Praise the Lord and I trust you are ready for the remainder of this message. Let’s get right to the word for the moment.
Here’s how I see it and describes this vital function of God’s shepherds:
Sheep are almost entirely defenseless—they can’t kick, scratch, bite, jump, or run. When attacked by a predator, they huddle together rather than running away. That makes them easy prey. Sheep need a protective shepherd/leader in order to survive. Christians need similar protection from error and those who spread it. Leaders/shepherds guard their spiritual sheep against going astray and defend them against the savage wolves that would ravage them. It is not wise to run from pillar to post trying to get understanding of the truth. You may leave what you have and end up with nothing.
The faithful leader/shepherd isn’t naïve or oblivious when it comes to his sheep. He’s keenly aware of the threats to their safety and health. He doesn’t venture as close as he can to the danger or leads them into the unknown. He guards them carefully and sacrifices himself for their protection.
And when they do fall into danger, the godly leader/shepherd must rescue the sheep. As I explain, it’s in a sheep’s nature to wander and get into trouble. A sheep can be totally lost within a few miles of its home. With no sense of direction and no instinct for finding the fold, a lost sheep usually will walk around in a state of confusion, unrest, and even panic. It needs a leader/ shepherd to bring it home. . . .
Like lost sheep, most people need a rescuer—a leader/shepherd—to lead them to the safety of the fold. A leader/shepherd does that by pointing the lost toward Jesus, the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11).
A godly shepherd knows how precious the sheep are to the Good Shepherd and the blessed joys of belonging to His heavenly flock. Churches looking for a leader/shepherd need to look for a man passionate about the transforming work of the gospel—not merely accumulating professed converts, but growing faithful disciples and equipping them for use in the work of God’s kingdom.
That means the faithful shepherd cannot bounce from flock to flock. He can’t have divided loyalties, or always be looking for a larger, more desirable flock. He’s got to be grounded and committed to effectively lead the sheep the Lord gives him. And as I explain, leading God’s sheep involves more than just preaching.
Besides teaching, the leader/shepherd exercises oversight of the flock by the example of his life. Being a leader/shepherd requires getting in among the sheep. It is not leadership from above so much as leadership from within. An effective leader/shepherd does not herd his sheep from the rear but leads them from the front. They see him and imitate his actions.
The most important asset of spiritual leadership is the power of an exemplary life. First Timothy 4:16 instructs a church leader too, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.”
Churches searching for a new leader/shepherd need to ask two important questions about every potential candidate: Is this a man who will faithfully lead us? and Is this a man we should follow?
Finally, godly leaders/shepherds exhibit tender care for their flock as they gently comfort the sheep. Brash, heavy-handed leaders don’t make good leaders/shepherds; pushovers are just as bad. As I explain, leaders/shepherds need to measure the needs of their individual sheep and address them appropriately.
Sheep lack a self-preservation instinct. They are so humble and meek that if you mistreat them, they are easily crushed in spirit and can simply give up and die. The leader/shepherd must know his sheep’s individual temperaments and take care not to inflict excessive stress. Accordingly, a faithful leader/shepherd adjusts his counsel to fit the need of the person to whom he ministers. He must “admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, and be patient with all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
Anyone can give advice, comfort, or rebuke—a godly leader/shepherd gives it with authority, precision, wisdom, and gentleness out of genuine concern for the needs of his sheep.
If you are currently looking, or have occasion in the future to look for a new leader/shepherd, lean heavily on Scripture when evaluating his credentials and qualifications. The wrong man can do unspeakable harm to the flock of God—he can scar and wound the sheep, or drive them from the flock altogether. Conversely, the right man—a faithful, godly leader/shepherd—is one of heaven’s greatest blessings.
And if your church enjoys the leadership of one such faithful leader/shepherd, make a point this week to thank him for his faithful service. Your encouragement will be a blessing to him.
Your servant and brother,
+ Sir Godfrey Gregg
Archbishop and Presiding Prelate
Administrator and Apostolic Head
Follow me on Twitter @ArchbishopGregg
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