1 Peter 5:2-3  shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;  not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. (ESV)
Doing a quick survey of scripture, it’s very evident that God loves to teach us about leadership, love, honorable submission, pastoral ministry, and followship using the analogy of the “Shepherd and the Sheep”. There are over forty references to shepherds alone within the bible, and many more references to sheep. And while we can plainly see the general concept of leading a “flock”, many people (pastors included) have an illogical viewpoint on what “leading their flock” should look like in practice. They lead in many different forms, but not always like a shepherd would.
If I haven’t said this before, I am quite thankful for my family and for the upbringing that God so sovereignly placed me under as a child. My childhood was one of privilege that many don’t have the opportunity to experience, and I can usually look back and find that God has uniquely gifted me with many unrealized and hidden “teaching moments”. One example of this is relative to this “shepherding” discussion, and I would like to tie it in here. You see, as a child, my family had a small farm where my father planted and harvested tobacco, raised cattle, and of course, we also had sheep at one point. I thoroughly remember my father bringing a fresh newborn lamb through the back door of our kitchen one cold evening for me and my brother to see, as well as several occasions where our sheep were being sheared.
What sticks out the most in my memory though at this moment was how the sheep reacted to my father, their shepherd. When he entered the fenced-off fields and walked somewhere, they followed right behind him. And if you ever visit a farm that specializes in sheep, you’ll find this is true of every good, loving shepherd. They don’t “drive” their sheep from behind the flock like one would drive cattle; they don’t often use other animals to help “steer” them where they need to go. They simply walk before their sheep and lead the way. If you’re a loving shepherd in whom your sheep trust, they will willingly and lovingly follow you.
This week, I was looking at some of the problematic areas in our church plant, and trying to figure out how to solve these issues in one form or another. I spoke to pastors on the phone, and read several blogs about the various issues, and then I looked introspectively at my own life to make sure I and the other pastors at our church were “Walking” the direction we thought our sheep needed to go. Oftentimes, I’ve spoken to pastors who are struggling at getting their members to adhere to some biblical principals, and as it turns out, they themselves were not adhering to those principals themselves. This is evident in many areas of ministry:
Pastors, you want your membership to be know for sharing the gospel in the community? You have to be personally evangelizing to people outside the church.
Service to Others (and the church):
Pastors, you want your members to serve others? You too must serve so that they will follow in your footsteps.
Physical & Financial Generosity:
Shepherd, you want your church to be known for it’s RADICAL generosity? You have to show them what that looks like.
Devotion to Prayer:
You want your sheep to be constant in prayer? They won’t be unless you walk first.
Devotion to Gathering:
Pastor, you can’t expect families to plug-in to the various ministries in your church if YOUR family is not already plugging in.
At the end of the day, pastors are not called merely to preach, teach, or counsel their members….they’re also called to be examples to the flock as the scripture says. And you can’t thereby expect the sheep to do something that you are not doing yourself. If you want to be a good shepherd, love them well…feed them well…and walk before them as an example.