Over the past month, we’ve been considering the Bible’s use of shepherd language in making a unique contribution to understanding the role of a leader. The final category that the Bible emphasizes is the seeking heart of a caring shepherd. While negligent shepherds will scatter the flock or be content to make a living from the gathered flock, a good shepherd will risk comfort and safety to seek lost sheep. While the primary applications may be related to church ministry, the implications for relating to disgruntled customers, disillusioned constituents, and prodigal children may be just as relevant.
Authority can be used selfishly, arbitrarily, or cruelly. It can also be used for good. The Bible makes a unique contribution to understanding how a leader’s authority should be used. It shows how to use authority by pointing to a shepherd’s two main tools, the rod and the staff.
If you describe someone as being “very pastoral,” it implies a warm tenderness towards people. And these are qualities that are certainly a part of the shepherd image, but they’re not at the forefront. In fact, if a shepherd spends all his time nuzzling with the cute, little lambs, or binding up the sick ones, the flock will scatter, starve and die. A shepherd is pre-eminently called to lead.
Over a number of weeks, we’re considering the metaphor of the shepherd for understanding how God views leadership. We’ve seen how the idea of a shepherd points to the need for accountability but also compassion. Today, we look at productivity and provision: how a shepherd feeds the sheep.
A key part of a shepherd’s role involves providing water for the flock. This points to a sometimes neglected aspect of leadership today.
We’ve come up with many different titles for leaders today. And the titles matter. But while each of these titles have value, the Bible defines leadership in a unique way that may help people serving in all levels of leadership better understand their task. The primary metaphor that the Bible uses for leadership is the shepherd. Today we consider one of the implications of that metaphor.
We watched some home videos last week as a family. They reminded me of the dizzying, early years of our parenting. There were lots of smiles and laughter but it looked exhausting as well. Where did we find the energy? Dangers to watch out for, behaviours to correct, attention to be given, warriors to wrestle – parenting can be an all-consuming task. It made me think back on the many years of parenting that has passed since that time. If I could pick two words that have made the most difference for me as a parent, I’d choose the words “resolve” and “heart.” Let me explain.
One of the comments I heard recently was what a great group of leaders that God has given this church. The person was referring to the many people in our congregation whom God has gifted with unusual insight, experience and education in leadership and strategic planning. I heartily agree! And I’m even more grateful that these people are not only greatly gifted, but willing to sacrificially invest their time and energy in using their leadership gifts for the health and development of God’s kingdom through our church.