by Jeff Metzger
How do we picture ourselves as elders? Maybe it’s time to change the way we view our job as leaders in God’s church. In John 10:42-45 Jesus clearly challenges us to a new model of leadership. Jesus’ way of leadership is not about authority and control. It is about serving others in love and imitating His life of sacrifice.
That’s why it’s not surprising Jesus never used “boss” or “manager” to describe our role. That’s a misplaced paradigm. Jesus’ favorite description for his church is “flock.” And the dominant biblical picture for spiritual leadership, painted across 500 pages of the Bible, is a shepherd and his sheep. What do shepherds do? They lay down their lives to feed, guide, protect, care for, and rescue the flock!
So that’s our challenge. We step out of the board room and into the pasture. Imagine the scene. Feel the breeze. Look around. Smell the grass. Smell the sheep! We have some wet grass stuck to our mud- and dirt-streaked sandals. This new perspective changes everything. In the pasture, our role is not about the institution. It’s about the people and their well-being.
People are fed up with institutional oversight. They have that at work! In God’s family they want something much better. They want our loving, caring, mature example. They want a spiritual parent and guide, helping them grow up and get safely to Jesus.
Our role as shepherds flows from this – God is our Shepherd! Our work flows out of the nature of God. In Acts 20:28 Paul told his close friends plainly, “Be shepherds of the church of God.” That’s why we are to …
- Be a model to the flock who finds out what pleases the Lord (Ephesians 5:10).
- Be a leader to the flock who always moves people toward Jesus (1 Peter 5:1-5).
- Be a cheerleader who constantly encourages and equips the flock for ministry and maturity (Ephesians 4:10-14).
- Be a spiritual parent caring for and teaching the flock like a father cares for and teaches his children (1 Timothy 3:5ff).
- Be a teacher to the flock by knowing, loving, living and sharing the truth while refuting falsehood (Titus 1:9-10).
- Be a prayer partner on call to pray for the flock and anoint the sick (James 5:14).
- Be a watchman who guards against danger and watches out for the flock like a vigilant, sleepless sentry (Acts 20:28-30; Hebrews 13:17).
Now, let’s step back into the board room in our minds and look around. Bosses and managers manage buildings, budgets, personnel, and programs. They …
- Call the shots, make the decisions
- Withhold permission
- Control and order people around
- Think for other people
- Legislate in matters of opinion
- Grease the squeaky wheels
For too many church leaders this is how they spend the majority of their “shepherding” time. But, none of these things are what God calls elders, shepherds, overseers to do. Making these things our primary, or even partial, role is not what Jesus intends church leadership to be!
The way we see ourselves matters! We may never have been near an actual sheep in our entire life, but Jesus wants us to see ourselves as a shepherd.
Shepherding is people-work, not meeting-work. It is mostly about relationships. It’s about helping people grow into the character of Christ and serve the cause of Christ.
Imagine what it would be like to view ourselves in the mirror and see shepherds smiling back! Can you see it? Be it!