Shepherd or Sheepdog? Leadership Matters!

Dr. Donna HartFor Those Giving Help1 Comment

We have been talking this week about how to deal with disappointment in church leadership, when and how to leave a church, and how to find a church where you can grow in your walk with God.  The reality is that church culture is often determined by how the leaders views themselves.  Do they mimic Christ in the way they act towards the sheep?  If you do leave your church, search for one that has a pastor with the reputation of a shepherd.   You won’t regret that decision.  Donna Hart recently explained the difference that Christ-like shepherding makes.

When we are counseling or providing Christian leadership, the emphasis can be on getting others to do what we want them to do. But managing people in manipulative ways is not the same thing as leading them.

Consider the sheepdog.

The job of a sheepdog is to forcibly scare by barking and maneuvering the sheep to get sheep to go in a desired direction. In contrast, a biblical shepherd calls his sheep by name and calmly leads the sheep along the path.  A sheepdog and a biblical shepherd are two distinctly different pictures of how leaders can function in their role.

So Which Are You?

It is crucial for us to ask which role we are fulfilling. When we lead like shepherds, our confidence and foundation for leadership and counseling is in only one person, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Great Shepherd. The Word of the Great Shepherd must come through us as we lead and counsel (John 10:1-16).

And as we lead we do not want them to follow “another” even if that “another” is us. We want them to follow the Good Shepherd because they know His voice.

A Shepherd Counsels Wisely

This truth gives us wisdom as we counsel because we know that every plant the Lord plants will never be uprooted (Matthew 15:13). Then we can counsel with confidence knowing,

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out (John 6:37).

A Shepherd Counsels Humbly

If we are leading and counseling, as the Good Shepherd teaches us, we will never lead in pride of our strength trying to force things to go the way we want. Rather, we will lead as 1 Peter 4:11 instructs, “whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies-in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”

We can minister Christ only as we teach what He taught in the same way He taught it. If we have the spirit of Christ the people who follow us will have a correct and formative model of how they should respond to God and communicate with Him.

In your counsel and leadership have you been a sheepdog or a shepherd? The most effective method of leadership and counsel is not to just preach the gospel but to live it. The people we lead don’t want to just listen to us they want to see the Gospel in action. How is the Gospel active in your life and leadership?

Finding a Church Family led by a Shepherd

If you are looking for a new church home, look for a church that is led by a shepherd!  Find out if the leadership genuinely cares about the sheep or whether they care mostly about the number of sheep.

  1. Healthy shepherds can give a straight answer without spin, deceit or well-crafted PR statements.
  2. Healthy shepherds motivate people by love, not anger, fear or shame.
  3. Healthy shepherds develop leaders which results in consistent staff roles and lay leadership over time.
  4. Healthy shepherds care more about protecting the sheep, and less about the organization/personal reputation.

It may take some time to find out the culture of a church you are newly trying out, but your goal should be to experience leadership from a shepherd who is healthy.  Healthy leadership is not about size, coffee strength or impressive program and facilities, it’s about love.  Does your shepherd truly love the sheep and demonstrate that in their interactions with staff, attenders and visitors alike?

Tomorrow, we will have a post laying out a process of discernment for those seeking God’s will about a new church home.  Make sure to check it out.


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One Comment on “Shepherd or Sheepdog? Leadership Matters!”

  1. I respectfully disagree with your portrayal of sheepdog leadership. I do, concur in that Christ is ultimately the shepherd, and church leaders are supposed to tend the flock like as close to the shepherd as possible. The sheepdog is, however, another matter all together. It keeps the wolf away from the sheep by any means necessary. The sheepdog does not need to love or even know the sheep to carry out its duty, even if it means death. Members of the military, particularly elite forces tend to identify with this relationship and proudly consider themselves among the “sheepdog “ class. Again I mean now disrespect and I assume you likely never considered this when writing your article. I just felt a need to respond. May God bless you always.

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