Leading with a Shepherd’s Heart Back to blog list
“I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” – John 10:11.
In May of this year, I attended the World A/G Executive meeting in Jerusalem along with the World Pentecostal Global conference which was being held at the same time. Jerusalem’s Pais Arena was packed with 4,500 delegates, from more than 70 countries. Awards for global impact were presented to five leaders from around the world for their role in shepherding Pentecostal work. Co-Chairmen William Wilson and George Wood presented the awards to Reinhard Bonnke, Morris Cerullo, Jack Hayford, Marilyn Hickey, David Maines, and Vinson Synan. It was a powerful service of worship, praise, impartation, and a time of honouring.
It was my first visit to the ancient city, one of the world’s oldest. I found the visit remarkable on many counts. Throughout my life I have read about Jerusalem, the City of David, and the place of Jesus’s crucifixion. Like others, I had pre-formed ideas. These were challenged by the reality of what is actually there today. People from every nation seem to be trampling the cobbled streets and for vastly different reasons. It was overwhelming, the sounds of street traders haranguing, the unrelenting swarms of tourists going from one religious site to another.
Many visitors to Jerusalem are somewhat taken back by the strange religious tensions, for the city is an important spiritual centre of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as well. The political tensions mean that there are guns everywhere.
Some people look for God in Jerusalem, excitedly they walk where Jesus walked, they hope to receive a touch of the Holy Spirit. It’s all there, spiritual expectation, political complexity, frustration, fiercely defended views of the past, and superlative visions of the future.
Did I find Jesus at Jerusalem? I did, albeit not in a physical sense. After an exhausting flight, I arrived late at night. Next morning I went down to breakfast, sat with a stranger, and to my surprise, he prophesied over me. This set the tone for my visit to Israel with supernatural appointments and connections with people I had hoped to see. I did the tour, walked the city walls, rode the bus up the Mount of Olives, visited the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed at the Wailing Wall, it was great!
It wasn’t, however, until we were driving to the Jordan River, that I saw the bleakness of Israel’s desert conditions, the lack of vegetation, the stark rolling hills, and valleys of nothingness. However, around the lakes, rivers, and cultivated areas there was pastoral greenery. I was struck by the thought that any sheep in these diverse lands would certainly need considerable care; shepherds were essential. Also, I was taken by the thought that it was upon these barren Judean hills that the great shepherd of men’s souls had once walked and led His disciples. I loved my visit to the Holy Land, but was reminded again that Jesus shepherd’s his flock in the spiritual wastelands of the earth. Ever watchful, He still lovingly broods over His sheep, saying:
“I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” – John 10:11
From the earliest days of the church, the image of Jesus as our Good Shepherd has been one of the most enduring. Importantly for this current magazine issue, is the shepherding aspect of Jesus’s ministry. It serves as a model for those who would minister in His name. Artwork of Jesus, found in early catacombs, portrayed Jesus as a loving, caring, nurturing, and protective shepherd. This image of Jesus as ‘the Good Shepherd’ is still found in Israel today and encapsulates much of His life and ministry.
We are called to minister and lead the church with the great shepherd’s heart. Leadership is important, and at times, strong and decisive leadership must take place. All of us, however, whether in lay leadership or full time ministry, should lead while emulating the ministry of Jesus our shepherd. There is much sermonizing about heroically giving our lives for God’s great plans, that is good, but it is important to note that Jesus laid down His life for us!
So the shepherding aspect of leadership also requires us to lay down our lives for others. This is the gold standard of ministry, it’s not about us, it’s about others, and ultimately it’s for the Glory of God.
Jesus warned us that unless we carry on His role and heart for shepherding, we are nothing more than untrustworthy hired workers. He warned:
“A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them” – John 10:12
Regrettably, there are sometimes leaders and lay people who act more like the hired hands Jesus spoke of. They don’t protect or feed God’s sheep in a way that is glorifying to God. Occasionally, there are those who not only fail to protect those under their charge, but abuse their position of trust. They behave like wolves, and damage those they were meant to lovingly shepherd. They will one day have to explain their actions to the Head Shepherd.
Thankfully, thousands of Pastors and lay ministers serve God with great passion and zeal. They model the Good Shepherd in exemplary ways. We appreciate and honour these servants of God who labour among us, truly they are worthy of double honour. As a movement, we are blessed with many such dedicated and caring Pastors who labour selflessly in our towns and cities.
Keep leading and lead with a shepherd’s heart!