Photo courtesy of LoveSingapore
Peter is the Prince of Apostles.
He is the first disciple called (Matthew 4:18-20; 10:2; Mark 1:16-17; Luke 5:10). He is first in every list of the Twelve, while Judas is always last (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 13:16-19; Luke 6:14-16). Among the inner circle (Peter, James, and John), Peter is always named first (Mark 5:35-41; 9:2-8; 14:33, 43-50).
Jesus converses more personally and directly with Peter than anyone else in the Gospel. In Luke 5:10, the assurance that he will be catching men is addressed only to him. And he alone is promised the keys of the Kingdom (Matthew 16:19).
When it comes to spiritual leadership, there is always a first among equals.
The angel at the empty tomb singles Peter out when messaging the disciples (Mark 16:7). The Risen Lord appears first to Peter among the apostles (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:4-5). And Peter is uniquely commissioned to shepherd the flock for which Jesus died (John 21:15-17).
So what are we to make of this preference for Peter? Does Jesus play favourites?
No. It’s a matter of calling. All four Gospels present Peter as the leader and spokesman of the Twelve. God gave him a unique role to play in building up and leading the Church.
So, what does this mean, practically?
Jesus said to call no one Father or Teacher because we are all brothers and sisters (Matthew 23:8-10). But when it comes to spiritual leadership, there is always a first among equals. Think of Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and the judges of Israel.
The plurality of elders and leadership by consensus are biblical and beautiful. But after hearing everyone and every side of an issue, someone has to make the call.
For example, James in the Jerusalem Council. The views expressed there were poles apart. But at the end of the discussion James could say: Brothers, listen to me. … I have reached a decision. … And … it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us. … (Acts 15:13,19, 28).
So there must be a balance. Jesus said that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them. But it shall not be so among you (Mark 10:42-43).
Peter struck that balance. As a leader, he humbled himself under the mighty hand of God. The more God exalted him, the more he humbled himself.
The Prince of Apostles was the first among equals. But never a dictator (1 Peter 5:3).
- Everything rises and falls on leadership (John Maxwell). No wonder the world is obsessed with The Leadership Challenge: what works, what doesn’t, what’s new, what’s next, what’s better. Some even blog about leadership conferences that should be on your radar.
Save your energy, time, and money. Stay put and stick with the Word of God. He has already given us a clear template for leadership. The pattern: plurality of elders. The principle: first among equals.
Pause and pray. Thank God for His divine blueprint that is at once simple and strategic, effective and empowering.
- Though called by God, leaders are not perfect. All are mortals with clay feet, including the first among equals. Indeed, these prominent figures who are outstandingly gifted to lead need a greater measure of God’s grace. Because of their calling, stature, and visibility, they face relentless warfare. They need our prayers more than anyone else.
Who is the first among equals in your denomination or local church or mission agency or organisation? Pray for this person by name, that he or she may:
• Lead boldly, with a deep sense of calling in the fear of the Lord
• Lead humbly, recognising his or her own vulnerabilities and deficiencies
• Lead graciously, honouring the gifts of others and welcoming their input
• Lead prayerfully, seeking God for discernment and direction
• Lead wisely, making the right call in the right way at the right time
• Lead visibly, by example, not domineering, but serving.
- In The Power of Team Leadership, George Barna says that most leaders today are not ready for team leadership. Nor will they be in the foreseeable future.
Some actually think they are the only ones who can get the job done. Others feel they can do a far better job leading solo, without the encumbrance of others. Some prefer to dictate rather than rely on the wealth of experience and gifts resident in the church. Others have a deep-seated need to be needed, so they fight to maintain control.
In this time of generational transition, pray that Singapore’s emerging church leaders will prove Barna wrong by choosing the biblical template of team leadership: Plurality of elders. First among equals.
- Peter didn’t ask to be the first among equals. It was a matter of calling. A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven (John 3:27).
Competing for position in the Church, therefore, is both foolish and futile. There is no reason to envy, no ground to gripe.
Be humble. We are one Church, many congregations. When God raises up apostolic leaders for national initiatives, may we not dishonour Him by rejecting His sovereign choice. Pray for humility and maturity to flow with His new move. Come alongside His chosen leaders – no matter how you feel or what you think of them.
Read the devotional from Day 3, July 3: Born to lead here.
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