This is the final part of my chapter in Simon Manchester’s Festschrift. Having looked at the minister as preacher, pastor and evangelist, we now turn to the often neglected subject of the pastor as leader.
Heb. 13:7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
The two American teenage girls enthusiastically filled out their applications to come on mission to Scotland. Amongst their assorted qualities and ambitions was the belief that God had called them ‘to provide leadership to the Church in Scotland’. They were 17. It seems as though everyone either thinks they are, or aspires to be, a leader. But looking at it from a biblical perspective leadership is not something that many of us should aspire to (James 3:1). Nonetheless some of us are called to that role – none more so than the pastor/teacher/elder.
Heb. 13:17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
Leadership is plural, watchful and joyful. It follows the example of Christ – who led by serving. It is not authoritarian but it has authority. It is not weak but it is carried out in weakness. It is not hard but it is tough. It is not unbending but it is also not easily swayed. It is not manpleasing but it does seek to encourage and help. I’m not sure that this kind of leadership can be taught in seminary (although some of the tools a leader uses can). Rather it needs to be exemplified.
What one word can fit this job description? Surely it is the Bible’s own word – that of the shepherd. Or to be more accurate – it is that of the under shepherd – working under the authority of, seeking guidance from, and looking for glory for, the One True Shepherd – that great Shepherd of the sheep. The shepherd feeds the sheep through the preaching of the Word. The shepherd pastors and cares for the sheep, with the tender heart and strong compassion of Christ. The shepherd seeks the lost sheep – those who have wandered away, or those who are not yet part of the flock, with all the urgency of a man who seeks them as if they were his very own. The shepherd leads the sheep.
I grew up on a farm. My granddad was a shepherd and my dad still keeps a few sheep. One of my favourite preachers was the late Douglas Macmillan – who before he became a Free Church minister, was a shepherd. His book The Lord’s My Shepherd is a classic that benefits all Christians – at whatever stage of life. It is especially relevant for those of us who aspire to be under shepherds – we shepherd in the way of the Master.
There is one significant difference between shepherding in modern Scotland, and the way it was done in 1st Century Israel. We used sheepdogs and shepherd’s crooks, as well as our voices, to drive the sheep. We herded them by walking behind them. In 1st Century Israel the shepherds walked in front of the sheep, leading from the front. The sheep heard his voice and gladly followed. We shepherd in the way of the Master – as described in John Ch. 10. We enter by the gate, we call the sheep by name, we give our lives for the sheep, we lead from the front line, we speak with the voice of the Saviour, we take on the wolves, we pastor in order to bring fullness of life to the sheep. Who is sufficient for these things?
Heb. 13:20 Now may the God of peace who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will and may he work in us what is pleasing to him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.