Of all the biblical examples of influential, spiritual leadership, Peter stands out as a natural leader. His leadership was spontaneous and unquestioned. What Peter did, the others did. Where Peter went, the others went. When Peter said, “I am going out to fish,” his friends replied, “We’ll go with you” (John 21:3).
In 1 Peter 5:1-7, the disciple Jesus commissioned to lead His fledgling church, provides succinct and definitive lessons on spiritual leadership. In his book, Ancient Prophets, Commissioner Samuel Logan Brengle reflects on this passage:
(In the words) of Peter: “The elders which are among you I exhort. . . .Feed the flock of God, . . .not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre (or rank or power), but a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. . . .Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject to one another, and be clothed with humility.” Nothing will so surely insure the prosperous and happy future of The Army as this spirit, and I am persuaded that nothing other than this can insure it.
Few passages show more clearly the importance of the leaders (elders) in the early church. Through a series of contrasts, Peter establishes the perils and the privileges of spiritual leadership. The spiritual leader is to accept the office, not under coercion, but willingly; not to make a disgraceful profit, but eager to serve; not to be a petty dictator, but to be the shepherd and the example of the flock.
Peter echoes Jesus’ admonition to his ambitious disciples: “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all” (Mark 10:42-44).
First, Peter addresses the leader’s motivation. “Be shepherds of God’s flock. . .not because you must, but because your are willing, as God wants you to be” (I Peter 5:2). The servant leader must assume his or her responsibility gladly, not under compulsion. It is God who calls. The response must echo that of the prophet Isaiah, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8).
The spiritual leader must be uninterested in financial or other gain. Greed is insidious and insatiable. Ironically, of all temptations, officers must continually guard against the tantalizing lure of personal gain. Monetary greed is not the only component of the Greek phrase translated “filthy lucre” (KJV), “shameful gain” (RSV) or “greedy for money” (NIV). The phrase can also apply to greed for popularity or power. For church leaders – for officers – prestige and power are more imposing temptations than money.
The spiritual leader must not be dictatorial. While sanctified ambition can provide positive motivation, if not kept in perspective by the Holy Spirit, it can quickly degenerate to intolerance. Illustrations of the deterioration of ambition are left to the reader. They are unfortunately plenteous.
The leader must set a worthy example. Peter reminds the elders of the spirit in which their leadership is to be exercised – the spirit of the Chief Shepherd (vs. 4). As “under shepherds” the spiritual leader must act in concert with the Chief Shepherd – indeed, the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-15). As the distinguished English Baptist minister, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, commented: “Ministers may do more by their example than by their discourses.”
Finally, the leader is to be “clothed with humility.” The Greek word for “clothed” occurs only three times in the New Testament. It specifically refers to the long white apron worn by slaves. Peter reminds his fellow elders that spiritual leaders are to stand apron-ed with humility, ready to serve in the name of Christ.
What About the Future of The Salvation Army?, A Chapter excerpted from Ancient Prophets, Samuel Logan Brengle.
Spurgeon’s Devotional Bible, C.H. Spurgeon, p.749.
Commissioner William W. Francis is the Territorial Commander of The Salvation Army Canada and Bermuda Territory. His wife, Commissioner Marilyn Francis, is the Territorial President for Women’s Ministries. Commissioners Francis have two adult children, Captain William Marshall and Susan Marjorie, plus six grandchildren.