Shepherds or Leaders?


Not long ago I heard someone say that Jesus was often called the Good Shepherd, but never was called the Good Leader.

Of course, Jesus didn’t shy away from leadership. He understood and made it clear that He was Master and Lord. Even so, He very often called Himself a Shepherd.

And He calls those who serve His church shepherds, too.

Yes there is a gift of leadership, and it was strongly exercised by New Testament elders, but the term shepherd—not leader–keeps appearing as the primary metaphor for those who would oversee the church. In fact, the word pastor and the word shepherd are synonymous.

So why do we try to make so many leaders, and forget about developing pastor-shepherds? Much current material that exists regarding pastoral development these days is focused on being a leader. Books are written; classes are taught; seminars are developed; a whole industry is shaped around making Christians better leaders.

I’m all for better leaders and I think an important part of shepherding is learning to lead, but I’d love to see us focus on developing overseers with the hearts of shepherds, not just the skills of leaders.

The true reflection of the character of Christ as the Good Shepherd is the heart to serve others, to care for others, and to lay our life down for others. All shepherds will lead; not all leaders will also be shepherds!

Maybe we should shape more shepherds and then teach leadership as one of the skills that shepherds need to manifest, and stop only trying to develop leaders for the Body of Christ!