Feeding and Leading the Church

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As I prepare to move and begin ministry in a new place, I am reading much on leadership, pastoral ministry, and the intersection of the two. I love to read and get advice from people who have navigated the rough seas of leadership and pastoral ministry! Each of them learned from those who came before them, from their own mistakes, and from learning to listen to God. I find it refreshing to listen to their thoughts that have been formed on the anvil of real ministry.

One book I just picked up from my shelves is from the Pressure Points series entitled, Who's in Charge? Standing Up to Leadership Pressures co-written my Leith Anderson, Jack Hayford, and Ben Patterson. It is an old book, but what really changes in terms of leadership? Leadership is always contextualized, but also based upon timely principles. I wanted to share one of the timeless principles in today's post.

Jack Hayford writes about leadership from the biblical perspective of a shepherd and sheep. Taking his cue from Jesus, he affirms that pastors must lead like a shepherd. What does this mean? A shepherd feeds, protects, and cares for his sheep. If he does not do these basic tasks, he is a bad shepherd, a mere hired hand, and he is harmful to the sheep.

Yet, a good shepherd and pastor knows how properly to lead his sheep to good feed. Notice this insightful passage on the balance of leading and feeding the flock:

When a pastor primarily feeds, people enjoy the church but lack a corporate sense of destiny. They graze comfortably in the valley and never climb to new heights. The church has a warm fuzzy feeling, and people enjoy the inspiration and fellowship, but they're not trying to achieve anything. Sheep don't want to climb mountains. They're happy as long as they have a patch of grass.

If a pastor emphasizes leading, on the other hand, he or she may drive the sheep into the ground, pushing them up the mountain without allowing them to stop and eat. If the flock makes it to the top, they're dizzy with weariness, and the burnout quotient increases.

I want to be the warm and gentle pastor who comforts and the visionary leader who challenges. I've found, although difficult at times, it's possible to do both. (Jack Hayford, "How to Lead and Feed," found in Who's in Charge? Standing Up to Leadership Pressures, 28.)

Who is equal to such a task? No one but those called to it. Why are we competent? Because the Lord instructs us, equips us, and changes us to we can lead and feed! He uses our mistakes, the success and failures of others, and all of life to change us so we can be good shepherds. As Paul says,

"Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."

2 Corinthians 3: 4-6

Posted in: Pastors; Blog Photo courtesy of Jeromy Johnson - http://www.flickr.com/photos/19188303@N02/4801131166/in/photostream/ Image: See Credit

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