the highway”. If Pastor’s are not careful they can get caught up in the thirst for power. As a pastor, you are not the CEO. You are a shepherd. You are called to lay down your lives for the sheep, not to dominate over the sheep. You must lovingly serve them not beat them with the rod. A pastor must lead sacrificially and as a servant. Don’t beat up the sheep to quickly in order to get your agenda accomplished. Lead your church slowly and patiently. Gently lead them, “not under compulsion, but willingly” (1 Peter 5:2). Do not Pastor for the Power.
3. Be in it for the Paycheck
This can be by far the most dangerous in the life of the Pastor. A Pastor must never demote his calling to just a job. The Scriptures has stern words for those Pastors who attempt to live off the sheep without actually caring for them (Ezk 34, Micah 3). Pastor, you have been placed by God as the shepherd of the congregation, as long as you are there. Don’t turn your ministry into just a way to pay the bills. If you think this way, repent immediately or get out of the ministry lest you heap judgement on yourself. For those who are Pastors will be judged much more strictly (James 3:1). Remember, it is God who called you to your church. As long as he would have you there, shepherd well, regardless of how much or even if you get paid. Here Bi-Vocational Pastors have an advantage over the Full-Time Pastors. Nobody takes a Bi-Vocational Pastorate for the money. A man takes that position because God has genuinely called him. The paycheck has nothing to do with it. Do not Pastor for the Paycheck.
More than ever we need Pastors who will lead like 1 Peter 5 describes. We need Godly men who can shepherd the flock unselfishly. We need men who will lay down their lives for the sake of the sheep. We need men who will be good under shepherds under the chief shepherd, Jesus Christ . We need men who will lead as a servant, counting others as better than himself. We need men who imitate the unselfish, life-laying down love of our great savior Jesus Christ.