Stewardship of Our Leaders

Dr. Steve Viars November 3, 2013 1 Peter 5:1-4

The week before last I was speaking to a group of pastors and church leaders from Ohio and Michigan and I was asked as part of that conference to participate in several panel discussions which are just open Q & As where anybody from the group could ask me anything. I like participating in those sort of things and so during the first Q & A I was asked to talk a little bit about how I came to Christ and then subsequently, how it was that God led me into ministry and that question reminded me of some very important events in my life. It also prepared me, I think, for the passage of Scripture that is before us today. Some of you may not know the answers to those questions. I grew up attending a very good church and I heard the gospel many, many times. I also had a very godly mother who lived out the gospel before me but for whatever reason, I struggled with whether or not I had ever truly become a Christian. I was also fairly shy, at least in many social situations and so, I didn’t really want to acknowledge these doubts and I didn’t know who I might be able to talk to about that.

So the assumption, I think, on the part of  many people around me was, “Well, he’s a Christian. He’s a follower of Christ. That’s all been settled for him.” During my senior year of high school some of my friends were going to go down to a basketball jamboree down in Chattanooga, Tennessee at Christmas time. Just a few days before they were supposed to leave, one of their players broke his foot and so they were desperate, I mean like, really desperate, so desperate that they asked me to come and play with them. So, I was more than happy to join their team at the last minute and we went down. They didn’t tell me that there were also going to be Chapel services as part of that tournament. I’m not even sure that they knew but as it turns out, in the providence of God, those Chapel services had a profound impact on me to the point that, even though the guys who had invited me to play thought I was a Christian, I just couldn’t live anymore with those nagging doubts, with all of that uncertainty.

So, the very last Chapel service down there in Chattanooga, just before we were supposed to jump back on the bus and head to our home in Gary, I just decided I can’t wait any longer. After that Chapel service while everybody else was kind of dispersing, I went up to the platform of that church, Highland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, and just spoke to one of the men who was there. It turned out to be the youth pastor of that church, Ab Thomas was his name. And what I remember about that conversation, we’re back to December 29, 1977, that’s how old I am and what I remember, still, about that conversation was that he had this dog-eared Bible. I mean, the man knew his Bible really, really well and anytime I would ask him a question on that platform, he would just take me to the appropriate place in the word of God. He wasn’t giving me his opinion, he was showing me the truth from the word of God that answered my questions and it was just like the Holy Spirit was taking his word and absolutely piercing my heart.

Eventually in that conversation, we got around to a verse that, for those of you who know we now knows, is one of my very favorites: 1 John 5:13 where John said, “These things I have written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God that you might know that you have everlasting life.” That verse just exploded in my heart and I had to come to a place where I knew. So, right there on the platform of Highland Park Baptist Church, right there, I bowed my head and I began praying with Pastor Thomas who had shepherded me so well and I placed my faith and trust in Christ as Savior and Lord and since that very moment, have never doubted my salvation.

Well, then I had an immediate decision to make: all these guys that had come down with me on this trip assumed I was a Christian, was I just going to ignore what I had just done or was I going to tell them and face whatever flack I might have to face as a result of what had been going on? I just decided, look, I’m not going to live in the fear of man anymore. I’m not going to live with all this uncertainty anymore and so I jumped on the bus and I asked, as we started driving, if I could just talk to my friends for a minute and I explained to them what I had done, not really sure of what their response would be. I can remember to this day, they just started cheering for me and rejoicing with me that finally I knew that I knew that I knew that I was on my way to heaven.

Soon after that, just within a couple of weeks, I went back to my home church in Gary and I was baptized by immersion in order to demonstrate publicly what had already happened in my heart. I was identifying myself in obedience to Scripture; I was identifying myself with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. The Lord then began this process that was intensifying by the day. It was a strong and intensifying desire to become a pastor. In other words, to use my life to do for others what Ab Thomas had done for me. So, I asked the leaders of our church to begin evaluating the legitimacy of that call in my case. They encouraged me to go off to Bible College and I guess the rest is history.

I went through Bible College and then married my wife, Chris, who put me through the next six years of various seminaries and then we came here immediately after I graduated from seminary and have been at this church ever since. What that means, when you thread it all together is: being here really is a dream come true. Honestly, I cannot think of anything I would rather do and I cannot think of any other place I would rather be. And as I answered that question the other day at the pastor’s conference, I was just overcome by a sense of deep gratitude for the incredible grace of God along with the reminder that all of this is a trust, isn’t it? It’s a stewardship for which some day I and we will have to give an account. That’s what I want to talk to you about this morning: the stewardship of our leaders.

With that in mind, let me invite you to open your Bible now to 1 Peter  5. If you don’t have a Bible with you, just pull out that one from under the chair in front of you and go to the back section, to the New Testament, to page 182. That ought to bring you to 1 Peter 5. There are two very important themes that are converging right now in this part of November and I realize you may be relatively new to our church. We have guests Sunday after Sunday after Sunday so let me just try to explain to you where we are. The two themes are these: 1. we’re completing our verse-by-verse study of the book of 1 Peter that we’ve been doing all fall, that many of us would say have been very, very helpful because this is such a precious and practical book of the Bible. Well, it’s also Stewardship Month where we take several weeks as a church family every year to consider all that God has entrusted to us and whether we’re being faithful to that trust.

If you interviewed a group of long-time members of this church and just asked them to explain, humanly speaking, what emphases have been most important to guide us to the point that we are today, undoubtedly that in the top ten list for the average person who has been around here for a period of time, undoubtedly on their top ten list would be the words “Stewardship Month.” In fact, and I’m going to explain in a minute, stewardship is certainly a whole lot more than finances. A banker recently told me this, he said: “The word around our bank is that people from Faith stand out in the way that they manage their personal finances.” He wasn’t saying that they stand out because of their income, because that’s not the case. What he was saying was regardless of the income level, there is a careful stewardship. In other words, there’s a thoughtfulness to the way we handle what God has entrusted to us in every area of life. That’s an incredible compliment and it’s an incredible testimony to the power of the word of God, helping all of us progressively become what he wants us to become. That’s what stewardship is all about.

Now, last week I talked to you about the four key principles of stewardship and I may have made some sort of a quip like, “You oughta laminate this and put it under your pillow.” Well, the point is, I hope you know these well. Tim and Leslie, for example, had a decision to make when they were offered the opportunity to serve in children’s ministries and I’m sure that these principles are part of what helped them make that decision. So, this becomes a grid-work through which we view life every day. The four key points of stewardship: 1. God owns everything, you own nothing including your time and so Tim and Leslie understood that when they made the decision that they made. And God entrusts you with everything that you have. It’s his. It’s a trust. Thirdly, you can either increase or diminish what God has given. You see, there it is too: God had entrusted Tim and Leslie with time and with abilities and now he wants us to increase what he has given us. And you can be called into account at any time and it may be today.

So, what are we trying to accomplish during this month? We’re encouraging all of us to consider all that the Lord has entrusted to us. All of it. And there are so many things on that list: our minds, for example; our time; our friends; our neighbors; the Bible; the gospel; our marriages; our children; our gifts; our abilities. The list is practically endless but to think about all that God has entrusted to us and whether or not we’re being faithful to that trust.

Now, we’re threading two important doctrines, especially guide and direct us, as we think about Stewardship Month. One of them is the doctrine of progressive sanctification. You need to know what that means. It means that God has a plan; he has a process for our growth and that over time, he wants us to become more and more like his Son in each one of those stewardship areas. Which means, by the way, on the one hand you don’t have to be perfect today. Isn’t that some good news? You just have to be growing. But on the other hand it means that as long as you have breathe, you can be getting better. Is that right? Jesus continues to want to perfect his will in you. So, Stewardship Month is for all of God’s people, right? Whether this is your first Sunday here or whether you’ve been here for like a hundred years or anywhere in between, stewardship is for all of us because growth is for all of us, all of our days.

The second key doctrine that guides us in all of this is our belief in the sufficiency of the word of God. It’s not stewardship according to what Dr. So-and-so says; it’s not stewardship according to popular opinion or contemporary culture. It’s stewardship according to the sufficiency of the word of God and we believe that. We believe the Bible is inspired. We believe it is inerrant. We believe it’s all we need for life and godliness and, therefore, it has practical principles and it has real power to help us change to become better stewards of all the Lord has entrusted to us. That’s why we end up clinging to verses like this, “Moreover it is required of stewards that a man be found faithful.” There it is. You don’t have to be smart; you don’t have to be rich; you don’t have to be well-connected; you don’t have to be blah, blah, blah. You don’t have to be perfect; you don’t have to have a pristine past, blah, blah, blah. Thank God for that. It’s required of stewards that a man be found faithful, that you’re getting to a better place.

Now, today’s topic is about the issue of church leadership. I realize you might say, “Well, why are we talking about that?” Well, it’s not because of anything that’s happening around here, that’s not happening around here. It’s not about anything that might be happening in our community, blah, blah, blah. That’s actually one of the reasons I love to teach verse-by-verse through the Bible and I planned our preaching schedule last November so nobody can say, “Well, you planned this for this particular Sunday because of…” Just relax. The bottom line is: we’re talking about this because it’s the next issue in the text and if it happens to be exactly what some folks need, well, take it up the chain a lot higher than me to the Holy Spirit of God who planned all of this exactly the way he did. Fair deal? Fair deal.

1 Peter 5, beginning in verse 1,

“1 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you,” and listen carefully to the argument, “as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd,” notice the argument, you elders are to “shepherd the flock of God among you,” and “exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

We’re talking this morning about the stewardship of our leaders and I want to suggest to you that from those first four verses of 1 Peter 5, we can find three principles to help us benefit the most from those God has placed in leadership in his church. It starts right here, friends: God gives leaders for his church in each generation.

I. God Gives Leaders to His Church in Each Generation

And I would encourage you to especially think about that phrase “in each generation.” Where did that come from? Well, what did we just read? This is a series of instructions that aged Peter is giving to other whom? Other elders, other pastors. And in the sovereignty of God, the Lord allows all of his people to listen in because the way these truths ought to impact us practically this week, it depends on the context in which you’re finding yourself this morning. Pastors or those who are studying to be pastors or those who want to be pastors some day, need to think about this text from that particular position of stewardship. Those to whom leadership has been given need to think about these verses from that particular position, perspective of stewardship. And the Holy Spirit can multi-task; he can help each one of us apply this to exactly what we need, where we are right now.

Let’s start breaking some of it down. Peter refers to himself, you saw it, as a fellow elder. What does that mean? Well, the word “elder” is speaking about an office, not about an age. It’s the Greek word presbyterion. Obviously, we would get English words like presbytery and Presbyterian from that word but it literally means “elder,” that’s why it’s translated this particular way in this text. The first time in the Bible we read about this particular group of people in the church is all the way back in Acts 11, “And in that proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea.” This is a text, by the way, at Acts 11 about a love offering that was being taken for those who were experiencing famine in Jerusalem. And note this, just parenthetical: “And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabus and Saul to the,” who? “To the elders.”

So, here we are even before the first missionary journey in the book of Acts. This book is telling us that two offices have emerged in the church: deacons, that office is discussed in Acts 6; and elders, mentioned first right here in Acts 11. Well, that’s at the birth of the church, now we’re 30+ years later than that at the end of 1 Peter which we’re studying here. By now we’re seeing the office is well established. Peter has been functioning as an elder for quite some time now and because of either his age or his pending death, he’s talking to his fellow elders. Again, I said the issue is not exclusively age but obviously if a word like “elder” is chosen, there is some connection to age or, more importantly, to proven or tested maturity if we’re talking about presbyterion. That’s why the book of 1 Timothy 3 which is one of the two places in the Bible that give the qualifications for pastors says this in part, “A pastor is not to be a new convert.” Why? “So that he won’t become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.” So, elder is not so much an age but definitely in maturity. Just remember that. We’re talking about people who are elders.

Something else about this passage that is very important to note because you might be saying, “Now wait a minute, I’ve been around this church long enough to know that we believe, and you said it earlier, that we understand Scripture to teach that there are two offices: deacons and pastors. Well, for crying out loud, where are elders? Where are bishops? What’s going on?” That is a great question and this is the perfect place in the Bible to answer it because many times in the Bible, those words “bishop, pastor, elder” are used interchangeably to clearly describe the same person or same office. Sometimes they are used interchangeably even in the same passage and that’s what we just read. You say, “What do you mean?” Well, let’s dig in.

We’ve already seen the word “elder” or presbyterion but look at verse 2: what are elders supposed to do according to this passage? We’re supposed to, what is the first word in the verse? We’re supposed to shepherd, poinmaino. That’s the word for “pastor.” So now, elders are supposed to pastor or shepherd people and then just keep reading in the same verse: “shepherd the flock of God among you” and here’s this, “exercising oversight.” There is our third word. That’s the Greek word episkopas from which we get the English word “Episcopalian” or “bishop” and clearly in this passage it’s talking about the same person. You elders are to shepherd and exercise oversight. So, our understanding of the Scripture is that there are three different words to describe the same office. Some have suggested that the word “bishop” especially emphasizes the office and the word “pastor” especially emphasizes the function and the word “elder” especially emphasizes the man. And Peter says, “I am exhorting the elders among you as your fellow elder.”

Something else that I’d like you to see about verse 1, it says this: Peter is a witness of the sufferings of Christ. Now, why would that be so amazing? That Peter as he’s talking to his fellow pastors, would remind them, “I am a witness of the sufferings of Christ.” Why would that be amazing? Because he’s referring to what was by far his greatest failure. What did Peter do as he was witnessing the sufferings of Christ? Answer: he was denying Jesus three times. The same suffering which resulted in the price being paid for Peter’s failures and our failures, so that Peter could be forgiven and transformed into a useful and effective servant of God. When you think about it, it’s a beautiful collision of metaphors. Peter is an elder who witnessed the sufferings of Christ which paid the price for his failure, making it possible for him to be an elder.

If you know your Bible, you’re probably thinking about John 21, one of my favorite chapters in all the Bible. It’s the fish breakfast chapter. “I wouldn’t want to have fish for breakfast.” Well, you would if Jesus made it, okay? We don’t have time to talk about that passage in detail but you remember what happened: they had gone out and Jesus didn’t send them out on that occasion, they had gone out and gone fishing and caught nothing and then Jesus appears on the shore. This is after he’s died; it’s after he’s been resurrected but before he ascended into heaven. He told them to cast their nets out to catch a draught and they did and then they realized it was Jesus and they rowed to shore and Peter jumped out of the boat and swam. You remember the story. The bottom line is: Christ has this beautiful fish breakfast that he’s cooking for them. They’d been out all night and caught nothing and they’re hungry as all get-out. Peter is looking at these fish and Jesus says to him, “Peter, do you love me more than these fish? Do you ever just want to go back and be a physical fisherman or do you want to get back on track? Do you love me, Peter?” And Peter answers, if you know the Greek aspect of that, a less intense word but, “Yes, I love you.” And what did Jesus say? “Feed my lambs.” And how many times did Jesus ask Peter that question? Three times to match the number of times that he had denied him and every time Jesus said to him, “Okay Peter, you’ve been forgiven for your sin, now I’m going to make you a pastor. Now I’m going to make you an elder. Now I’m going to make you a bishop. Now I want you to feed my lambs.” And Peter never got over that.

He was a witness of the sufferings of Christ. He also said in verse 1, “I’m a partaker of the glory that is to be revealed.” We don’t know for sure what is being referred to there. It might mean that Peter is thinking back to the Mount of Transfiguration, glory was revealed there for sure. Or maybe the teaching that Christ had given them just before he died about what the end times would be like. We don’t know for sure but Peter has been reminding us throughout this book and he certainly wants now these elders to remember that what we’re experiencing in terms of suffering in this life is a very small piece of the puzzle compared to the glory of eternity. We’re partakers of the glory that shall be revealed.

Now, I realize I’ve said a lot. Let’s come up for air here. What’s the big point in the argument at this point? Here it is: thank the Lord for this aged church leader who was far from perfect but who had been given by God to function as an elder, as a mature leader to the church to shepherd the flock of God. And that matters this morning for a lot of reasons and let me give you one: friends, God has blessed this church historically with a number of godly pastors and a number of godly deacons and a number of godly, faithful women who have served this church so well over the years and I just want to remind all of us that that becomes a stewardship. We are called upon to honor those kinds of leaders all of our days.

At that conference I spoke at in Ohio with pastors from Ohio and Michigan, I spent a lot of time talking about people like Pastor Good, our former senior pastor here. About Dr. Smith and many other faithful laymen and laywomen. I’ll tell you why I did that at a pastor’s conference in part: it’s because I’m concerned that the evangelical church is developing a tendency that almost creates rock star leaders where people are promoted and followed because of their gifts instead of their character. They are promoted and followed because of their charisma instead of their maturity. We’ve even seen some examples in the last couple of weeks of evangelical leaders acting in ways that are just childish and immature. I mean, people crashing one another’s conferences. Seriously? Like junior high boys? People making financial decisions that are questionable at best in their personal lives.

It’s very much like the situation in the church at Corinth where people were more interested in and impressed by the showy gifts than in godly maturity and we ought to pause and thank the Lord for the many men and women who have gone before us in this church who weren’t flashy, they weren’t Madison Avenue, they didn’t try to draw attention to themselves but they were elders in the very best sense of that term. I want to remind us this morning that we steward that in part by faithfully and joyfully following that heritage.

II. God's Leaders are Given Very Specific Functions in the Church

Now, what else do we see in this passage? We also learn godly leaders are given very specific functions in the church. You see, one of the great things about the Bible is that it makes it very, very practical and very, very clear who is supposed to be doing what around here. Here’s an answer: elders are supposed to shepherd the flock. There it is, “shepherd the flock of God among you.” That is a very powerful metaphor of what it means to be part of a church family. We’re a flock of sheep. Do you know that? That’s what we are. Say, “baaa.” It reminds me: Drew and I used to be in the Living Nativity and for years we were out here in this corner, my handicap son, Drew, for those of you who are new, who is blind, and we would be standing out there in the cold with those sheep forever. And Drew over and over, “Say baaa, sheep. Say baaa, sheep.” I’d whack one of them, “baaa.” There you are. We’re just a flock of sheep and we’ve been given shepherds to help us.

What concepts is Peter trying to call up in our minds by saying that? Shepherds certainly feed. The shepherd was responsible to find and provide nourishment for the flock and Peter picks up on that and he likens it to pastors providing spiritual nourishment to God’s people. And it’s certainly not feeding them your own opinion or feeding them whatever they want to eat. It’s a matter of feeding the flock the sufficient word of God.

It also involves guiding and directing. Some of us remember that old hymn that included the words, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave this, God I love.” That’s true for all of us and that certainly fits the metaphor of a sheep. And God calls on pastors to provide guidance and direction so the flock is heading in a right direction.

It involves concern and compassion. A real shepherd loves the sheep. In fact, I’ll tell you because I have an opportunity to be around some of these evangelical leaders and there’s a phrase I’ve heard several of them use. It just shocks me and saddens me. What some people are now saying is, “Well, you know people tire me out. So, I do my public thing but I don’t want to spend any time with people privately because…” I’ve heard pastors say that. I’ve heard pastor’s wives say that. “People tire me out.” Seriously? Why would you go into the ministry if you don’t love sheep?

It involves warning and protection. Scripture tells us that the day will come when people will not want to be shepherded. What they’ll do, they will actually bring leaders around them who, Scripture says, will tickle their ears. In other words, just tell them whatever it is they want, “Just do whatever comes natural. Just do whatever you feel like doing. Just be true to yourself.” Instead of giving you the truth of the word of God like a faithful shepherd. And what Paul says, “in season and out.” When it is desired and when it’s not. When it’s popular and when it’s not.

One of the things I appreciate about our church is that there is a great number of people who act like they really want to be pastured. They’re good stewards of the leadership that God has given. In fact, it would be very interesting for you to think back over this past year and just ask yourself that question: what kind of a steward have I been of the leadership that God has provided for me? There will be people who will be here today who will say, “I’ve been in church more in the last year than ever in my whole life. It almost killed me. But I’m in a better place now because I’ve been fed.” And that kind of a person can say, “I’ve been a good steward of what was provided for me.” Or, others could say, “I’ve been in an adult Bible fellowship,” or “I’ve joined a small group and I’ve been shepherded as a result of that.” Others can say, “I humbled myself and I got some biblical counseling because I recognized that I wanted to be shepherded.” Others could talk about the relationship they’ve developed with their deacon and they’ve said, “I want that person to help shepherd me.” The bottom line is that there are many people around here who could say, “This year, as I think back on my stewardship of the shepherds that God has entrusted to me, I have been a good steward of that and I’ve gotten to a better place in my spiritual life.”

Now, you might say, “Well, could everybody who calls this church their home say that? That they’ve been a good steward of the shepherding resources that have been provided for them?” Of course not. It couldn’t be said anywhere but I’m not here to slap somebody around, I just kind of gave you a little tap with the staff. That’s what that was. Just a little pastoral tap right there and then I would remind you of this: that’s why it’s so great that Peter is the one who is writing this book because even if you would say, “You know what? Honestly, I’ve been a pretty poor steward of the shepherding resources that have been made available to me.” Well, fine. Peter messed up too but because he was a witness of the sufferings of Christ, it’s not simply about pulling ourselves up by our own spiritual bootstraps, it’s a matter of recognizing that forgiveness is available at the foot of our Chief Shepherd and, therefore, I ought to ask his forgiveness and ask him to help me get to a better place.

That’s what Stewardship Month is all about. That’s why you have that brochure in your program and I would encourage you, and if you’re married I would encourage you to sit down with your honey, if your kids at the appropriate age, I would encourage you to talk with them, and during Stewardship Month  just to talk about how are we doing in the matter of time in the word of God? How are we doing at the matter of faithfully praying together? How are we doing at the matter of spiritual growth? What are some areas in which we can get better? I would encourage you to look on the back of that and just think about where you are from a serving perspective. Ultimately, you don’t answer to me or any of our other pastors, you answer to the Chief Shepherd, but my job is to remind you of the importance of evaluating, taking time. And if we don’t do that, it’s amazing how all of a sudden a year went by, three years went by, five years went by, and I haven’t gotten any better. I haven’t grown in my relationship with God. Stewardship Month is one of those times where we can just sit down and evaluate.

I realize you might say, “But I don’t like to write things down.” Well, here’s a news flash from your shepherd: God likes to write things down. He gave it to you in a book. He committed himself to the nature of his relationship with you and I believe that is a great example for all of us. I believe that there is great value in taking the time to think things through as a family and to write down our commitments.

Then I want to encourage you to be with us even if you’re brand new around here, to our stewardship celebration on the 24th of November. That’s the Sunday night before Thanksgiving and we’re just going to thank God for all he’s done this year and we’re going to commit ourselves to growing stewardship in the days ahead. What a great way to start Thanksgiving week.

So, feeding. Shepherds, our elders are supposed to feed. We’re also supposed to exercise oversight. You saw that in the text, didn’t you? Peter said, “shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight.” There it is. “Not under compulsion.” That’s interesting. “But voluntarily according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge.” Don’t do that. “But proving to be examples to the flock.” That’s the word episkopas. That’s the word bishop.

What does that look like in a church? What does exercising oversight look like in a church? Helping the church clarify our God-given mission. We all have to understand why do we exist? And helping the congregation plan. It’s so crucial that all of us understand where are we heading? Where do we believe God wants us to go? To be on the look-out for ministry opportunities and to try to develop a DNA congregation wide that we’re passionate about ways that we can glorify God by serving others in our community and being on the look-out for what’s the next way that we can possibly do that together.

To identify and shore up weaknesses. That means we have to solve problems. That means we have to evaluate critically and that starts with me. Pastor Good taught me that the major problem is often with the major prophet. So, this whole progressive sanctification thing starts with me and I have to have other people around who will shepherd me and I have to be willing to have that kind of evaluation.

To equip and train ministry leaders. You can’t start new ministries without having trained, willing ministers. So there’s a matter of equipping. That’s part of the oversight. Then there’s the matter of holding people accountable. I’ll tell you right now, I’ve learned this as a pastor: there are a whole lot more people who talk about being held accountable than who really want to be held accountable. Do you know how you can find out? Hold somebody accountable for something. But that’s part of my job.

To be sure that problems are solved quickly and problems are solved biblically. That’s something else that was just drilled into me. Problems are for solving, they are good opportunities for growth, don’t run from them. They are also like guppies: you can either deal with the two you have today in the church or you can deal with the thousand you’re going to have next week. In other words, they multiply rapidly. Do I need to go over the biology? That’s just the way it is and I spend a fair amount of my time as do the other pastors in our church, dealing with problems and dealing with problems from the perspective of taking us all to submitting ourselves to the word of God and communicating and getting to a better place.

Did you notice the descriptions of this in the text? Peter says, “Don’t do it under compulsion, do it voluntarily. Now, why would a pastor ever have to be compelled to do his job? Here’s a couple of answers: because many of us in ministry are lazy, that’s why and I said that to those pastors over in Ohio and Michigan. Which is why frequently I get invited to speak at places once. I do believe that’s one of the answers.

It’s also because some of us as pastors are fearful. You understand being a shepherd generates a fair amount of controversy and the day that everything I say makes everybody in the church or everybody in the community happy, is the day that I’m no longer doing my job. If you and everybody in the community already agree with everything I think, according to the Bible, then I would be unnecessary. So, the bottom line is: I can’t be one has to wait until I’m compelled to do it, I have to do it because I think it’s right, according to the will of God, not according to any of our pastor’s opinions. We have to tie everything that we’re doing back to the sufficiency of Scripture.

“Not for sordid gain.” That’s become a very interesting issue in the evangelical world and I’m not here to judge other people. I’m not the one who is going to decide what is a reasonable standard of living for a pastor but I know this: if people think you’re in it for the money, it’s over. I know that much for sure.

“With eagerness.” You want to be a pastor. It’s a desire. You’re “not lording it over others who are allotted to your charge.” You’re proving to be an example to the flock. And I hope when you hear all of this you would say: 1. I need to be praying for our pastors. Please do. 2. I need to be asking as a church member, do I act as if I really want to be overseen? The writer of Hebrews says it like this, “Obey your leaders and submit to them for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account,” that’s true. “Let them do this with joy and not with grief for this would be unprofitable for you.” I mean this sincerely: for every instance where anyone in our church ever has been a source of grief to me over the last 26 years, there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds who have been a great source of joy. That really is true. I and our staff view this as an incredible privilege to serve here. This is a dream job for sure.

Let me just say: this whole message assumes that you’re already in the flock and I realize you may not yet have trusted Christ and I would encourage you today to place your faith and trust in what Christ did on the cross while he suffered to make it possible for you to be forgiven of your sin and brought into the family. If you have been saved but you’ve not yet demonstrated that publicly by baptism or been part of a church, I want to encourage you to take care of that. That’s part of the shepherding that I would want to do in your life.

III. God Will Reward Those Who Handle This Stewardship Well

Where does all of this leave us? Ultimately God will reward those who handle this stewardship well. I realize, I hope you do too, there are times when doing my job isn’t necessarily easy and I realize there are times when you having my job done to you, is not particularly easy. Do you know what those are? Those are stewardship moments. Those are stewardship moments and Peter promises, “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

What’s the assignment? I want to encourage you to go through this brochure and work through with your family, just evaluative time of how you’re doing in the areas of stewardship. Plan to come with us on the 24th as we celebrate all of this together and let’s be sure that we’re faithful stewards of the leaders God has given.

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video