“So I exhort the elders among you, 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: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you…”
(1 Peter 5:1-2 ESV)
Often, as we serve in ministry, as we use the gifts entrusted to us by God, our motives are less than pure. They’re selfish. They’re egotistical. They’re narcissistic.
The above passage is addressed to pastors. The word “elder” in Scripture is synonymous with “pastor.” However, even though this is true, it has an application for all of us who serve in ministry, whether we’re on paid staff or we’re volunteers.
Peter exhorts us to shepherd the flock of God that is among us. This means that we’re to lead his people. This means that we’re to care for God’s people. It means that we’re to feed his people.
However, he then gets into the underlying motive of our doing so. In fact, he addresses three different motivations we might have for doing so. But, today, we’ll look at only one.
He tells us that we’re to do so, not under compulsion. In other words, we’re to do so not because we feel pressured into it. We’re to do so not because we feel we’re being forced into it. And we’re not to do so because we’re being coerced.
If we’re honest, this is often the reason that we serve. Our service is not heart-felt in the least. It’s not a personal desire that we possess. Instead, we feel that we have to do it.
The reasons we feel this way can be many. Some may serve in a small church and, because there’s no one to fill a certain role, we feel that we must. Some of us serve because people keep hounding us to do so. And we give in, just to get them off our back. We may serve because we feel the call of God. However, even though we feel his call, we don’t want to obey him. Yet, we feel that we can’t say no to God. We feel that, because he’s offering us salvation, we have no choice in the matter.
We have to acknowledge that these things do happen. And we must take care that we don’t pressure others to serve. We must take care that we’re not trying to twist-arms to get certain roles filled within the church. As we see above, God doesn’t want us to serve under compulsion.
It’s God’s desire that we should serve willingly. It’s his desire that we would serve freely and eagerly. It’s his desire that we would answer his call not because we have to, but because we want to.