One of the prevalent metaphors in the Bible is that of sheep and shepherds. In this world we have lots of leadership guidance from a secular standpoint. Is it possible to be a “great leader” according to the world’s standard and still not reflect the heart of God as a pastor? I think it is.
In John 10 Jesus describes Himself as the Good Shepherd. What does He say the Good Shepherd does? How can we reflect our Lord in our leadership of people? Let’s break it down.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.
- Sacrifice your life for people. The mark of Christian leadership is the cross not the crown. We must lay our lives down often for serving His people not lord over them. This means we die to our own plans and own way to submit to His. If you find yourself saying things like “I didn’t sign up for this” or “this isn’t what I was expecting” you might be right in the middle of God’s will for your life. Jesus uses some pretty strong language here when you look at his comparison of a shepherd and a hired hand. He says that when things get tough a hired hand takes off. We stay because we care.
- Tough leaders are made for tough times. I heard a great example from a wise pastor I respect greatly. He was complaining to Promise Keepers founder and former college football coach Bill McCartney about the city he pastored. He had many friend who pastored in areas where it seemed much easier to grow their churches. Bill told him that when he coached they often faced very big and fast defensive linemen who were amazing at getting to their quarterback. He said that they didn’t put their weakest offensive lineman against the strongest opponents, they put their best against their opponents best. He asked this pastor if maybe he thought that God has placed him in a hard area to pastor because he needed one of his strongest in this area to oppose a hard opponent. We don’t try to escape hardship, we must face it head on.
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, 15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep.
- Know your sheep. A shepherd studies their flock to understand the condition of their flock. This takes time and hard work. Shepherds are in fact one of the hardest working professions even with modern advances. There are no shortcuts here. There are so many things that can inflict sheep in the natural: disease, pests and other ailments. The same goes for the spiritual shepherd. Again Jesus emphasizes the sacrifice it is to care for sheep. Knowing the sheep is hard work that requires us to lay down our lives.
16 I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.
- Bring in others into the fold. Some people seem to value keeping the flock small but Jesus models here (and countless other places in scripture) that the growth of the flock is Biblical. Jesus is looking out for the lost sheep and we should be too. Our goal should be pointing them back to Jesus and training them to hear and understand His voice (through scripture and being led by the Spirit.)
I know I come up short in many of these areas how about you? I’m making it my aim and goal to measure up to Christ in my leadership.