Jump Start # 2319
John 10:3 “To him the doorkeeper opens; and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out.”
Our verse taken from the good shepherd description of Jesus teaches us about leadership. Leadership is so important and leadership is sprinkled throughout our lives. The president leads our country. Coaches lead their teams. Teachers lead students. In the home, parents lead the children. In the church, elders or shepherds lead the congregation.
Some people are wired to be natural leaders. They are the take charge kind of people who understand what needs to be done. They have a natural vision about them. Others learn leadership. John Maxwell has built an empire on his leadership books and seminars. Some who are in the position of leadership are not leaders. We see this in the lives of many parents. Screaming, threatening, having meltdowns doesn’t lead to positive behavior. There are some bosses that are just bad bosses. They may understand how to make a product, but they do not understand how to lead people. There have been politicians that were terrible leaders. They took advantage of the people that trusted them, embezzled money to their own advantages and ignored the people that put them in office. Selfish and unconcerned are the very characteristics that destroy positive leadership. And, very sadly and tragically, there have been churches that put non-leaders in leadership roles. These men may be very capable of paying bills on time, making decisions about adding on to the church building, but what they lack is the qualities to lead people closer to the Lord. They don’t know how to do that and the church suffers.
Inherent in the concept of leading, is following. That’s what the context of John ten brings out. The good shepherd, Jesus, knows His sheep. He knows them by name. He calls them. He goes before them. And the sheep, recognize the good shepherd, trust the good shepherd and are willing to follow the good shepherd. What’s not found here, is the shepherd using pressure, guilt and fear to get people to follow him.
The thought behind these verses, borrowed from real shepherds in Judea, is that a shepherd would walk through the gates, calling his flock by name and his sheep would follow him out of the gates. The other sheep would remain. They don’t know the voice that is speaking. This describes a relationship that has been built through time. The shepherd knows the names of the sheep. The shepherd has spoken to the sheep many times. And, now, when it’s time to leave the pens and head out to the fields, the sheep follow, because they know that voice going before them.
From this a few thoughts:
First, we must recognize the voice of God. These days God does not speak directly to us. Few understand that. The common thought is that God still speaks to people, like He did to Moses or Abraham. The Scriptures teach us that in the last days, these days, God speaks through Jesus. For God to tell you something directly and personally, and He doesn’t tell me, makes God favor you over me. It makes following God confusing and defining righteousness an impossible task. How can we stand united with one mind and one voice as the New Testament teaches, if you are going left and I’m going right as a result of what God has told us personally? What’s God’s message? For you it may be this and for me it may be something different. Now, many folks equate their feelings as the same thing as God telling them things. So, someone says, “I really feel that God wants me to do this,” when truth be said, this is what they want and how they feel. They think if they feel a certain way, that’s God leading them. God’s message is never fuzzy and hard to figure out. It’s clear. God speaks through the words of the Bible. Words that have definitions. Words that can be translated. Words can be understood. Feelings are different for all of us. I could say, “You know how you feel on a dark rainy day…” Some would think, I love those days. Wrap yourself in a blanket, grab a book and have some quiet time. Others would say, “Oh, I know what you mean. I hate those dark rainy days.” We don’t feel the same.
How do we recognize the voice of our shepherd? We read the Bible. We put things together. And we start seeing, and understanding that God wants me to be holy and righteous. Those things do not fit together with a guy who is cheating on his marriage. Maybe he’s miserable. Maybe he’s told himself, “God wants me to be happy. And, I’m certainly never going to be happy married to the one that I am now. So, I’ll find my happiness elsewhere.” He’s not listening to the Shepherd. The shepherd never tells us to seek happiness, even if you have to violate Scriptures to accomplish that. He’s listening to Satan, and not to Christ.
Second, we learn from the Good Shepherd that we need to spend time and build trust with those we are leading. There is a relationship implied here. Voices are recognized. Trust is understood. Without those foundations, the leader must push, drive, scream, shout and force people to do things. The image of the Good Shepherd isn’t one of a drill sergeant chewing out a new recruit. We find love, care, and tenderness.
How do we move people to the next level? How do you get your kids from having to do things because you told them, to getting them to want to do things because they see what needs to be done? How do you get people off the sidelines spiritually and engaged in the work of the kingdom? Leadership—Jesus’ style of leadership.
The leader is before the sheep. That is example. The leader calls them. That’s teaching. The leader knows their name. That’s relationship. And, with those building blocks, parents and elders can lead those in their charge to a greater and better relationship with the Lord.
Forcing people usually fails. People don’t like to be pushed into things. They will generally resist. This method most often backfires. Rather than getting people where you want them to be, they will mutiny. They will rebel in the home and in the church they will leave.
The shepherd is good because of the way he leads. Give this some thought for our homes and our congregations.