As I mentioned before, Jesus chose the most unusual suspects to form his most trusted followers.
When we look at Peter we see that he was no great scholar of the Jewish law, nor an enthusiastic devotee like John the Baptist. He was just a humble fisherman. Not only that, he would go on to constantly misunderstand Jesus’ teaching, and in Christ’s greatest hour of need, he would deny him three times. Yet, Peter would be the first to proclaim that Jesus was the savior and Jesus would later call Peter his “rock” upon which the future church would be built.
Likewise, Paul, formerly Saul, had made his name as a persecutor of Christians and someone who vehemently opposed the Church and its teachings. Yet, despite a dark past, God had Paul take the message of the gospel to the Gentiles and eventually the entire world.
It’s remarkable to me that Jesus could find two men with such lack-luster at best, and volatile at worst, qualifications and then base the entire reformation and restoration of His church on them! I mean, based on their initial skills, I’m not sure I would hire either of them! Although both Paul and Peter were both broken to begin with, Jesus mended them and then molded them into two of his most influential and trusted allies and spiritual leaders for creating His church on this earth.
So what did Peter and Paul, two of our most famous spiritual leaders say about spiritual leadership? J. Oswald Sanders covers this in Chapters 6 and 7. We don’t have to guess because both apostles spell it out for us clearly. In 1 Timothy 3: 2-7, Paul describes a leader as:
2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
One of the central themes in this message is that a spiritual leader must be moral and virtuous in the home as well as outside the home. Most of us pull on our outside persona before we leave the house and often conduct ourselves very differently in public than we do in private. Paul lets us know that this is not only wrong, but it puts us into serious spiritual peril. We must manage every aspect of our lives with temperance and maturity.
Peter also described a spiritual leader in 1 Peter 5: 1-4, saying:
1 To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
In this passage, Peter deals with the spiritual leader’s motivation. Are you leading out of obligation or out of love? Are you doing it out of gain or through the desire to serve? Are you leading the flock for self-importance’s sake or for God’s sake? For the pastors and preacher among us, this is a very important question. Doing good has a tendency to rub off as self-righteous martyrdom, which can actually harm our initial intent. Motivation is key to serving the Lord.
It’s important to read these two passages from two of the most flawed, yet simultaneously most spiritual men in history and take their advice to heart. The difference between Peter, Paul and you is not a wide and insurmountable chasm you think it is. With Christ’s hand, you can also be mended and then molded into spiritual leadership material!