It was a Kodak moment. Bill’s silver hair and frail figure evidenced his nearly 80 years, but his face glowed with obvious affection for Mike. Mike, 20-something, tough, athletic—and months into a recovery program—stood beside Bill in the baptistery. As Bill spoke soft, clear words, Mike nodded slightly. The whole congregation could feel the special bond between the two men.
Age and huge social differences could have stood between them. Bill was a retired CEO. Mike, a product of the streets. But Bill had been doing what God called shepherds to do. Rather than merely sitting on a church board, managing an institution, and calling shots, he had been in the pasture with the sheep. At breakfasts together, they shared father-son communication like Mike had never known with his birth father. During those conversations, Mike had taken recovery’s fifth step: “Admit to God and one other person the exact nature of your wrongs.”
Quiet hours over open Bibles in soul-deep, life-shaping discussion built a bridge from Bill’s heart to Mike’s, and Jesus walked across it. Mike says he wants to be like Bill. Over time, Mike had been loved to Jesus—and into Bill’s flock.
Bill and Mike dramatically illustrate two key principles.
First, the dominant biblical metaphor for spiritual leadership is that of shepherd and flock. Stated another way: A spiritual leader is the kind of person that God-hungry people want to be like.
Second, this style of leadership connects powerfully in these postmodern times. Young persons today are persuaded most effectively through genuine relationships, in authentic community, with persons of real integrity. Postmodern people give little credence to yesterday’s “authority figures” but hungrily seek today’s “wisdom figures.” Oh yes, Jesus’ way of doing things is the most effective ministry strategy in our postmodern world.
Remember, the dominant biblical metaphor for spiritual leadership is relational—shepherd and flock. It is never “manager” or “administrator.”
- God is our Shepherd (Psalm 23).
- Later, the human leaders of God’s people—the prophets, priests, and kings of Old Testament times—are shepherds of the flock (Ps 78; Ezek 34).
- Then comes Jesus, the good shepherd (John 10).
- Finally, the human leaders of God’s people in New Testament times are called shepherds of the flock. First the apostles (John 21:15-19), and later the elders of the church (Acts 20:28-31; 1 Pet 5:3-5). Shepherds of the flock!
So fellow Shepherds of God’s people, here is our choice: “You must decide whether or not you will design your life after the pattern of Jesus or design your life around the best thinking the world has to offer” (Dr. Gene Wilkes).