This morning I was reading through Dallas Willard’s book Hearing from God and I came across a few paragraphs that challenged our cultural views of leadership that have a tendency to find their way into the church. These few paragraphs were a great reminder for me this morning and I thought I would share them with you all.
In our examples and training for Christian leadership, we too often emphasize getting others merely to do as they are told. In this way the church largely conforms to the leadership structures of the world. Indeed, “leadership” is normally an empty euphemism when applied to our standard communal efforts, whether in a church or outside it.
To manipulate, drive or manage people is not the same thing as to lead them. The sheepdog forcibly maneuvers the sheep, whereas the biblical shepherd calls as he calmly walks ahead of the sheep. This distinction between the sheepdog and the shepherd is profoundly significant for how we think of our work as leaders of Christ’s people. We must ask ourselves frequently which role we are fulfilling and constantly return ourselves, if necessary, to the practice of the shepherd.
When we lead as shepherds, our confidence is in only one thing: the word of the Great Shepherd, coming through us or, otherwise, to his sheep. We know that they know his voice and will not follow another. We do not want them to follow another, even if we ourselves are that “other.”
If I am honest with myself, there are plenty of days I lead like a sheepdog. I find that I want things my way and I can readily run over people in order to get them. Leading in this manner comes from a posture of stubbornness, not submission. Without listening for and following the voice and leading of God, we can end up hurting God’s people more than we actually help them.
So pastors, I ask you are you a sheepdog or a shepherd?