As you lead your ministry, you’ll want not only to imitate Jesus in the way you live your life in general but also imitate Him in the way He led His followers. In the previous blog, 3 Ways You Can Lead Like Jesus
, I introduced three biblical word-pictures that describe the way Jesus led His followers: “Shepherd”, “Steward” and “Servant.” In this blog, I want to focus on leading like Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
You probably recall the well-known passage in John 10 where the Apostle John records Jesus’ claim to be the Good Shepherd. We’ll return to that passage later, but for now let’s focus on what Jesus and His followers already knew about shepherds and sheep.
They would have been very familiar with King David’s description of God as his Shepherd (Psalm 23). They would have been aware of the nature of sheep, the rock-strewn, barren-desert terrain in much of the land of Israel and the predators a shepherd would need to fend off.
Qualities of The Good Shepherd
Let’s briefly summarize the qualities of God, the Shepherd, from Psalm 23:
- Meets Basic Needs
The Shepherd is aware of and meets the basic needs of His sheep, in this case a plentiful supply of grass for nourishment (vs. 1).
- Provides a Safe Environment
Since sheep are easily frightened, the Shepherd provides a safe environment in which they can lie down after eating (vs. 2). In this environment, the sheep are restored and refreshed (vs. 3).
- Leads the Sheep
Knowing sheep will not drink from running water, the Shepherd leads the sheep to still pools of water where they can drink (vs. 2).
- Guides the Sheep
Being aware of the terrain, where the best sources of food and water are and how to avoid predators, the Shepherd guides the sheep in moving to new pastures (vs. 3). He does so not only to meet the needs of the sheep but also to protect His own reputation as a Good Shepherd.
- Provides a Sense of Security
The world is not a perfect, worry-free place, and the Shepherd knows there will be difficult times when He must move His sheep through dangerous territory. But His very presence among the sheep in both the good and the difficult times provides them with a sense of security (vs. 4). The Shepherd can actually spread a “table of food” for the sheep to eat in the face of predators (vs. 5).
- Protects and Corrects
The Shepherd uses His rod to beat the ground and chase away insects that might bother the sheep. He also uses it to correct unruly and wandering sheep (vs. 4). That provides a sense of comfort to the rest of the sheep.
- Rescues Sheep with Staff
Sheep often wander away, not sensing the danger in doing so. The Shepherd has a staff, a stick with a big hook on the end, that can be used to rescue a sheep from a perilous situation. David writes that having a staff gives a sense of security to sheep (vs. 4).
- Heals Wounds
When sheep are injured, the Shepherd doesn’t beat them with His rod because they got themselves into a bad situation. No, He pours healing oil on their wounds (vs. 5).
- Demonstrates Goodness, Mercy and Love
The Shepherd demonstrates His goodness, mercy and love for the sheep throughout their entire lives (vs. 6). They are assured He will never abandon them.
Reading Psalm 23 and comparing our leadership to that of the Good Shepherd, so many questions jump out at us: Are we meeting the basic needs of those we lead? Are we creating a safe environment for them? Are we providing the kind of direction they need? How do we help them navigate their way in a hostile world? Do we constructively correct them when they “mess up”? Do we pour healing oil on their wounds, or do we inflict more pain? Sobering questions, aren’t they?
In the next blog we will return to the Good Shepherd passage in John 10.