John 10: 11-18 (MsgB)
“I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before Himself, sacrifices Himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him. I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know Me. In the same way, the Father knows Me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before Myself, sacrificing Myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize My voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. This is why the Father loves Me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from Me. I lay it down of My own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from My Father.”
Jesus of Nazareth. The Good Shepherd.
In our fast-paced world, where the use of I-pads, I-phones and E-learning paces the way, the ancient biblical concept of a humble shepherd being a dynamic leader is a hard sell for so many in church leadership roles. In a 2006 article in Leadership Magazine, nationally-recognized pastor/leader Andy Stanley, states “(I believe that) we should abandon the metaphor ‘shepherd’ from our ministry vocabulary altogether. That word needs to go away. It was culturally relevant in the time of Jesus, but it’s not culturally relevant anymore.”
Abandon the metaphor, shepherd?
Remove the word ‘shepherd’ from our ministry vocabulary?
Yikes, Andy, are you serious?
While I fully understand how 21st century jet-setters may have a bit of trouble identifying with a term taken from a first-century, agricultural setting; I really have a big problem, Andy, with your approach to the problem! If the church chooses to take your advice, sir, are you also suggesting that our parishioners re-write the 23rd Psalm so it reads, “The Lord is my CEO, I will never want for business leads?”
Or what about Ezekiel 34: 23-24, Pastor Stanley, where God’s word is railing against the sloppy, self-consumed leadership being practiced by Israel’s elite in the midst of God’s people? Would you suggest that we replace the wonderful promise from Yahweh, re-wording it this way…
I will place over them one CEO, my leader David, and he will manage them; he will tell them where to go and be their executive director. I the LORD will be their God, and my appointee David will be senior leader over them. I the LORD have spoken.
Replace the metaphor ‘shepherd’ in our ministry vocabulary?
I pray not.
In a time when successful leadership is more defined by charisma and charm, I, for one, think it might be healthy for us to abandon the CEO management concepts that rule the roost in so many churches (excuse the agricultural term there, folks…remember, I’m from Iowa)…and replace it with some good reminders about what a good shepherd might look like.
As I see it, a good shepherd is one who tends a flock, watching over, protecting, caring for both the immediate and long-term needs of that flock. A good shepherd sees the flock not as a herd to be led but as community to be fed. A good shepherd is one who will gather the flock and not scatter. Healing and hope are the by-products of good shepherding, while abuse and abandonment are the sad results of the opposite. With Jesus speaking of Himself as our Great Shepherd, how sad it is that our generation would consider writing these powerful shepherding references out of our Bibles, removing what could be the most powerful illustration of Jesus’ Messiah-ship that we have.
So what about you and me? Are you willing to say ‘no’ to this flood of Americanized-church life where shepherding is viewed as backward thinking or for those who don’t want their churches to grow? As I see it, how wonderful it might be if more of our churches were actually being ‘fed’ by lowly shepherds and humble servants versus being ‘led’ by CEO’s, business managers, and a bunch of cattle rustlers…whoops, excuse me, I meant to say ‘cattle ranchers’!
I’m just sayin’.
My prayer: Jesus, if You say you are the Good Shepherd, it’s my responsibility to adjust my cultural worldview so that I can embrace the fullness of the truth You spoke to us. Forgive me for asking You to change Your words so that it might become more compatible to my rapidly changing culture. Restore me, O Lord, and my generation to the power of ‘good shepherding’, bringing this ancient truth to bear so that my generation might live. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: While being culturally compatible is an important aspect of bringing Christ-centered truth to our twenty-first century world, how might I have gone too far in making Jesus’ words behave? If I choose to remove certain words and metaphors from Jesus’ vocabulary, am I possibly guilty of watering down His words?
So what is God speaking to you today as we follow Jesus the Nazarene, the Leader of the Church?
Between now and the end of 2015, we will be sharing with you a blog series we first developed in 2013. We call it Follow The Leader: Re-defining Successful Leadership from the Gospel of John. In order to keep all 46 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Follow The Leader home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
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