Previously, I introduced the idea that we can lead like Jesus by studying three word-pictures that describe how He led and we can lead ministries today. In Part 1 of this blog, I began with a reference to Jesus as the Good Shepherd in John 10. I then framed that picture with the context of what Jesus and His followers would have known about sheep from personal experience and from reading what David wrote in Psalm 23. We now turn to discuss Jesus as the Good Shepherd.
Let’s briefly summarize how Jesus describes His leadership as the Good Shepherd in John 10:1-16:
- He approaches the sheep with the intention to care for and guide them, not to destroy or steal them (vs. 1).
- He commands, not demands, the attention of the sheep (vs. 3). They recognize His voice (vss. 4-5).
- He knows the sheep so well that He gives each one an appropriate name and they respond to His voice (vs. 3).
- Contrary to the modern notion of “leading from behind”, the Good Shepherd leads by walking ahead of—not driving from behind—the sheep, assuring them that it’s safe to follow because He’s already arrived at where they will be going (vs. 4).His intention is not only to rescue (“save”) the sheep from danger but, even more, to give them life overflowing with surplus (vs.10). This wasn’t just the “bare minimum” but rather “above and beyond.”
- The Good Shepherd will literally—and willingly—“lay down His life” for the sheep (vss. 11, 18).
- Not only does the Good Shepherd know the sheep, but they know Him (vs. 14) which speaks of the intimacy between the two.
- His goal is to create unity by gathering sheep from disparate herds into one herd with Him as the Shepherd (vs. 16).
Indeed, Jesus is the Good Shepherd, but not every shepherd is good. The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel (chapter 34) condemns evil shepherds (Israel’s rulers of his day). Briefly, they care for themselves more than the sheep (vs. 1), fail to strengthen the weak and sick (vs. 4), don’t go after the wanderers (vs. 4), treat the sheep harshly (vs. 4), didn’t protect the sheep against predators (vs. 5) and fail to protect the weak sheep from the stronger, healthier ones (vs. 21).
In his second letter, the Apostle Peter alludes to another characteristic of evil shepherds: “Lording over” the sheep, that is, issuing unreasonable demands of the sheep from a position of power or superiority (I Peter 5:3).
In light of the description of good shepherds in Psalm 23, John 10 and I Peter 5, you and I are faced with one major question: What kind of shepherds are we to the people God has called us to lead in ministry? Beside each of the qualities of good shepherds in these two blogs, rate yourself on this scale: Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor or Failing. Then, for every rating below “Excellent” pray that God will help you to lead more like Jesus.
In my next blog, I'll write about "Leading Like Jesus: The Steward".