Shepherding: Leading God’s Way
As a church leader in the information age, we have an incredible amount of information, tools, and resources. A tremendous amount of accessibility provides materials and models that can mold and define our leadership style. I enjoy learning from others and finding inspiration in the church and outside the church. As believers, we have the greatest leader of all time, Jesus, and the greatest of resources for leading, the Holy Spirit and the scriptures!
A couple of years ago I did a study on shepherding and I discovered something very interesting. As I looked at several significant biblical leaders throughout different eras in scripture, they had a common role. They were shepherds! In the old testament we see Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David. In the new testament Jesus calls himself the great shepherd (John 10).
David in particular maintained the heart of a shepherd even after it was no longer his occupation. One of the often left out details of his battle with Goliath is that he had his shepherd staff in hand (1 Samuel 17:40)! When he was in exile from Saul he spent time in the cave sheepfolds.
There seems to be a leadership model that God is showing us about leadership in His kingdom. Albeit true, the principles of shepherding are very akin, specifically to pastoring, the parallels of shepherding apply broadly to all areas of leading people.
1 Peter 5:2-4 (NLT)
Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it,
but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care,
but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears,
you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.
A Shepherds job is to lead, feed, and protect the flock.
1. Lead: You don't drive sheep you lead them.
As a leader, one of the difficult balances to make is being driven but not to driving people. I have failed at this often, especially in my younger days. I have had to learn to lead myself with drive, focus, and personal discipline, however, with others I have to lead them gently with grace, tenderness, and patience. It is easy to fall into the temptation of being overly ambitious with the development of other people and lead in frustration. Remember, in the kingdom they are God’s people. Let’s love and lead them the way He leads!
2. Feed: Shepherds feed their flock.
Leading requires feeding. As a leader, our job is to be continually resourcing those we lead. We are taking them on a feeding journey. Shepherds know to keep the flock moving around to different pastures because if sheep feed in the same spot for too long they will eventually eat the roots and destroy the pasture. Don’t just give assignments, provide nourishment. Share from the heart, and encourage and equip those you lead.
"Don’t just give assignments, provide nourishment.
Share from the heart, encourage and equip those you lead."
3. Protect: Shepherds see what sheep cannot see.
Perspective, it’s why you are in leadership. You are in a position to see at a distance. You are not better than those you lead, but you are taller. God made you that way. You can see problems at a distance and you must lead and protect accordingly. As leader, we must treat this responsibility as weighty. God put us in a position not so we can be exalted but so that we can protect those He has entrusted us to lead. So watch diligently, and aim to be more aware of things that might harm those you lead.
I want to close out with a familiar scripture. I encourage you not to gloss over it because you have read it countless times. But to read it as a leader, as a shepherd. Psalms 23 is about God being our shepherd. This time read it to grow in your leadership, to lead like God leads.
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.