True shepherd leadership requires sacrifice. Without it, the sheep will be neither protected or served. It's that simple ... on paper. But what does that look like? How is an under shepherd of Jesus supposed to sacrifice for the sheep?
Unlike the hired hand of John 10:13, a true shepherd will not simply abandon the sheep to save his own skin. He serves the sheep by protecting them. Understand what I am and am not saying.
I'm saying that a shepherd never abandons the sheep because of circumstances. While acknowledging ministry is hard, that's not an excuse to cut and run. Struggle, hardship, persecution, trials, and the like are all part of the deal (for all believers not just shepherd leaders) and aren't an excuse to run, they are an opportunity to grow.
What I'm not saying is that God is going to leave you stuck in your current position. He may and He may not. But that's up to Him not you. Your current position may be "seasonal", and when that season ends there should always be transition. But then again, maybe not. Your job is to be faithful where God has you (1 Peter 5:2).
Lays down his life
We know how this applies to the Good Shepherd. By how does it apply to His under shepherds. I believe it requires us to sacrifice our time, talents, and treasures for the good of the people we lead and for the glory of His Kingdom.
This is accomplished as the sheep recognizes the voice of the shepherd (John 10:3, 14-16). This means that the shepherd has certain qualities:
- A vision worth following - For God's glory and His kingdom advancement.
- An acknowledged vulnerability - Leading to approachability and accountability.
- A message worth listening to - The gospel that leads to discipleship.
All this means several things practically:
- That under shepherds are building deep, personal relationships for the purpose of discipleship. Not treating those they lead as projects to complete, but people to love. Not staying on the surface, but providing opportunities for deeper knowledge and experience of God.
- Relying on God for the outcome. Relying on His strength to accomplish His work. Being faithful to this high calling.
- Giving God the glory. Not building our platform or resume.
Shepherd leadership requires both protecting the sheep and sacrificing for the sheep. 1 Peter 5 reminds us that are called to it that we should exercise oversight, but not in a domineering way; that we should be an example to those we lead, but making sure the message is in us first before we try to teach and apply it to them. This is not an easy calling, and may not be for everyone. But if you are called, then there can be no more glorious work to be involved in. May God continue to bless those who do this work and call others to it.