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Transformative Leadership in Trying Times

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Transformative Leadership in Trying Times


Peter Hubbard


October 23, 2022


1 Peter, 1 Peter 5:1-5


So, at most critical moments in history, there is a transformative kind of leader who steps up and does something, is someone, that is different from most everyone else. And I’ve just been thinking about those kinds of leaders just in our country. They’re everywhere. Let me just give you a random sample.

William Brewster — he was an unusual pilgrim because he was the only college-educated pilgrim. He was a Cambridge man and quite brilliant, spoke many languages, fairly wealthy. This is a picture of his house, Scrooby Manor, that he sold. He eventually lost pretty much everything leading the pilgrims to Holland and then to America.

George Washington — when the war had ended and he had remarkably, miraculously led the little army to victory, he could have been whatever he wanted to be. He could have declared himself czar, king, CEO, pharaoh. His army would have followed him anywhere, but he resigned his military commission and went back to his farm. And when he did that … That’s why King George III said that if he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world because leaders don’t earn huge amounts of power just to give them away. This one did.

Theodore Roosevelt was appointed Police Commissioner of New York City in 1894, and it was at that time, in his words, the most important and most corrupt department in New York. The police department was riddled with fraud, corruption, blackmail. Young officers actually bought their way in, and as they rose, they got kickbacks. Corruption was pervasive. Roosevelt caught everyone off guard by firing all the senior officers. And then he went on all-night excursions where he concealed his identity. He disguised himself, and he would see if the officers were actually doing their jobs. He caught police officers hanging out at bars, entertaining women. He fired all the bad ones. And then he said that, in his words, most of the men were first-rate officers in a corrupt system. So, he rewarded the good officers, but he flipped that thing very quickly.

Rosa Parks is another remarkable person. She shocked the world on December 1, 1955, when she refused to give her seat. She was sitting in what was known then as the “colored section.” A white person came on the bus. The bus driver demanded that she move, but she insisted that we actually practice what we preach. We preach that all men are created equal. We declared that. How about we live that? It became a symbol for our nation to live out what we claim to believe.

Ronald Reagan on June 12, 1987, rattled the cage of the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union when he said in West Berlin, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” And today, everybody kind of heralds that as an amazing statement, but often we have no idea how controversial that was in that day. Many of the Western media called it his statement “empty idealism, provocative, war mongering.” And yet the wall came down.

What motivated these leaders (we could give many, many more examples) to take a risk? To be different? To turn a crisis into an opportunity? What characterizes transformative leadership?

The Apostle Peter in 1 Peter, the book we’re working our way through, is calling Christian exiles to a different way of thinking and living. Two weeks ago, we learned that we are not to live for human passions, but for the will of God. We are to, in Peter’s words,

“arm yourselves with this same way of thinking.”

What way of thinking? The way of Christ’s thinking, who valued suffering over sinning. “Arm yourselves” with that mindset where you are willing to walk through immediate suffering for ultimate glory.

Last week, we saw chapter 4, verse 12.

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.”

And as Steve explained last week, we see the immediate suffering in light of the ultimate glory. That passage ended in verse 19.

|”Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”

But look at the next verse, chapter 5, verse 1. “So…” Now NIV and some of the translations that are more paraphrased won’t have that word, but it’s there in the best manuscripts.

“[Therefore/So/Then] I exhort the elders among you “

Okay. He’s talking about suffering, immediate suffering, ultimate glory. “Therefore, I exhort the elders [church leaders] among you.”

Now, wait. What in the world? Why are we talking about leadership? Weren’t we talking about immediate suffering, ultimate glory? But the “therefore” links the two together, and then Peter goes on to describe himself as

“a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed.”

So, notice immediate suffering, ultimate glory. And now the main command, verse 2,

“Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight.”

So, there is a kind of a leader needed during a season of suffering, and Peter’s about to explain what kind of leader that is. But before we look at that, I want us to be clear as to what group of leaders we are talking about here.

Peter uses three overlapping descriptions of the same group of leaders. He is addressing (verse 1) the elders (“presbuteros” is the Greek word), mature, wise leaders. It’s always plural. The church is never led by a human monarchy. A group of leaders. And he commands them to shepherd, “poinmaino,” which is “to pastor, guard, guide, care, care for” and to exercise oversight, “episkopeo.” What word do we get from that? “Episcopal, bishop,” which means “to look upon, to care for, to oversee.”

So, three overlapping descriptions of one group of leaders — elders, pastors, overseers. Same people, different descriptions. And the Apostle Paul does the same thing in Acts 20, addressing the elders and calling them to pastor as overseers.

So, three questions about this kind of transformative leadership. What characterizes transformative leadership? If they’re going to shepherd, if they’re going to provide oversight in difficult times, what does that look like? And Peter gives three “Not this ___, but this___.”

Number 1 — TLs (transformative leaders) are not compelled, not driven by, meeting their own needs, but ministering willingly. Look at verse 2.

“Not under compulsion but willingly as God would have you.”

Compulsion is “of necessity or force.” Peter is saying we should minister willingly, not of necessity. But what about Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 9:16, where he actually says,

“For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”

And he uses a different form of the same word Peter uses. Aha! The Bible contradicts itself! No, they’re talking about two different compulsions. Paul is referring to the call of God. He didn’t decide one day — you know what I want to be when I grow up? I want to be a gospel preacher. No, he was flourishing in Judaism as in Galatians 1, when he tells his story there. He was not a preacher of the gospel. He was a persecutor of the gospel. And then Galatians 1:15,

“But when he [God] who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone.”

So, his point is my ministry had nothing to do with a group of people telling me what to do. You need to preach. It had nothing to do with me telling me what to do, like feeling some deep need of significance. “You know, I feel like I’m going through a midlife crisis. I could buy a convertible, I could color my hair, or I could maybe go in the ministry.” No.

Also, he’s not trying to compensate for the Christians he had killed. “If I can do penance long enough, I can somehow pay for the damage I’ve done.” No. So, Paul’s point is the driving force behind my gospel ministry is the call of God, and that’s exactly the point Peter is making when he says back in 1 Peter 5:2,

“Not under [human] compulsion, but willingly as God would have you.”

This is Christian mindfulness applied to ministry/leadership. We serve willingly because of God’s gracious call, not because someone is pressuring me, not because I am pressuring me, not because I’m trying to meet some bit of brokenness within me or some deep hidden need —

“My father was never there for me growing up. I have always craved some kind of significance, and so, I’m going to go in the ministry.”

“My mother left when I was a child. I always felt abandoned. So, I got the call to ministry so that no one else would experience what I experience.”

Or “Growing up, I always lived in the shadows. My brother was an amazing athlete. My sister was larger than life. Everyone loved her. I was invisible. Finally, if I go in the ministry, people will see me.”

Do you see how dangerous that is? Every one of those examples I just gave you, every week I hear stories of people in ministry doing horrific damage to the people they’re called to serve. Usually, it’s because they’re trying to use their ministry to meet an area of brokenness or need. Peter is saying that can’t be the driving force behind your call. It can’t. When you minister as a means to meet some kind of emptiness or brokenness within you, you are setting yourself and others up for more brokenness. Hurt people hurt people.

Now, does that mean if you’ve experienced deep hurt and brokenness, you can’t go in the ministry? If that is the case that wipes us all out, right? But the point is, you humbly in community get help for the brokenness in your heart, running to God for help. You don’t use ministry as a means to get that help.

Why is that so important in this context? Well, what happens when leaders, missionaries, ministry leaders, life group leaders, elders, deacons, what happens when we use ministry as a means to meet our own need and brokenness, when we’re compelled to minister for that? And out of that place, what happens when we go through a season of suffering? That’s what Peter’s calling us, warning us of. What happens when you pour your life into someone, and they turn around and walk away? What happens when God calls you to speak on things that are contrary to everything in the culture you live in? If you’re in that ministry in order to get something you think you need, you are set up for despair and damaging others.

And I think that’s one of the reasons so many today are abandoning ministry. You’re not in it for the call because of the inner compulsion, as Peter says, “willingly as God would have you,” but trying, driven by a deep-seated need.

Something very similar, number 2 — TLs (transformative leaders) are not controlled by seeking their own gain but serving eagerly. Verse 2,

“Not for shameful gain, but eagerly.”

The word “shameful gain” in the Greek is one word, has two big ideas. One is the gain piece, which most often is referring to money, but it could be trying to earn respect, admiration, like some kind of benefit. And the other part is the dirty part, the motive. That’s why the King James classically translates this “greedy for filthy lucre,” whatever lucre is.

Now, Paul makes clear in 1 Timothy 5:17-18 that pastors should be supported financially by their congregations if the congregation is able. It’s a sign of health to free up missionaries or free up pastors to be able to devote their lives to actually pastoring the flock. But he’s warning here that the motivation of the minister can never be money or any other kind of personal advantage.

The contrast to that is the word “eagerly.” I love this word. The Greek is “prothumos,” “pro” –before, “thumos” — passion. It’s like a preexisting passion. It’s why it’s translated “readily” because there’s an inner motivation that is there before you hear about the salary, before you learn about the benefits or the package or before anybody’s done anything to make you feel good about yourself, some kind of advantage. It’s there. It’s a call. That’s what Paul meant. I can’t escape it. It’s preexisting before some kind of human affirmation comes along. That’s why Paul said in Romans 1:15,

“So I am eager [same word “prothumos”] to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.”

He’s not saying, “Hey, if you can give me a large enough honorarium. I’ll make my way to Rome.” He’s not weighed down by ulterior motives or internal resistance.

This is huge, and this is something people in ministry have to constantly check themselves on because when you first begin ministry, it’s pretty obvious whether you’re in it for the money or not. Early on when our church was just a little straggling group and God said, “I want you to leave your business and go with this group.” You’re not, “Oh, that’s a way to get rich!” You’re not thinking about that at all, and sacrifice is nothing. It’s like this is a joy! But over the years, speaking opportunities, honorariums, other things you can begin to weigh with the wrong motive. And what Peter’s saying here is one of the ways you can know the difference between a true minister and a fake one is suffering.

Imagine North Hills goes through a season of suffering, and many of our people lose their jobs, and so we can’t support our missionaries or our pastors anymore. And so, we all pastors get side jobs or full-time jobs, like we had at the beginning. Here’s the question. Would that change my call? I’m speaking personally, saying, “God, would that change my call to minister?” Well, it might change my schedule because I’m obviously working another job. But if it changes my call, I’m a hireling, not a pastor. There’s a difference between a shepherd and a hired man, a hireling. Because what Peter’s getting at, if the call doesn’t come “prothumos,” preexisting, not that it’s always there, but it comes from God within us, it doesn’t matter of the outer circumstances. Or even back when I was running my business, when the church started, I’m still called to shepherd God’s people whether I’m in business or not because you can’t get away from the call. Transformative leaders are not controlled by seeking their own gain but serving eagerly.

And finally [number 3], transformative leaders are not committed to getting their own way but being an example. Verse 3,

“Not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.”

That word “domineering,” literally is “lording it over, subduing, exercising dominion.” This is the same word Jesus used in Mark 10:42,

“Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles [there’s the word] lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’”

Transformative leaders refuse to wear the ring of power, but the robe of service and sacrifice. They influence rather than control. They exemplify rather than dominate. They’re not passive. They have very strong convictions, but it’s the way they carry those out. It’s really easy for me to talk about this here now, but even a week and a half ago when I’m sitting in an elder meeting and I don’t get my way, I don’t like that. And God says it’s good for you. It’s part of being on a team. It’s part of submitting yourselves one to another in love. It’s part of realizing you don’t have all the answers. It’s part of knowing that God brings wisdom through a multitude of counselors. And Peter says if you have a leader who thinks they always know and always have to get their way, they will do great damage.

In Luke 10:19, Jesus caught his disciples off guard when he said,

“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.”

And you could just see the disciples, “yeaaaaah!” And then he says,

“Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this [oops!] that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Your effectiveness as a leader is rooted not in the spectacular things you can do in ministry, but the spectacular person you are related to. That’s the key. If you root your identity in your ministry activity, you will ride the highs and lows of the roller coaster of ministry right into despair, and it will tempt you to turn on God’s people. Moses learned this the hard way in Numbers 20. I hate this story.

At Meribah the people were complaining, and they began to fantasize about what it was like in slavery in Egypt. Numbers 20:10,

“Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, ‘Hear now, you rebels!’”

I always hear that like a pirate captain. “Arrgh!” It sounds that way, whether it’s in the Hebrew or not.

“Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?”

There’s tons of sarcasm in that, all about we/you/rebels. Verse 11,

“And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock.”

Big point here — coercive ministry can work. It sometimes produces immediate results, gets things done. “Hear now, you rebels!” But look at verse 12,

“And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.’”

The reason I hate this story is Moses has been such a meek leader, so faithful. It just feels like an unjust punishment. He struck the rock? What’s the big deal? The big deal is Moses had allowed the manipulation of the people of God to turn him into a manipulator. Their complaining, in his mind, began to justify his doubt, his rash words, and his disobedience. It wasn’t just about hitting or speaking to a rock. God said, “Speak to it.” He hit it, but it was everything that drove that. And God is saying to us very strongly that there is no excuse to dominate the people of God.

Over the years, I have talked to a lot of abusers, whether in counseling or trying to address issues, but I’ve never met an abuser. The abuser does not view himself or herself as an abuser. The abuser says things like, “I know I shouldn’t have hit her, but I just wanted her to listen”; “I know I yelled, but he doesn’t give me any respect.” So, what you think needs to happen justifies what you do to them. That’s the driving force behind abuse, and what God is saying to Moses and what God is saying through Peter to us today is you need to settle if you’re going to lead, and we’re talking parents, life group leaders, elders, deacons, missionaries, all of us in ministry leadership. There is no excuse to dominate over people in the name of trying to achieve a goal that you actually undermine by the means by which you pursue it. And what’s so beautiful here is who’s saying these words — Peter, a man who could dominate, who failed greatly, who has been restored, and now is called by Jesus — “Tend my sheep and do it by example.” You can’t call people to humility and obedience by crushing them, which is disobedience.

So, in summary, what characterizes these transformative leaders? They’re not driven to meet their own needs. They’re not seeking their own gain. They’re not demanding their own way. But they’re serving God’s people willingly, eagerly, and by example.

Second question — what energizes this kind of leadership? None of us have this native to ourselves. Verse 4,

“And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

And that crown of glory is probably appositional, which means the crown is the glory, the glory is the crown. What Peter is saying is if you’re going to lead in a transformative way through a season of suffering, you cannot be in it for immediate results. As Paul said in Romans 8:18,

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

There’s no comparison. Paul had settled. There’s nothing you can give me now, no matter how hard or how happy, that compares to what is yet to come. And once we settle that, it frees us to lead in a different way. All fading crowns of glory cannot be compared to what is coming. Any amount of status, money, trophies of achievement, all fade away.

By the way, this is one of the big differences between the health-wealth gospel and the true gospel. The health-wealth gospel is demanding everything now. The true gospel, not that we aren’t experiencing huge amounts of blessing now, but we know the best is yet to come, and we’ve settled that.

As Peter began this letter, verse 6 of chapter 1,

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith”

You see, he is saying if you would rather have a genuine faith, even if it means walking through a season of suffering because it’s going to lead to so much better.

“more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

So, where do we begin? What he’s describing here we cannot manufacture. There’s no program in our church that can produce this. And so, we need to start at verse 5. He sums it up —

“Likewise [in the same way], you who are younger, [you might be tempted to be defiant, hypothetically], be subject to the elders [who might be tempted to dominate].”

Remember, he is calling both, everyone to humility.

“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”

Some of you may not know that years ago our staff had uniforms. Little North Hills things looked so cool. We’ve tried to destroy the pictures. There’s still some floating around. But we were doing some team building, you know, and going to North Carolina to the racetracks to learn from the pit crews, you know, how to work together. It was a lot of fun until it wasn’t. Team uniforms get old fast.

But Peter is a big fan of team uniforms. “Clothe yourselves . . . with [the uniform of] humility.” We don’t have a big dress code. Some people wear suits, some people wear casual here. Our dress code is humility. That’s what we need to get up every day. And Peter said wrap yourself up in that, “clothe yourself.” The only way you’re going to know what that looks like is lock in on Jesus. Let his mind be your mind. That means you’re going to be able to esteem others better than yourself and humble yourself to one another, defer, learn together, and serve even through a season of suffering.

And the reason this is so vital, and I think some of us struggle. (We’ll talk about this again next week because some of us struggle with humility because we equate it with humiliation. We immediately think “doormat.” That’s not what he’s talking about.) But humility is key. It is a prize because it always travels with grace.

“God resists the proud but gives [say it with me] grace to the humble.”

Gives grace to the humble. What is grace? God’s undeserved, empowering favor. God’s undeserved (you can’t earn it) empowering, energizing, fueling favor. It is fueling favor. Everything we just read that I read as a leader and say, “Help God! I can’t do this.” Parents read this — “Help!” All of us! The energy to live the way he’s talking about comes as we humble our hearts, and he fuels us with favor through Jesus.

So, let me talk to a couple different groups for a moment here as we wrap up. Number 1, elders, as I’ve been meditating on this, thinking what it’s like to serve with the many elders God has provided us, I am blown away, overwhelmed with gratitude. They live this imperfectly, but genuinely, and that is a miracle from God.

Second, to all of us, I would encourage you to take a few minutes to get to know two of our new elders, Antone Goyak and his wife Stefanie, and Caleb Borisuk and his wife Claire. And they model what Peter has just called us to. So, in our members’ meeting in three weeks, November 13, we will be confirming, Lord willing, these two new elders, reconfirming two others. They have walked through a long process, been mentored by an elder, qualifications have been examined — their walk, their marriage, their example. They’ve written a doctoral statement. They’ve defended their doctoral statement. They’ve attended meetings for six months. They’ve mowed my lawn for four months. (No! That would be nice. I’ve moved my lawn) But these two men are clothed with humility and the love of Jesus, and I’m so grateful for them. So, I would encourage you, if you don’t already know them, you can take them to lunch and grab them after a service, or you can jump on our website. If you click the banner that says, “Learn more about our two new candidates,” it will lead you to a web page that will have videos where they share their story. Also, another link will lead you, if you don’t know all the elders, you can go to that page as well. Also, let us know if you desire to know what is this process? How do I learn more about that, becoming an elder or a deacon?

And then here’s the big ask. Would you give some time this week to praying about what does it look like to be clothed with humility? It’s one thing to think, okay, I can put a shirt on. But how do you put on humility? That’s a little more difficult, and if I just wear that, people are going to wonder. It might be more than just humility. But this week, if you would pray into that because next week we’re going to come back and pick up verse 6, where Peter wraps up the whole book and drives home his main messages, and he begins with “humble yourself.”

So, let’s pray. Father, thank you for speaking to us today. We’ve heard your Word. We tried to expose it faithfully, but we recognize we can’t drum up, stir up, conjure up this kind of life. We need you, a relationship with Jesus. So, I pray first if there’s someone online or someone here who doesn’t know you, Father, please, open their eyes to the beauty of Jesus. Jesus, you are unlike anyone we know. Even using the name “transformative leaders” referring to you is just … It seems to fall short. You do transform us, but you do it through giving yourself away for us. You have paid for our sins. You have defeated sin and death, risen from the grave. So, please, Lord, anyone who doesn’t know you, draw them now to know a completely different way of thinking and living.

And Lord, for those of us who have some repenting to do because of the Word you have spoken to us, may we be quick to repent and not to wallow in some kind of penance, but to receive the grace that you are ready to pour out. And Lord, we as a church thank you. We thank you that you give leaders as gifts so we can follow their example, imperfect but visible. Grow us in these things we pray in Jesus’s name. Amen.