by John Eastland
Jesus laid down his life for the sheep. In Jesus’ time, a shepherd knew the individual sheep in his flock. He cared for it, protected it, fought against wild beasts for it and, when it was lost, searched for it. Conversely, each sheep knew the shepherd’s voice, mannerisms, and care. It was a very close relationship. This is exactly how church shepherds should be with their ministers.
How do shepherds put that into practice with our ministers?
Ministers are members of the congregation too. They fall under the care of us as shepherds. Yes, they may be employees of the organization, but they are first and foremost, members… members of the family who need and deserve, as Jesus said, a good shepherd. After all, ultimate responsibility stops and starts with us. In time, the character and image of any congregation will be a direct reflection of its leadership, which should reflect the character of Jesus Christ. How were your shepherds selected? Maybe a good question would be, “were they given the title of shepherd by the ‘good ole’ guy’ method, or were they first acting like a shepherd and then given the title?”
Focus on Relationships
Let us consider our primary role as shepherds. 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 provide qualifications for shepherds. All the qualities have to do with our character, spiritual focus, and relationships. Here’s my color commentary on this. A shepherd/member (or shepherd/minister) relationship is interpersonal. Accordingly, communication is vitally important and above that is the manner or disposition of communication. How something is said is often more impactful than what is said. It is important to consider the impact and results first. So, how do your shepherds communicate with your members (or ministry staff)? How do your members or staff feel after the communication?
Consider Your Priority
In the early days of our Lord’s church a dispute arose, and the twelve apostles gathered the church and said, “Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:3-4). This relates to the apostles, but the principles of trust, delegation, and priority are applicable to us as shepherds. Too often, church leaders are directors who make all the decisions from top to bottom. Our responsibility is not to make decisions on every issue but to ‘give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word’! Other people should be chosen who are known to be ‘full of the Spirit and wisdom’ to execute the day-to-day operations (deacons, ministry leaders, staff). So, they should be given the authority to execute their respective task or ministry without shepherd intervention.
I remember driving onto our church building parking lot one Sunday morning and noticed a new asphalt surface and new white striping! We shepherds had no idea that was going to happen, but we were thrilled to see the deacons were doing their job! It’s their job. Our job is prayer and ministry of the Word. Shepherds are responsible for the soul and nurturing of the member, not the parking lot. Match the person to the ministry, give them a budget and leave them to the task. Then watch what fantastically happens!
Take a Shepherding Check-Up
What is your heart, or attitude as a shepherd?
Is your focus the glory of God and his church?
Are you expecting an attack from the evil one?
Are you guarding the church?
Do you approach every issue in prayer and humility?
Do you have an attitude of gratitude?
Are your meetings normally business related, or do they focus mainly on prayer and the needs of the flock?
Do you know each of your flock individually?
Do you anticipate the next meeting with eagerness and prayer?
Do you love and pray for each other?
If we are truly good shepherds who have laid down their lives, then the ministers will experience it. Enough said. At the end of each day, may we all be able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
John Eastland is a shepherd with the Shiloh Road Church of Christ, Tyler, TX • firstname.lastname@example.org
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10.11)
Excellent discussion regarding the role of elders by John Eastland.
May the Lord bless John and his fellow elders as they serve the body of Christ.
Thank you for sharing with us, John.