A few weeks ago, our interim pastor (Elliot Linhoss – fantastic man of God) preached a sermon designed to prepare the church for the arrival of the next pastor. He shared principles for being good sheep and the principles our new pastor, Kylan Mann, would hold to as the church’s new shepherd (under God’s direction, of course). The entire sermon was fascinating, but one point mentioned off-handedly by Elliot really caught my attention:
In the Middle East, shepherds lead their sheep.
In Europe and the U.S., shepherds push their sheep in the desired direction.
I’ll admit, I missed the next few minutes of the sermon in order to contemplate the different approaches. As the leader of a management firm and PR firm, I’m always seeking wisdom concerning leadership. The responsibility to keep things under God’s direction, to chart the proper course, to equip and enable a team, to achieve results in the right manner – these things rarely leave my mind. Fascination flew through me. As the shepherd of Glass Road and the co-shepherd of Reclaim and Reload, do I push or do I inspire others to follow?
I tuned back in when Elliot shared that shepherds must first love the sheep. When sheep are loved, they follow the one who loves them. They know who will take care of them, who they can trust to keep them safe and fed. In the Middle East, shepherds have a relationship with their sheep borne of continual presence. The sheep know it’s in their best interests to follow the shepherd because they’ll be taken care of.
These thoughts still swirled in the mental tornado when I ran across this passage last week: “Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”
The passage is in I Samuel 14:7 and takes place when Jonathan has the idea to go take on the Philistines who are camped nearby, since he’s certain God can give him victory if God but wills it. The situation is impossible through earthly eyes. Giant guys fully equipped with the finest weapons of the day. Jonathan and his armor-bearer holding crude weapons made from farming implements since the Philistines hadn’t let a blacksmith make an Israelite weapon in an Israelite camp. That armor-bearer could have logically told Jonathan he was nuts.
But he didn’t. He’d watched Jonathan, been by Jonathan’s side through countless fights, and witnessed God’s direct presence in Jonathan’s life, heart, mind, and soul. Jonathan didn’t have to push this sheep up the crevice to the Philistines. He led and the sheep followed. God gave them victory that day.
The armor-bearer’s blind devotion birthed hunger in me. How incredible to be under a leader you do not have to question! To place complete, unhesitating trust in a leader because you know he/she is looking to God for direction! We have that in God, the same way Jonathan did.
Which, of course, led me to wonder: do I lead like a Middle Eastern shepherd or like an American shepherd? Do I lead like Jonathan? If I turned to my “troops” and gave them an outlandish directive (like, oh, climb a crevice and take on an enemy who outnumbers us and is better equipped than us—yeah, Hollywood and the old way of publishing, I’m talkin’ about you), would they follow?
Stick around. We’ll find out together.