1. Obligation–if you approach eldering as something that must be done, so that it’s a duty, you are responding to a force or inclination that doesn’t deserve your attention. That is, eldering is an invitation from God, acknowledged by a congregation, and confirmed by those so called–and not the result of concluding, ‘Well, there’s a job to be done so I guess it’s gonna have to be me’.
2. Greed–Plato’s catalog of vices, the 7 deadly sins, Dante’s circles of Hell, numerous fairy tales–all these tell us that, contra Gordon Gecko, greed is bad. But wait: how could a person possibly hope to get rich off other people, especially when operating inside church? Ah…
3. Power–Peter quotes Jesus here (see Matthew 20:25), reminding leaders that it’s easy to equate having authority with being important. Church is no place for climbing pedestals from which to issue commands, nor does it present an opportunity for compensating when one is trammelled or ignored in the marketplace or at home. What power comes or is given should be turned toward meekness (see Moses), rather than serving as an excuse for throwing one’s weight around.
So, if these are traps, what will keep leaders healthy? In each case, Peter offers a counter-measure:
1. Instead of obligation, see eldering as an opportunity. Peter’s willing, as God wants you to be draws on a word that elsewhere speaks of volunteering–gladly putting skills and resources into play for the good of others.
2. Instead of greed, be eager to serve. Church is not a place for advancement in terms of wealth or fame, but where one goes to pour oneself out (see Matthew 20:28, for Jesus’ contrast to popular attitudes). And if this happens ‘in church’, it is likely to occur everywhere else, as well.
3. Instead of seeking power, be examples. Of the three, this seems like the oddest contrast, unless it serves as a summary statement, taking us back once more to Jesus. After all, if elders seek, like Christ, to shepherd the flock, then they will want also to emulate His insistence on laying down His life on behalf of the sheep. The pursuit of power is hardly consistent with this.