About 6 or 7 years ago, I attended a church leader’s conference during my time of living in the UK. It was particularly launched by an American leader with a desire to train up leaders in today’s world, but the material was being taught wider than America, hence why it was over in the UK.
Yet, to be honest, It was a bit awkward at times, at least for me and those pastors I relate with in our network. Why? Mainly because there were two American pastors of megachurches, one leader from a church of 3000 and one leader from a church of 7000, this being quite different from the normal church context of Europe and the UK. In a European context, a healthy church would consist of anywhere from 50-75 adults, while a larger church would consist of 100+ adults. Quite a different scene than what is at times presented in America (even different from the actual average church in America, though so many look to attain to the 1000+ mark).
It’s not as if one cannot learn from such leaders of large churches. I used to be much more closed to that idea (such as during my days in the UK). I have never really been that excited about megachurches and church growth methods (in the numbers sense, though I love the discipleship sense). But in my own personal maturity, I am humbly realising I can learn from all types of people. And for that I am grateful.
Still, what I struggled with most in those leadership training sessions was how everything was approached from a more ‘business’ perspective while seeing the pastor (shepherd) as more of a CEO overseeing an organisation rather than a shepherd personably caring for sheep.
One greatly disturbing thing was that, as the sessions began that day, the pastor launched his first teaching on leadership from the book of Judges of all places. Yes, there are things to learn right across the whole of Scripture, including Judges. But typically you would approach Judges as a book on how not to do certain things (and that is not how this was tackled). Therefore, we could at least begin with Joshua, right?
You see, what I have always been gripped with and what has been imparted to me is that, when we talk about leadership (or just about anything within our Christian faith), the best place to start is with Jesus. I know that sounds so simple, like the Sunday school answer – Jesus. But I believe he is the best place to start on just about every single matter, if not all matters.
And, so, with leadership, with shepherding, we need to begin with Jesus. It’s just that simple, that easy, that obvious. Not with Judges, not even Joshua, but with Jesus, for he told us he is the good shepherd (John 10).
So, if we are going to understand leadership, at least as God meant leadership and shepherding, there is no doubt we can learn from all sorts of perspectives, since God is Lord over all. But, as Christ’s under-shepherds, as leaders of the flock, I believe it always best to start by looking at the life of Jesus as to what it means to be a leader and shepherd of God’s people. We need that to settle deep in our hearts or I believe we will miss something important.
Let’s start at the proper place and we can by reading those pages found in the Gospels, looking at the author and perfecter of our faith. And as we do, I believe we will move closer to the heart of God and shepherd with greater grace, wisdom, humility and power.