This article will examine Peter as a model for leadership, based on his words, actions and interactions between Yeshua and later the First and Second Epistles General of Peter. We will look at the turning point of his being a crude, self assertive, inconsistent and impulsive fisherman to becoming a shepherd to God's Sheep after Yeshua gave him a vision of what he would be to the church; to his development as a committed leader in the Book of Acts, to the emergence of Peter's co-leadership in his Epistles of First and Second Peter where he exhibits mature leadership characteristics, humility and a glorious God given anointing of a Holy Ghost transformation. This author will attempt to show Peter's growth through his becoming a “Fisher of Men” to his days as a strong Servant of God, leading Christ's Church.
PETER A MODEL FOR LEADERSHIP
Peter was a great example of a disciple who caught the vision of working the works of God. After cowering from discovery during Yeshua's period of suffering, Peter emerged with renewed conviction. The first time he spoke publicly after the resurrection of Yeshua, he spoke with the infusion of the Holy Ghost, charisma and conviction. Through this he witnessed amazing results. Three thousand people were saved in one service. “But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:"(1) “...Then they that gladly received his word were baptized and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”(2 ) This was just the beginning. At another time, about five thousand men were saved(3) and we don't know how many women and children.
These wonderful results were not accomplished by preaching alone. Peter had the keys. He was one of the first ministers to grasp the keys of effective evangelism as exemplified by Yeshua Himself. The turning point for Peter's leadership changed at the breakfast with Yeshua by the Sea of Tiberius.
Peter was an impulsive, ambitious, self assertive and quickly committed himself without fully understanding the meaning of Yeshua's words or deeds. Yet, he was challenged when it came to committing himself during Yeshua's period of suffering.
...“And Simon Peter stood and warmed himself.
They said therefore unto him, Art not thou also one of his disciples? He denied it, and said, I
am not. One of the servants of the high priest
being his kinsman whose ear Peter cut off, saith,
Did not I see thee in the garden with him? Peter
then denied again: and immediately the cock crew.”(4)
However, Peter was indeed transformed into a fully committed leader for Yeshua by the time we read John 21, in the Bible. Here, Peter puts on his fisherman coat then jumps in the water after being informed that Yeshua was on shore by the sea calling to them. He shares breakfast made of fish and bread with his teacher. He is then challenged by Yeshua, after having denied Him.
Reflecting on Peter's denial, Yeshua asks Peter to respond three times to the question , “Do you love me?” Each time Peter answers, Yeshua commands Peter to care for His followers. In John 21:15, “Feed my lambs.” John 21:16, “Feed my sheep.” again, “Feed my sheep.” in John 21:17, and finally in John 21:19, “Follow me.”(5)
This was a commitment to the work of shepherding and walking in Yeshua's footsteps. This meant that Peter had to lead the masses and walk closely with Yeshua. During these times, it was a dangerous undertaking to take up the “works of Yeshua” preaching in public, converting followers, and healing the sick. Peter had to challenge the religious and social norms of the time. Yet, Peter took up the works and followed inYeshua's footsteps. We began to see Peter's transformation and commitment. He was focused on bringing Christ's message to transform the world. He was intent on feeding God's sheep.
BECOMING A LEADER
Peter and the other apostles were affected by their own upbringing and religious beliefs that made it harder for them to accept a none Jewish believer. However, God introduced Peter to a new paradigm through a dream.
“On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew
nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the house top to
pray about the sixth hour: And he became very hungry,
and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell
into a trance, And saw heaven opened, and a certain
vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet
knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth; Wherein
were all manner of four footed beasts of the earth, and wild
beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there
came a voice to him, Rise, Peter, kill, and eat. But Peter said,
Not so, Lord: for I have never eaten any thing that is common
or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second
time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again
This dream was direction for Peter to look first to believers' hearts and not whether they were following Jewish customs and practices.
God gave Peter direction to accept Gentiles without consideration of their adherence to Jewish laws and customs. Peter met with Cornelius, his family and close friends which lead to the first official Gentile members of the new Christian community through baptism and acceptance by the apostles.(7) Peter showed the others that a leader's priority was to the follower over the organization. Here, Peter was a shepherd answering the call of Yeshua, to seek out believers professing faith without the believer conforming to Jewish laws and practices.
Peter encountered a cripple who had been siting at the gate of this temple day after day for many years. This poor man might have been typical of all the needy, the broken, the sin sick, who have sat right at the door of the church with their needs unmet. Without a doubt Peter had seen the man on many prior occasions, perhaps even tossed him a coin when he could.
But on this occasion Peter had something more important than a coin, something of far greater significance than a sympathetic glance. Peter had the keys!
This time as Peter walked past the crippled man, something seized him. He turned to the crippled man and said, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.”(8) With that he took the man by the hand and lifted him to his feet.
You do not take a crippled man by the hand and lift him up to his feet unless you have something, and you better know what that something is!
The faith that Peter displayed in the healing of the lame man was not tied to some theology he had learned, not to a teaching, or to words. It was tied to reality. You see, Peter had been to the Upper Room where he received the Holy Spirit sent from God. He received tongues, yes, but he had gone beyond the tongues. Peter received POWER! He received the touch and blessing of Almighty God. Now he was able to walk in a place of power and authority which Peter had never before known.
Peter now spoke the word and the crippled man was healed. Remember, Jesus spoke the “Word”. Now, the religious leaders interrogated him saying, “How can this crippled man be whole by faith in the Name of Jesus when Jesus is dead?” Peter answered and said, “He is healed by faith in the Name of Jesus, whom you crucified, but whom God has raised from the dead.”
It was an easy thing for Peter now to tell the people that Jesus is the Son of God. He produced the evidence, he produced the proof. Five thousand men responded and were born into the Kingdom of God as a result of this one miracle. (Acts 4:4)
This story is a tremendous example of one man who learned what he must do to work the works of God.
The community around was swept for Christ because something happened to Peter in the Upper Room! The Holy Spirit baptisted Yeshua (Luke 3:21-22) this empowered him by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the will of God. Now, Peter and the other followers were empowered by the flames of God.
THE EARLY CHURCH CHALLENGES
New pressures were imposed on the believers and the leaders because this was a spanking brand new religion never before practiced. It also was a monolithic religion with a God that was alive. To encourage the belief that these believers were enemies of the empire, Nero blamed the Christians for the burning of Rome. Running scared, these early believers were fearful of persecution and ridicule from neighbors, former friends and family members because they pulled away from social events, civic activities and all functions involving idolatry.(9)
As a result these Christians were considered a threat to the wellbeing of all who knew them. For encouragement and guidance, Peter wrote a letter to the believers. He highlighted a few strategies then addressed the elders and young men of the churches of Asia Minor, against the backdrop of struggle and ridicule. He encouraged them: • To recognize the honor they have in their connection with Yeshua • Willingly suffer societal insults as a meaningful experience • In guidance regarding a code of conduct for non believers and each other • To focus on the long term benefits of their belief and suffering
Peter in 1 Peter(10), appeared to be focused on shepherding his flock and teaching the church leaders to be shepherds themselves. He also appeared aware of the pressures and negative reactions the believers would receive from their neighbors and families. He encouraged them to endure by looking at the end result.
Peter gave the elders the same challenge that he was given by Yeshua at the Sea of Tiberius; “Feed the flock of God” (1 Peter 5:2). Peter then addressed the new followers, using the same teachings that he came to practice as a disciple. He encouraged them to stand fast against persecution. Here in this letter Peter shows his conversion of a strong leader. Not only did he consider himself as an apostle and witness of Yeshua but as a co-elder.(11) Here, he showed humility with the posture of serving. He did not separate himself as an authority figure who witnessed Yeshua's life, death and resurrection, but united himself with the elders.
***To be continued***
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