LEADING LIKE A SHEPHERD
Upon completion of this chapter you will be able to:
C Write the Key Verse from memory.
C Identify the Good Shepherd.
C Identify the one true sheepfold.
C Summarize responsibilities of the shepherd.
C Summarize warnings to bad shepherds.
C Apply natural principles of shepherding to leadership.
Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. (I Peter 5:2-3)
Another analogy or natural parallel illustrating leadership is that of a shepherd. In the natural world, a shepherd is one who cares for sheep. A "fold" is a group or flock of
sheep. In the spiritual world, people are compared to sheep. We are either sheep who have gone astray spiritually (Isaiah 53:6) or who have become part of the "fold" or
"flock" of the Lord.
Jesus referred to Himself as the "Good Shepherd" and explained in detail what
shepherding involves. This example is one of the greatest illustrations of spiritual
leadership (see John 10). To be an effective leader, you must not only know the Good Shepherd and be related to Him personally, you must also learn how to lead like a
Peter confirms that we are to lead like shepherds:
Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof… (I Peter 5:2)
PRINCIPLES OF SHEPHERDING
Since Jesus called Himself the "Good Shepherd,” then we must study His example of
ministry to understand principles of shepherding . Turn to John 10 in your Bible and use it to guide you as you study these basic principles of shepherding:
ONE FOLD, ONE SHEPHERD:
The first principle that must be understood is that there is only one fold and one shepherd. The "fold" is the Church which is composed of all born again believers. The "shepherd" is Jesus Christ. There is only one way into the fold, and that is through Jesus:
I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. (John 10:9)
…and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (John 10:16)
In the natural world, human shepherds divide their flocks from other flocks because it is easier and more practical to care for them. They can only be responsible and care for so many. This is true also in spiritual leadership . But in reality, there is only one fold. It is made up of all true believers who belong to the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. As a leader or "shepherd,” you are actually an "under-shepherd.” You serve over part of His flock "under" the direction of the Good Shepherd .
Always remember that divisions of denomination, organization, and local church fellowships are made by man and exist only to permit personal care and practical organization . In reality , there is only one fold .
Do not try to separate "your flock" from other people in the flock of the Good Shepherd by denominationalism. Do not be concerned with building "your flock" of denomination or the local fellowship. Be concerned with building the flock of the Good Shepherd . Do not set rules and regulations of man to exclude some sheep. Jesus declares, "Whosoever will may come,” as long as they come through the door of the Lord Jesus Christ.
God’s fold is not exclusive. The door is open to all of His sheep:
And other sheep, I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (John 10:16)
SHEEP ARE GIVEN BY GOD:
Because there is only one fold, all sheep (followers) are given by God:
My Father, which gave them (the sheep) me, is greater than all… (John 10:29)
Followers are only entrusted to your care. In reality, they belong to God.
SOME SHEEP WILL NOT FOLLOW:
There is a sad fact of which you must be aware as a shepherd. Some who are called will refuse to follow. Jesus said:
But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep… (John 10:26)
There will be some who are called but will not follow. They will refuse to become part of
the fold . It is a sad fact, but true. Do not let this discourage you . Lead those who will
THE SHEPHERD KNOWS HIS SHEEP:
I am the good shepherd and know my sheep, and am known of mine. (John 10:14)
In the time of Christ’s ministry, shepherds had a very personal relationship with their sheep. The shepherd was there at the birth of the sheep and he guided and cared for it throughout its lifetime . To be an effective leader, you must know the people entrusted to your care. You must develop a personal relationship with them. Jesus said the Good Shepherd "calleth His own sheep by name" (John 1 0:3).
THE SHEEP KNOW THE SHEPHERD:
Not only does the shepherd know his sheep, the sheep know the shepherd:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)
Jesus said that the sheep know the voice of the shepherd. They listen and follow because they know and trust him .
As a leader, you must build relationships of love and trust with your followers. To do this, you must be with your sheep and be available to them, not separated from them. You
must conduct your own life so that the sheep can follow you as you follow Christ:
Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. (I Corinthians 11:1)
People do not follow you merely because you are assigned as a leader. You must gain their trust in order to lead them . You do this by letting them get to know you.
THE SHEPHERD CARES FOR THE SHEEP:
Good shepherds care for their sheep. You must care for the souls of the sheep. You must see that their "souls are restored" to right relationship with God:
He restoreth my soul. (Psalms 23:3)
Caring for sheep includes comforting them in times of sorrow and need. The staff of the shepherd was used to reach out and catch sheep and draw them in close for comfort and examination (Psalms 23:4).
Caring involves directing people to the Good Shepherd who is able to provide all of their needs:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. (Psalms 23:1)
In speaking of the care of the Lord as his spiritual shepherd, David said:
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. (Psalm 23:2)
When sheep are well cared for, they will lie down and be content. Sheep in the natural world, as well as the spiritual world, will lie down only if they are:
Free From Fear: Fear of man or the enemy will scatter the sheep. You must teach the sheep that…
God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (I Timothy 1:7)
Free From Friction With Other Sheep: Sheep who are fighting each other cannot rest or feed. They also do not reproduce spiritually. When sheep fought in the natural world in Bible times, the shepherd would put oil on their heads. This would make them slick with grease so they could not bump their heads together and fight. Teach the sheep to fight the
enemy, not each other. Smear the oil of the Holy Spirit on their heads!
Free Of Pests: In the natural world, there are different types of pests that infest the wool
of sheep and cause sickness and discomfort. There are certain flies that attack sheep and
leave eggs that hatch, then the baby flies crawl into the head and cause blindness and
David said that the shepherd "anointed his head with oil" (Psalm 23:5). In the natural
world, shepherds used oil to cleanse the sheep of sickness, disease, and infections. In the spiritual world , pests can be compared to sin. Sin will cause spiritual blindness and death. The oil of the Holy Spirit must be applied to cleanse sheep from the pests of sin.
Free From Hunger And Thirst: If you want sheep to remain in the fold, you must feed
them spiritually. The leader must take the sheep to green pastures and feed them with the truth of God’s Word:
Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof… (I Peter 5:2 )
It is not enough to just lead people to green pastures. You must make them lie down and abide in them . You must prepare the table with the good things of God and set it before them (Psalms 23:5 ). You must lead the sheep to the everlasting waters (John 4 ) that will quench their thirst. Fill their spiritual cups to overflowing with the Word (Psalms 23 :5).
In the natural world, if sheep are thirsty they will set out in search of water. If they are not led to good water, they will drink bad water. The shepherd goes before them and checks for poisonous plants growing near streams and for bad water. As a shepherd, you must lead the sheep to good water. Jesus said:
If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink… (John 7:37)
Jeremiah spoke of "cisterns that hold no water.” Emptiness cannot be filled except by the water of life (Jeremiah 2:13).
It is interesting to note in Psalms 23:2 that the shepherd leads to "still waters.” Still
waters means silent, but running water. Here the water is pure. It is not standing water which is corrupt and filthy . It is fresh. But it is not troubled , nor the rapidly rolling falls which can be dangerous. This speaks of stable doctrine which is not moved by shifting winds of experience or popular theology.
THE SHEPHERD DISCIPLINES THE SHEEP:
Caring for sheep involves discipline. The rod which shepherds carried was used to prod the sheep into the right way. It probably did not feel good to be poked in the side by the rod , but it was necessary .
The rod of the shepherd is a natural example of the rod of the authority of God’s Word which is carried by spiritual shepherds. The rod provides discipline. It does not always feel good, but it is necessary.
Leading involves discipline, reproof, and correction to keep sheep on the right path.
When a sheep strays, discipline and caring involves going after them and bringing them back to the fold (Luke 15). You must lead sheep from sin into righteousness:
…He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness… (Psalms 23:3)
In the natural world, sheep left to themselves turn to their own ways. They will graze the same area until it is ruined or they will scatter in all directions. The same is true of men
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)
By leading men and women in paths of righteousness, you discipline them to the ways of
THE SHEPHERD HELPS CAST DOWN SHEEP:
In the natural world, a "cast down" sheep is one that has rolled over on its back and cannot get up by itself. It is an easy prey for animals and it is helpless. The shepherd must come along and prod it with the rod and motivate it to get back up on its feet.
Both sheep and believers become "cast down" when:
They Settle Down In Ease: In the natural world , sheep sometimes become cast down
when they get into nice green pasture area and are happy and contented. They roll over on their back, kick their legs in pleasure .. .and cannot get up again.
In the spiritual world, believers often settle down in material ease. They get involved with pleasures and riches of the world. They are unconcerned about God, His Kingdom, and lost souls . When this happens they become ineffective for God and easy prey for the enemy. To help such sheep, you must focus their attention on eternal values and
motivate them for the work of the Kingdom .
They Have Too Much Wool: When the woolly fur of sheep has grown too long, brambles
and thorns start clinging to it and the sheep become weighted down with these things,
becoming an easy prey for enemies. To help this "cast down" sheep, the shepherd cuts
off the trash entangled in the wool. While he is doing it the sheep howls, struggles, and
In the spiritual world, believers become weighed down with "cares of this world" and the "sins that so easily beset us. ” These things must be cut off if they are to be effective for God. We may kick, struggle, and howl too, but it is necessary.
They Become Too Fat: Sheep who are too fat cannot right themselves again when they roll over on their backs. Some believers become too fat spiritually. They take in the things of God, but never give out. They do not minister to others, but just continue to grow spiritually fat themselves.
In the natural world, these fat sheep are not always the healthiest or most productive.
This is true also in the spiritual world. Spiritual shepherds must get these "fat" sheep up and on the move for God.
THE SHEPHERD LEADS THE SHEEP:
And when he (the shepherd) putteth forth his own sheep, He goeth before them, and the sheep follow him… (John 10:4)
Leadership is just what the word implies : You must go ahead of the sheep and lead them . You do not just tell sheep where to go, you show them by moving out in front of them .
You do this by practicing what you preach and showing them by your lifestyle rather than only telling them . The shepherd sets the example as a leader, not as a "lord" who shows off. Peter said to serve…
Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. (I Peter 5:3)
THE SHEPHERD SERVES WILLINGLY:
Peter said to …
Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly… (I Peter 5:2)
You should not lead because you are asked, forced, or required to do so. You should lead
because you want to lead. Fulfill your calling willingly.
THE SHEPHERD GIVES HIS LIFE FOR THE SHEEP:
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep. (John 10:11)
Jesus was the only sacrifice necessary for the sins of mankind. You cannot die for your sheep in this way. Few of us may ever die in behalf of others or even as martyrs.
But to be a leader, you will have to "give your life" in other ways. You must sacrifice your own desires and selfish ambitions for others. There are many inconveniences in caring for people. It takes time and it may interfere with your own personal plans.
Jesus made this clear in the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15. All the sheep were
obedient and where they were supposed to be, but one was lost. It was not convenient to go out looking for him at night. It was not comfortable or desirable. It was even
dangerous. But the shepherd "laid down his life" and went to rescue the lost sheep.
THE SHEPHERD PROTECTS THE SHEEP:
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy… (John 10:10)
But he that is an hireling and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth; and the wolf
catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
The hireling flees, because he is an hireling and careth not for the sheep. (John 10:12-13)
A good shepherd stays with the sheep and protects them , no matter what the cost.
Hirelings are leaders who use their leadership positions only for money, power, position, or honor. They are serving for "filthy lucre,” or their own benefit. Hirelings do not really care for the sheep, so they flee when the enemy attacks (I Peter 5:2).
WARNINGS TO SHEPHERDS
Read Ezekiel 34 in your Bible. This chapter contains warnings to bad shepherds who
ruled Israel. But the warnings in this passage concern all leaders who are bad shepherds.
God promises "woe" or judgment on shepherds who:
1. Do not feed the flock: Verse 2
2. Rob and take selfishly from the sheep: Verse 3
3. Take care of themselves, but not the sheep : Verses 2-3 , 8
4. Do not care for the needs of the flock: Verse 4
(They do not comfort those who are hurt, strengthen the sheep, care for the spiritually diseased and sick .)
5. Do not seek the lost sheep: Verses 4 and 6
6. Rule with force and cruelty: Verse 4
7. Scatter the sheep: Verses 5-6
8. Let the enemy destroy the sheep: Verse 8
9. Let the diseases of sin and disunity destroy the flock: Verse 21
A PROMISE TO SHEPHERDS
If you are following the Biblical principles of leading like a shepherd, you can claim this promise:
…When the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. (I Peter 5:4)