Request. Response. Resolution.

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. 21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?“  She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”  22 But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with”  They said to Him, “We are able.”  23 So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”  24 And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said…   (Matt 20:20-25; NKJV)

Right after Jesus reveals His betrayal and death to the disciples, He is asked that seats of honor would be granted to two of them when Jesus comes into His kingdom.  As I said earlier, I don’t want to be too hard on these guys as we all find ourselves putting our foot in our mouths when we start thinking of ourselves first.  They were asking for the “chief seats” and I think we can get into this trap too.  It is not hard to understand why.  They see what it looks like with Roman and Jewish leadership…what the trappings of power look like.  They have been on the wrong end of things for their entire lives and now they have an opportunity to be on top.  So, through their own selfish lens, they (or should I say their mother) asks for what they want.  It is selfish and it is misguided but it is what they “wanted”.  We can make the same mistake.

Jesus responds by qualifying what they are asking.  Per the previous statement, He asks if they can endure the cup (signifying God’s wrath) and baptism He will have.  Of course, they are certain they can…though they don’t really know what they are saying.  Jesus knows and He tells them what will come to pass in the future as a result of their faithfulness but right now they can’t see past the “chief seats”.  James will drink the cup of martyrdom (Acts 12:2) and we know that many disciples of Jesus suffered a lot (even death) because of their faith.  In the moment, however, the brothers can’t see that and only want to be in a place of honor with the King…even if they don’t yet fully understand it.

The result within the immediate family (of the 12) was the other 10 becoming very displeased with the brothers.  I don’t know if they are upset because they didn’t think to ask first, because they understood what Jesus was saying of betrayal and death and were hurt these two would be so selfish or what exactly got under their skin.  The bottom line is, the brothers’ selfish behavior created division within the group and it is starting to boil over.  This is not uncommon even today.  If there is a brother who is acting selfishly or in a way that is not unifying the group, we can get upset and then we can start talking among ourselves and then we can let it boil over and great division takes place.  What we should do, however, is do what Jesus does.

This is one of my favorite images in the Bible.  As this disagreement begins to take place within the 12, what does Jesus do?  He calls them to Himself.  I picture a huddle and maybe even a group hug eventually.  But here, Jesus calls them together and He teaches for them all to learn.  That is the case with us…we all need to learn from our own and from others shortfalls and mistakes.  None of us are perfect and when another hurts us or wrongs us due to their selfish behavior…call them near and bring Jesus with you.  Talk about it, pray about it, love one another.  We all get off track and take our eye off the ball.  This will hurt when the consequence of this is against us.  But it will hurt a whole lot more if we lose a brother and we have a great example in our Savior of how to call each other close, learn from each other and love one another…God is glorified in that!

There is a lot going on in these verses but the visual in my mind from God’s word of Jesus putting His arms around His disciples, pulling them near and teaching them…redeeming them…loving them is one that brings joy, hope and peace to my heart today.  I hope it does the same for you and if you need to repent and draw someone close that you might have pushed away…do that today.  Ask for someone to help in that.  Jesus is waiting and will go too.

Distorted Leadership Models – The Utility Player

This week we are going to focus on distorted leadership models. We got this concept from the book They Smell Like Sheep by Lynn Anderson.

Distorted Leadership Models – The Utility Player

The person who does it all and doesn’t delegate. He tries to play all the positions. He may be pretty good at a lot of jobs, but others need to be doing those jobs.

The utility player in sports is the jack of all trades. You can put him or her at any position and they can be pretty good anywhere. There are those 5 talent people (see Matthew 25), who can do just about anything. Sometimes those guys get caught in trap of trying to have their hands in every pot in the church.

There are many reasons this happens:

There is the man who had to be the utility person by necessity and now it is hard to give up. That person may have at one time been put in a position where he had to do the lion’s share of the work or it wouldn’t have gotten accomplished. It may be a small church where very few people are even available to work. In that case you have to do a large percentage of the work. But as the church grows, or if you are with a different group with lots of hands ready to work, you need to let them work. There are times when someone had planned on doing a task for the church, but someone (who meant well) jumped in front of them and did the job before he or she could get to it. That is not helpful to building relationships. I’m sure the apostles could have done a great job in taking care of the widows, but it wasn’t their job. God wanted someone else to oversee care for the widows (Acts 6:1-7).

There is the man who doesn’t really want to have the hard and uncomfortable conversations with those who are not doing their share. It is much easier just to do the job than to train, mentor, rebuke, coach, talk, ask, etc. Helping other guys learn, understand and appreciate the need to do these great works for Jesus is a challenging work. When we keep doing jobs that others in the church can be doing, we are crippling them and hindering their growth. We are also hamstringing ourselves, because we become very ineffective and inefficient in our own work God wants us to do.

There is the man whose expectations are too high, and those who want to do the work don’t measure up to his standards. In some cases there are those who want to work, but they feel pushed out and disregarded by those who are doing the work. Those utility players tend to micromanage. If you are going to delegate, this means you may have to wait a little longer for a job to get finished, because your schedule is not theirs. It also means that they may do the job differently that you would have, but that doesn’t mean it is wrong necessarily.

There is a great example of this in Moses’ leadership style. Moses was a man who wanted to do it all, and his motives were pure. However, as he was advised by his father-in-law, he was going to wear himself out. It wasn’t good for the Israelites, either.

Meditate on this final passage:

The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?” And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.” Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And they judged the people at all times. Any hard case they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves. Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went away to his own country.
(Exodus 18:13-27)

Distorted Leadership Models – The Sheriff

This week we are going to focus on distorted leadership models. We got this concept from the book They Smell Like Sheep by Lynn Anderson.

Distorted Leadership Models – The Sheriff

Flashing the badge, he’s the rule enforcer.

No offense meant at all to our fine men and women in law enforcement – I have to make sure I say this. Those men and women are the finest, and they put their lives on the line everyday for us – Thank you!

The focus of this article is the distorted view of leadership that comes when someone slaps on the “elder” badge in the church and begins to think he is the Judge, Jury and Executioner. Without regard for mercy and tenderness, he rains down condemnation and judgment to the law breakers. He would never accept treatment like this for himself, but he does it to others. He’s all about the rules and enforcing the law, but not much about the grace, mercy and relationships.

This model of leadership is seen in the Jewish leadership of Jesus’ day. They were keen on the rules, down to the minutest detail. The Scribes and Pharisees crossed every T and dotted every I, but what did they lack? Jesus said they did not have mercy (Matthew 9:10-13;12:1-14). He called them self-righteous hypocrites that did not do what they asked others to do (Matthew 23:1-4). They did not care for the lost, helpless and outcast, in fact they took advantage of sinners and widows (Luke 15). The broken state of others became an opportunity for them to gain more power over people (Mark 12:40).

It also makes me think of the heart of Jonah. Anna and the kids were reading about him as I was writing this, and I thought, “Wow, here’s Sheriff Jonah who wanted to ride into town and call out the condemnation, blow the whistle, lasso them all up and throw the people of Nineveh into God’s eternal jail. Jonah cared more for plants than he did people (Jonah 4). I think Jonah serves as a good example of the “sheriff” mindset.

Don’t get me wrong, rules do matter. Doctrine is from God, not from man, so we must stand for it in our churches (Romans 16:17-18). The elders/shepherds are to be sound in doctrine. They must be able to teach that doctrine, and are to have the courage to stand and fight for that doctrine (Acts 20:17-38; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:1-14).

But what we want to see out of our elders/shepherds is the whole picture, men who stand strong on the Word, but also have the merciful heart of God. If God was all about the rules, where would you and I be? Remember Jonah and the city of Nineveh?

Here are some character qualities of the elder/shepherd that balance out the “sheriffs” in us. Yes, be about the rules but remember this:

  • Live by example, show others how to live as God wants them to live (Hebrews 13:7,17; 1 Peter 5:3).
  • Be gentle and patient, realizing that Satan has a hold on people. They need teaching and time, not death and destruction (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
  • Discern the needs of those you are leading. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Some need encouraged, others need their hands held, others need gentle correction, others need warnings. In order for a elder/shepherd to know the difference, he has to know the sheep. It’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of response.
  • Not violent, but gentle, not quarrelsome (1 Timothy 3:3).
  • You must not be arrogant or quick-tempered (Titus 1:7).
  • Realize you have to give an account to the Chief Shepherd for their souls (Hebrews 13:7,17; 1 Peter 5:4).

As a final thought, why did the sinners come to Jesus and not to the Pharisees? Where did they find mercy and grace? Where did they find men who were only about enforcing the rules? Think about it? Are you a sheriff and a Jonah? Or are you more like Jesus offering mercy and grace? Who do people go to in your congregation for mercy, grace and acceptance?

Distorted Leadership Models – The CEO

This week we are going to focus on distorted leadership models. We got this concept from the book They Smell Like Sheep by Lynn Anderson.

Distorted Leadership Models – The CEO

Instead of leading the church by being in others’ living rooms, he’s making decisions behind close doors in the boardroom.

Do you value the opinions and input of others, or does that threaten you? Do you get defensive and bump out your chest when others question your decisions? Are you the kind of person who sits down with others and reasons why a certain course should be followed? How do you handle it when others try to give their ideas? What is your response/reaction when people don’t like your decisions and plans?

How do you see the decision-making process as an elder? Do you value the input of the congregation and seek it regularly? Have you experienced being in a congregation where many of the Christians wonder what’s going on because they are not let in on the directions and decisions of the elders? I am not trying to say that the elders have to consult the congregation on every single decision, but the congregation should be asked and welcomed regularly to give their input. And when those members give their input, their input should actually be considered and valued.

The apostles modeled this leadership when it came to choosing the 7 men to oversee the care of widows:

“Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. (Acts 6:3-6)

The apostles modeled this leadership again when it came to choosing the men who would be messengers to the churches:

Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers (Acts 15:22).

Here is some wisdom from Peter about being a shepherd leader, not a CEO boss-man.

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
(1 Peter 5:1-4)

Did we see that? Not domineering over those in your charge. You are not the boss, Jesus is. If a man understands that in his life, it will show at home, at work and in the congregation. We have enough bosses in this world, we sure don’t need them in the churches! Jesus had to work on His disciples to understand this concept. James and John thought to be great in Jesus’ kingdom meant that they would get the best seats of authority. Jesus had an entirely different view.

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Mark 10:35-45)

Distorted Leadership Models – The Cowboy

This week we are going to focus on distorted leadership models. We got this concept from the book They Smell Like Sheep by Lynn Anderson.

Distorted Leadership Models – The Cowboy

Cowboys drive cattle – Shepherds lead sheep

No offense meant to western fans and cowboys. What I’m talking about here is the mentality of the “John Wayne” kind of cowboy and the distorted view of a cowboy that is seen on film. Here is a video of a real Texas cowboy who loves his cattle and dearly loves what he does.

What we are dealing with here in this article is the concept of what is seen in a lot of westerns: a hollering, gun-blazing, whip-cracking driver on horseback who scares the death out of the cattle as they run from him. They do what he says, but there is no relationship.

I know from talking to a lot of folks over the years that they have seen this modeled in homes, in churches and at work. A person who is really good at driving an agenda, charging up the hill and commanding the troops. He gets the job done and accomplishes the mission, but fails to see the valuable relationships and tender hearts of those he is leading. You might ask those closest to you to see what kind of leader they view you as. Do they see you as a gentle shepherd or a whip-cracking, hollering cowboy driving cattle? Which type of leader do you want to lead you?

Please contrast that kind of leadership to the shepherding model seen in Scripture. Look at what a shepherd does for the sheep. what kind of relationship a shepherd has with sheep, and how that model keeps getting applied to leadership in the Bible. We cannot cover all these things in today’s short article, so please do your own studying. It wouldn’t hurt to spend some time around sheep. In fact, I know a brother who has served as an elder/shepherd who owns sheep; this brother’s advice is that no man should serve as an elder until he has spent valuable time around sheep. I tend to agree with him.

Here are a few random points about Biblical shepherding:

All of God’s leaders in Scripture are referred to as shepherds – from judges (2 Samuel 7:7) to kings (2 Samuel 5:2; 1 Kings 22:7; Isaiah 44:28) to prophets (Jeremiah 17:16; Zechariah 11:7) to priests (Jeremiah 23:1,11) to New Testament elders (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-4). This analogy was not only common to the people of that time, it is a fitting description of the work and relationship a leader has with his people.

From Genesis to Revelation, God is described as our Shepherd (Genesis 49:24; Psalm 78:70-72; Revelation 7:17). Read Psalm 23 as one fantastic example of what the Lord does for us as our Shepherd.

Sheep need a shepherd. Look at how many times in Scripture the phrase “sheep without a shepherd is used” (2 Chronicles 18:16; Ezekiel 34:5; Zechariah 13:7; Matthew 9:36). Without the shepherd who will guide them to living water and green grass? Without the shepherd, the sheep will wander and get lost. If there is no shepherd they are vulnerable to attack from predators. Again, look through the Scripture to see what a shepherd does for his sheep (knows, builds relationship with his voice, leads, feeds, guides, protects, corrects, comforts, carries, fights and dies for them, etc.).

Gentle shepherds are not wimps. Just because a man is a gentle shepherd does not mean he is weak and spineless. Sadly, our picture of a tough American male is someone like John Wayne. A real man is a cowboy who will just bust into the saloon with either his fists or his six-gun and everyone just does what he says. He doesn’t take any stuff from anyone. We don’t typically think “shepherd” as the model of a tough American male. Remember, men like Moses and David were shepherds, and they were far from wimps and pushovers. If you want to know for sure, just try to attack or steal a shepherd’s sheep. The shepherd has to watch for potential threats and be ready to stand and fight the wolves. He is no wimp.

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
(Matthew 9:35-38)

Distorted Leadership Models – The Hired Hand

This week we are going to focus on distorted leadership models. We got this concept from the book They Smell Like Sheep by Lynn Anderson.

Each day this week we will consider one of the following:

  • Hired hand – Just in it for what he gets out of it (money, power, or praise). This man is not truly invested as a shepherd is in his sheep.
  • Cowboy – The cowboy drives cattle, the shepherd leads sheep. There is a huge difference between a cowboy and a shepherd.
  • CEO – Instead of leading the church by being in others’ living rooms, he’s making decisions behind close doors in the boardroom.
  • Sheriff – Flashing the badge, he’s the rule enforcer.
  • Utility Player – The person who does it all and doesn’t delegate. The person who likes to play all the positions. He may be pretty good at a lot of jobs, but others need to be doing those jobs.

Distorted Leadership Models – The Hired Hand

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
(John 10:11-15)

The hired hand sees the wolf and flees, leaving the sheep without a protector. Why? There is nothing in it for him. He’s just there for a paycheck. He has no vested interest. Unlike the shepherd, he doesn’t know the sheep and he doesn’t have an intimate knowledge of each sheep. The shepherd sees the wolf, stays with the sheep, fights for the sheep and lays down his life for his sheep.

Look around at your congregation. Which men are the ones truly invested in the souls of the congregation? That’s your starting list of candidates for elders/shepherds! Then look to 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 to see if they meet the other qualities. That’s where you start – are these men truly the type that care for souls? Are they the type of men who get in the trenches and get muddy and bloody for the souls of others? Or are they the kind of men that stand aloof or bail when it gets tough?

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.
(Acts 20:28-31)

Do you see Paul in this above passage? Night and day for three years with tears! That’s a man who is not a hired hand. Here we see what Jesus is talking about. Paul made a special effort to meet with these Ephesian elders/shepherds (Acts 20:16-17). He wanted them to be forewarned and alert about what was coming to the flock.

His heart was for these elders to see the flock as he did. The flock of Ephesian souls was purchased by the precious blood of Christ. It is the Holy Spirit that appointed these men as overseers of this local body of believers. This local church had great value to the Chief Shepherd, and as shepherds these men were to have the same heart – the heart of God.

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
(1 Peter 5:1-4)

What is the motive of a shepherd according to Peter?

Not of compulsion – it is to be done willingly. I changed my diet out of compulsion, it wasn’t a joy, it was a drudgery. I’ve had a root canal out of compulsion, I certainly didn’t tap dance into the dentist office! There are many things we do because we are forced to, but serving God’s people shouldn’t be one of them. Look around at your congregation, which men do things out of joy and kindness? I mean, if it is like pulling teeth to get a guy to do something, do you really want him to serve as a shepherd?

Not for shameful gain, but eagerly – It’s not about the money. It can never be about the money. The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil (1 Timothy 6:10), including making a corrupt church leader. A man who really loves the brethren will serve them for free. He does it eagerly, not for a paycheck.

But please let me follow that up with this. An elder can be paid to do this very important work (1 Timothy 5:17). I wish more elders were paid to do this incredibly valuable work. I’ve met a lot of elders who didn’t want to be paid because they were afraid of violating passages like John 10 and 1 Peter 5. They are concerned about becoming hired hands. It is clear that they are not in it for the money, and those are the kind of men we should consider paying to serve as shepherds/elders. A lot of churches have gotten locked into the traditional mindset of paying a local preacher, even a second preacher, and sending money oversees to other preachers, but do not seem to contemplate compensating their shepherds. Read 1 Timothy 5:17 with your congregation, and pray about this with your group.

More to come tomorrow, Lord willing.

Let This Mind Be In You

This week scratched the surface on our growth towards shepherding and I hope it gave you some things to meditate on and pray about.

We are all a work in progress.  Growing up to being qualified to shepherd God’s flock is a lifetime investment and walk with Jesus.  What a blessing to have that opportunity.  To know Jesus and have Him as our example and to examine ourselves against His standard.

In 2012, South Macomb Church of Christ has a theme titled “Let This Mind Be In You” (Philippians 2:5).  The theme examined different mindsets to include Knowing Christ, Humble Service, Purpose, Like-mindedness, Citizenship, Contentment & Rejoicing, and Influence.  The bottom line in all of this was having a mind for loving and saving souls.

Take what we have talked about this week, what you have thought about and consider Jesus talking about Himself in the context of shepherding:

7 Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.  11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10: 7-16)

Shepherds recognize that sheep are easily scattered when there are not shepherds to watch out for them.  We should have a heart for the souls of others that we do not want to do anything that would cause the sheep to be scattered.  Therefore, our actions will have concern to not harm the faith of the sheep.

To move your life toward being a shepherd means you are going to be a leader and make decisions for the good of the flock. You can and will have to do this now…no matter age.

Shepherding is not a passive work but a difficult work.

But your love for the flock and desire for the flock to not be scattered and injured will lead you to want to do this important work even though it is difficult.  Shepherding is not a title.  It is a work and a very important work.  The work you do today is important and taking time to reflect on your life and on your actions through the lens of Jesus bears fruit today and will bear fruit in the future.  Abide in Jesus and your life will come to reflect Him and you will be found qualified when called for service and shepherding of the flock.

If you are interested in hearing sermons from the 2012 Let This Mind Be In You, please visit this site: https://www.southmacombchurchofchrist.org/sermons/online-lessons?title=&y=2012&se=13&sv=0&sp=0

Shepherds Are Not Harsh or Forceful

The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. (Ezekiel 34:4)

The second half of this verse further demonstrates how we should not act if we are living in such a way as to grow up and fulfill the “good work” of shepherding God’s flock.  We have to learn to not deal harshly, angrily, or forcefully with our brethren.  This can be tough in our youth and time and experience is often needed to temper us and show us how to be patient and careful in our words and actions even when we are trying to help.

Harshness, anger, and forcefulness can come out in many ways.  First, it can come out in our words.  We cannot be slanderous or speak derogatory things about our brothers and sisters.  We must be thoughtful and careful with our words as we have said earlier.  We need to ensure we are not speaking in a way that injures, discourages, or inflames others.  Through thoughtful consideration of the situation and God’s word, we can then speak with care and avoid further hindering another.

Harshness, anger, and forcefulness can also come out in our actions or behaviors.  Our actions and behaviors do matter and even when we think that others are not watching, they are.  This is true in the world as we work to live as lights for the gospel’s sake and work to make decisions, take actions, or speak in ways that would not hinder someone coming to Jesus.  This is true with brethren too.  Again, it comes back to knowing them and knowing what actions or behaviors are encouraging versus a distraction or a stumbling block.  It is our responsibility to know that and to act carefully and in a way that builds up and not tears down.

For me, in both cases, my pride can often get me into trouble with words or deeds.  Even if I think I am right and/or I am defending another who is right, if I am not careful, my own feelings become more important than the others’ and I can become divisive and cause more damage to an already tough situation.  I can say that it seems to happen less as I get older, but it is still something I must work on.

Taking the time to put myself in another’s shoes, not projecting my own negative feelings onto another, and carefully deciding how to act and what to say has allowed me to be more understanding and I think more useful for those I am trying to help.

You know what types of situations can get you into trouble.  Take time and think about them.  What kinds of things put you on the defensive?  When do you become intolerant of other’s thoughts or ideas?  What things about you can set others off (i.e. posture, faces, emotions, words, etc.)?

Take some time and be honest with yourself.  It is okay that we are not there yet.  We are working to live a life that prepares us to shepherd.  Be self-aware.  Ask others for their assessment.  Seek out those that you observe handling situations well that you might not…and get their advice.

This is a team sport.  Remember we are body and shepherding is a gift along with a lot of other gifts God has given us to be used for our edification and to build us up in Jesus.  One step forward in improving how we talk and act in a kind and careful way is a step towards growth and preparedness for even greater opportunities in the future.

Shepherds Seek Weak Sheep and Strengthen Them

The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them.  (Ezekiel 34:4)

We continue to consider what types of behaviors we should participate in as men in living a life for Jesus which prepares us for the “good work” of shepherding God’s flock.  In the above verse, we find another thing Israel’s shepherds were doing that was not correct and provides us insight into what right things we should be doing.  These shepherds did not seek out the weak and they did not take action for those needing help.

As followers of Jesus, we must build relationships with our brothers and sisters so that we know them and we know when they are struggling.  It is not enough, however, to just see it or to know it.  If we are going to grow up and be qualified to shepherd, we have to notice those that are struggling and we have to make it our responsibility to do something.  Provide a comforting word, take time and pray with them, encourage them for the good they are doing, go to the shepherds (or a more experienced man or woman if appropriate) and get guidance or ask for help.

We have to prepare ourselves to find ways to strengthen the weak.  We will have to find ways to help heal the sick, bind up the injured or bring back the lost.  Again, it doesn’t mean we have to go it alone.  It means we are aware and willing to be involved for the benefit of our Christian family.

There is nothing passive about God’s shepherds.  Therefore, if we are to grow up right, we cannot be passive either.  We need to train our heart and our mind to be proactive and work to help everyone we notice who is slipping or straying.  We might not always know the right thing to do, but we can know that something needs to be done and find help to act. We must be active members of the flock.

It is a common mistake to sit back and expect that someone else will notice or someone else will take action.  It is a mistake to only look out for those brothers or sisters you feel most comfortable with.  We have to be involved and active.  God expects it of us as part of the body and especially God will expect demonstrated proactive behavior over time if we are going to be qualified to shepherd.

We cannot be empathetic.  We cannot be lazy.  We cannot make excuses.  We are more than conquers in Jesus Christ so we can and must do something that will help another if we see the need.

Remember though, be thoughtful.  Thoughtful in how you speak and act.  Don’t be a hindrance.  Be sure you are making the situation better.  Remember God has the power and ability, we are an instrument so be prayerful.  Seek God’s strength and His power in all of this and you will be able to act confidently.  If we seek Christ, then we will act in ways that help and not hurt others.

Take some time and think about opportunities you have taken and ones you might have let slip by.  Think of those you might need to get to know better so that you can be an active participant in their walk.  Take time and pray about this and seek God’s wisdom and involvement in your growth as an active participant in His family.  Don’t try to do it all…crawl, walk, run.  But move forward and make this an important part of your life as your grow and serve.

Shepherds Feed Sheep, Not Themselves Alone

 

We will continue our discussion about shepherding and the importance of knowing what it means to shepherd God’s flock, understand what we can be doing as we mature in the faith to be prepared for this role, and work with each other help each other grow towards this “good work”.

Yesterday I referenced 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 as where we can go in God’s word to see what His qualifications are for shepherds (and deacons). In my mind, we can take these qualifications and work them backwards to determine what we should be doing throughout our lives so that we will be qualified when called. That said, we can also look at God’s word and find out what NOT to do and learn the same important lessons. That is what we will do starting in the beginning of Ezekiel 34. We are only going to look at the first few verses this week and will find God’s rebuke of the shepherds of Israel. But you can (and should) read the entire chapter and will find God talking about how He will shepherd and what we find there looks just like Jesus’ words in John 10 when He talks about being the Good Shepherd.

In Ezekiel 34:2-3, we read: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3 You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock.

God gives us visual language so that we can understand but what God is talking about is a spiritual matter. God’s shepherds must be concerned with the maturity and spirituality of others. Though we can get caught up in the material things of this world in such a way that we do not take care of the more important spiritual matters, the soul of a person is what matters in the end. As men, we have to ensure we are in fellowship with God and our own soul is being strengthened. This will allow us to strengthen others to the point we can make it our mission to love, feed, and nourish the souls of others as we grow and mature in the faith.

So what can we do if we aren’t shepherds but a member of the flock? Good grief, tons! But today I will just give you a couple things to think and pray about in your own walk and things we can be looking out for in encouraging and helping other brothers and young men.

First, build relationships with others in the flock. Really get to know others. Make that important to you and position yourself to have a spiritual impact in another’s life. You can do this by ensuring you are present when the flock meets or making it a point to get together with others in different settings. The bottom line is to get together and make it your job to do the inviting and always try to say yes when invited.

Second, speak and speak God’s word. Participate in bible discussions, be thoughtful, share your thoughts, demonstrate your heart. This will edify others and will also provide opportunity to grow as you might need another’s guidance or help but how will they know if you don’t have a relationship or trust and/or you don’t speak. Be thoughtful, be about God’s word, be about edifying others and using your words not to defend your position but to build up another and make them feel safe.

God says of His shepherds: And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. (Jeremiah 3:15)

Make it your mission to learn God’s word, build relationships so you know what is really going on in other’s lives, consider God’s word in the context of your relationship and speak His word into other’s lives for their edification through knowledge and understanding and God’s love demonstrated.