One of my favorite book titles is They Smell Like Sheep, by Lynn Anderson. Since shepherds spend a lot of up close and personal time with sheep, they can’t help but smell like them after a day’s work. Church leaders are to be “shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care…” (I Peter 5:2-4) I guess that means if we are serious about following God’s pattern for leading his people, one of a shepherd, we will begin to “smell” like the people we lead.
We just got through an election day here in the U.S. I didn’t hear any political ads where a candidate promised to “lead like a shepherd!” I think shepherd-like leading stands in pretty stark contrast to the ways of the world. Jesus described a shepherd leader in John 10 as one who spends enough time with sheep in order to know them personally, who goes ahead of the sheep in order to lead them, who cares to the point of sacrifice, and one who has an intimate relationship with God.
Small Group leaders are shepherds of God’s flock. We have the privilege of serving as under-shepherds of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Only by paying attention to our own relationship with Him will we develop a heart of a shepherd leader. It means we take seriously the spiritual habits that form our spiritual lives. It means we spend time with Him. Out of our shepherd’s heart we will begin to intersect our lives with the lives of those we’re leading even when it’s messy and dirty. Only then will we begin to smell like the sheep we lead. And what’s the ultimate reason for this? It’s so that others can more clearly hear the voice of the Great Shepherd and know Him more deeply.