Before D. L. Moody became the greatest evangelist of the 19th Century, he ran a storefront Sunday School to reach some of the street kids of Chicago. The story is told of one tough little guy who was seen on Sunday after Sunday, trudging by on his way to that Sunday School. He lived a long way from his destination. Well, on one brutally cold and snowy Chicago day, one man saw the boy walking into the wind, stubbornly making his usual Sunday morning journey to Moody’s Sunday School. He asked the boy why he would make that effort every Sunday, even on a day when no one else was out, especially when he passed by a lot of churches that were a lot closer to his home. The boy’s explanation was pretty clear and pretty simple, “I go there Mister, because they really make a fellow feel loved there.”
I’m Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about “A Leader’s Real Assignment.”
The first portrait of Jesus I can ever remember seeing as a child was one that portrays Him as the Good Shepherd, with His sheep following Him closely and this one little lamb cuddled in His arms. Interestingly enough, now that I’m in Christian leadership, I realize that picture is also what I’m supposed to be about. And you, too, if God has entrusted you with any kind of influence or direction in people’s lives. Your template is supposed to be that of a shepherd of whom people say, “He or she sure makes a person feel loved.”
Listen to 1 Peter 5, beginning with verse 2. It’s our word for today from the Word of God, and it’s a picture of leadership worth planting deeply in your heart. Writing to those in leadership God says, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers…” OK, quick timeout here! Notice whose sheep your people are – your children are. They’re God’s, they’re not yours. Don’t ever start acting like they’re yours. And notice, too, that they are given to you to be under your care, not under your thumb.
Peter goes on: “Not because you must, but because you are willing…not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” OK, what’s the Biblical picture of being a leader? Right, shepherding. Leading the sheep, not lording it over them. Loving the sheep, not using them for your own ends. Modeling more than demanding.
So if you’re a shepherd, what should you be doing? Well, a shepherd always leads the sheep to what they need. If you’ve been entrusted with people to lead, it’s your job to gently direct them to what they need emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally, and to know when they need encouraging, and when they need correcting, and when they just need loving. Christian leadership is all about you meeting their needs, not them meeting yours.
Shepherding also means keeping your sheep from wandering – establishing clear boundaries and pulling them back at the first sign of wandering. Being a shepherd also means protecting your sheep from the enemy. A few verses later in this passage, Peter talks about resisting the roaring lion who’s looking for someone to devour. It is the Christian leader’s job to keep his eyes open for where Satan might get in and then to defend his flock from the stalking of the lion.
And Jesus taught us one other thing the “good shepherd” does. He said, “He calls His own sheep by name” (John 10:3). I love that! In other words, if you’re a good shepherd, you will give each of His sheep individual attention, the kind that street kid in Chicago must have felt at D. L. Moody’s Sunday School. Make each one feel like the most important person in the world when they’re with you. There’s nobody else for you right now, than them. Don’t treat them just like another nameless face in the flock.
Jesus was a shepherd, and now He’s called you to be one, trusting you with some of the sheep that He died for. Your children, your grandchildren, your church, your Bible study, or your Sunday school class. All those people under your leadership. Is leadership worth the price you pay? Is it worth the sacrifices you make? Listen to the bottom line in 1 Peter 5:4, “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory, that will never fade away.”