We have never done a very good job of maintaing the proper balance between lay-level spiritual gifts and cleric-level pastoral leadership. Some fight pastors as having too much authority, while some pastors fight too much strength in the laity. Peter seems to know this issue.
In 1 Peter 4:9-11, Peter urges the resident aliens and temporary residents of the Petrine churches to love one another and to exercise their gifts — serving and speaking. Now in the last chapter of 1 Peter, Peter brings up leadership and he brings up timelessly valuable advice. How should “elders” “eld” or “presbyters” “presbyter”? That is Peter’s concern, and I think his advice moves in a direction that permits the exercise of spiritual gifts among the laity.
First, “shepherds” are to shepherd God’s flock that is under your care. There is a lot here: the task is one of shepherding, or nurturing-guiding- mentoring- discipling- empowering. The flock is God’s not the shepherd’s. It is God’s people; this allows the gifts to be God’s work at the same time as the shepherd’s gift is exercised.
Second, they are to “shepherd” (or “oversee”) willingly, not under compulsion. There is no easy solution to the issue that somedays pastors feel that they are under compulsion, but still Peter reminds them to do this willingly. This willingness is at God’s request (“as God wants you to be”).
Third, they are to shepherd not for money but for the opportunity to serve. Here we see the connection to the lay giftedness: both “serve.” This is a tough one: leaders earn their pay, as Paul taught; but they are not to do their pastoral work for money. There is a world of debate and concerns and perspectives to be brought into this discussion, but I believe pastors should be paid adequately, and I believe pastors ought to do what they can do to make it clear that they are not doing this for money. Pastors shouldn’t be underpaid and neither should they be overpaid — this all has to do with the local reputation of the gospel.
Fourth, they are to shepherd as examples and not in any way that reveals power and domination. They are not to lord it over. They ought to be able to tell others to “follow my example” as they follow Jesus Christ personally. Another big issue with lots of discussion.
Those who shepherd like this will receive a reward from the Chief Shepherd when he returns.