As leaders in the church we serve in the role of shepherds. Jesus is the Chief Shepherd, but we serve in the role as under-shepherds in our expression of Him as the shepherd to the people. We can never allow our role as leaders to replace anyone’s personal connection with God in their lives. Each and every believer must see that Jesus is the Shepherd of their soul, but each and every believer must also see that Jesus will manifest in various expressions of leadership. When we submit to authority we submit us unto the Lord, but we never submit to leadership as being the lord. We understand that when we submit to authority as unto the highest the authority we allow the highest authority (God) to manifest through those authorities we receive in life. If we depend upon God in our relationship with authority, God will open the gift of leadership given to us for our benefit. Leadership is a gift to those they have been delegated to lead, not a gift unto themselves. Submission is a matter of relationship. When we are given a measure of authority it means we have been given a measure of life for another. There is a submission of those who come under a life source to receive what the life source has been given on their behalf and there is the submissions of the life source to come over and tip in the direction of those they serve. The positions of under and over or over and under are a matter of relationship in order to receive and give and give and receive the life that ultimately comes from God.
Since leadership is a matter of relationship, all leaders must be relational. They must have an intimate relationship with God in order to lead others into the same. They must have a close relationship with people in order to lead others into relationship with people. We all have different skills and abilities, but leadership is more about relationship than it is about skills and abilities. In my many decades of ministry I have never seen that skills are the real issue of division in the church. It is always about relationships in some way. To be the community of God we must pursue communion with God and communion with one another. I believe this is the greatest qualifier for leadership and for mature membership.
A leader must be an expression of various roles that God holds in the lives of people. Those expressions of God must be made through proper relationship. God holds the place of Father to His children, so there is an aspect of revealing a father to the children or a parent to a family home. Jesus is the head of His body, so leadership will be an expression of the headship of Christ to His church. Jesus is the Vine and members of the church are the branches. Leadership must be an expression of Jesus the Vine. They must be a relationally connected to those they lead in order to provide life and inspire a vision of destiny. They must seek to abide with the members of the church and inspire members to abide with God and one another. God is the husbandman in a vineyard relationship with His people, so leaders must take the role of pruning, trimming, cultivating, protecting, nourishing, irrigating, harvesting and many other things that are involved in vine dressing. God is the Potter and the people are His clay. A leader must take the role of one who shapes, molds, creates, and assists members to become all that God intends for them to be. This involves shaping identity, character, and abilities. God is the Captain and his church is His army. Leadership must at times take the role of a commander or one who rallies the troops for battle. They must set an example of a good soldier before God so others can be inspired to keep the rank in God’s order of purpose and destiny. They must train, equip, and repair the people for the battles of the enemy. They must demonstrate endurance, faithfulness, and willingness to stand strong in the battles of life. God is the Creator and His church is His creation. A leader must take the creative role of God in the lives of people on many occasions. This is not to create what the leader wants but to help others find what God is creating them to be and what God may be creating in their lives. Jesus is the Chief Shepherd and the people of the church are His sheep. A leader must take the role of an under-shepherd in shepherding the flock.
As leaders we must embrace the grace of God to become an expression of a shepherd to the flock of God. A shepherd must have a love for sheep, the environment of sheep, and the purpose of sheep. Sheep are not poodle dogs, rabbits, hamsters, cats, or some other domesticated pet. Sheep have a purpose! Sheep provide wool, cheese, meat, and more generations of sheep. The shepherd cares for the sheep so the sheep grow, are healthy, live in safety, and live in a healthy environment of sheep in order to fulfill the purpose of sheep. Sheep meet the needs of others and must grow in an environment conducive to a healthy flock. Leaders carries a responsibility of assuring these things are so for the flock. All leaders must have the heart of a shepherd. They must be willing to commit their lives to the task and also be willing to put their own lives on the line for the sake of the flock when necessary.
Ambitions for position, power, and financial support are not motives for loving sheep. A true shepherd loves sheep and the purpose of sheep. They are willing to lay their lives down for each one and they are willing to make sacrifices for the destiny of the flock. As believers in Christ, there is a two-fold dynamic in leadership. We are both leaders and members of the flock of God. To be a good shepherd we must also be a good sheep in our own relationships to various expressions of the Chief Shepherd in our own lives. A pastor is one who raises sheep to be eaten, to be sheared, and to birth lambs for future meat, wool, and lambs. He feeds and protects the sheep for that purpose. He does not raise sheep for the sake of the sheep. He raises sheep for the Chief Shepherd’s sake. There is a market for sheep. In the kingdom of God that market is that sheep love God with all of their hearts, minds, souls and strength. They also love their neighbors as they love themselves. In other words, their lives are for God and others. They live for the wellbeing of others. They are alive for God, the nations, and the generations.
Food For Thought,
Ted J. Hanson