Volume 15, Number 5 – MAY, 2021
Greetings. Over the next months we are going to talk about what it takes to be a quality leader of the group(s) of people God has given you responsibility over. I was challenged when I recently read a book titled, “The Way of the Shepherd”, by Kevin Leman and Bill Pentak. My hope is you will be encouraged and challenged as we discuss characteristics of the Good Shepherd. Mike
THE CONDITION OF THE FLOCK
Jesus offers us numerous principles to follow when shepherding others. Some of us will be more accomplished than others in shepherding depending on our personality, spiritual gift mix and the humility of our heart. Read John 10:2-5 to consider the first principle. “The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”
Principle number one is to know the condition of your sheep (the people you have responsibility over). Personally, get to know them. You have to consistently work at it and that takes time. Obviously, some people you will know better than others. Certain personalities click better than others. There will be common interests and life situations that bring people closer to each other than to others. Regardless, we need to work to get to know our “flock”.
Jesus shared in John 10 that the sheep know the shepherd’s voice. They listen for that voice and know when a stranger calls out to them that it is not their caring shepherd’s voice. The shepherd knows their name. You get the idea that the shepherd has named each of the sheep. The understanding I get is the shepherd is intentionally building a relationship with each sheep which takes time and a direct dialogue with each one. It is real, intimate and sincere.
Do I take the time to get to know each person I have responsibility for? Am I developing my relationship with each family member to a greater degree than the church or work people I have influence over? If you have people not willing to follow you as you lead, what are the issues? Is it that some people refuse to follow, which is reality in some cases, or is it the people do not know me? Do I not show that I care for them, that their lives matter to me?
Jesus shared in John 10:14, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” Do we know the condition of our flock, those being influenced by me (or you)? As I build a relationship with the people, they will see I care as my integrity grows with them, Then they will trust me more and more, as long as I do not cause them to mistrust me or cause unnecessary pain in their lives.
Confidence grows as the trust build so when you lead or call them to follow, they will be right there with you, because they know that your goal is to encourage and minister to them more so than to have them accomplish your or my agenda. Manipulating people will quickly destroy trust.
Matthew 9:35-38 still daily challenges me. Jesus was out among the people, doing ministry and in verse 36, we are told he saw or “bleppo-ed” the crowds. He saw what God was seeing and then Jesus had compassion on the people, seeing them harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Do I see people as God sees them? Am I willing to bleppo and let Jesus guide me on how to minister?
People are our greatest resource. It is not money, buildings, titles, or education. It is people. Empower people to help them become who God designed and created them to be. Each person is important, just as important as the next person. Discover their skills, interests, goals, dreams, needs, and passion. Get into their lives and keep your eyes and ears open to what Jesus is doing in their lives. That is knowing the condition of your “flock”. Be a quality shepherd.
As has been discussed in the last couple of months, why pursue excellence or arete’? First of all because as Christians, we have be charged with bringing glory to God (1 Corinthians 10:31) and Christians’ lives are to be worship to Him (Romans 12:1).
Also, it is very easy to be mediocre and slide through life. To make a difference to, to be the best you can be, to look back at your life and say you lived it to the fullest, there needs to be an attitude of excellence. We were created to be impactors in the lives of others because we are built for relationships. To be a positive impactor, we need to be pursuing excellence. There are too many people who waste their lives.
Thus, the question is how do we develop excellence in our lives. Excellence is an attitude, something that has to come from within us and be shown in the way we live our lives. Here are some helps to pursue excellence.
First, it is a choice. It does not happen by accident. Each time you do something, you have the choice to get by with good enough or do what you are doing to the best of your ability. Even if you do not feel like it, you do to the best of your ability. In other words you have to be intentional (Proverbs 10:4, 12:24). Pursing excellence does not happen by accident. You have to be committed to doing your best no matter the cost. This is where developing the attitude that I will do my best no matter what it will cost me in time, money, leisure and physical or mental exertion comes into play. Arete’ is hard work!
Second, you will not always do thing perfectly the first time, nor the second, nor probably the third time. Develop the viewpoint that each time you attempt something, you will learn from that opportunity, even if there is pain involved (Proverbs 11:2, 12:1, James 1:2-4). You will be determined that when things get tough, you stay focused and keep developing and pursuing the best. We will all make mistakes, get knocked down and get “bruised”. Will you get up and learn from your mistakes to become the best you can be, is the question? You only become a failure when you quit.
Allowing yourself to become accountable helps here. This means you are willing to receive constructive criticism. Listen to what others who can offer you truth to make you better. Truth may sting a bit but you will be better as you go along.
Third, do not suffer from the disease of “excusitis”. Do this by counting the cost as best you can of what you are going to do, trying to have an idea of what you are getting into (Luke 14:25-33). It is easy to make excuses when we come up short in what we are doing. It is difficult to be mature and take responsibility for the outcome, not making up excuses but rather, determining in your heart that you will do better the next time because you have learned something(s) from what you just did.
Recall Moses in Exodus 3:1-4:17 where he gave numerous excuses why he did not want to do what God wanted him to do. The excuses came down to the simple fact that Moses did not want to be obedient to God’s leading for him. Excuses reveal the motivation in our hearts. “You will find that the more successful the individual, the less inclined he is to make excuses. But the fellow who has gone nowhere and has no plans for getting anywhere always has a book full of reasons to explain why.” (John Maxwell)
Fourth, keep developing and becoming more accomplished in what you are doing. We are guided in Romans 12:2 to keep renewing our minds, to think more and more like Jesus. It is a process as it is not instantaneous when we become Christians. The Bible is a double edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), as the Word of God keeps doing surgery in our hearts to continually mold and shape us to become who we need to be (2 Timothy 3:16-17). “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15). Keep pursuing excellence to be the best child of God you can become.
That is having the attitude of continually developing yourself in all areas of your life. Pick an area of your life right now that you want to work on – a characteristic like honest, trusting, friendly, whatever, or you want to do better in school in a certain subject, or need to have a better relationship with someone, or need to develop a job skill.
Make an action goal specific, measurable, attainable, relevant to your life and time-oriented. Here is an example – I am going to tell the truth (regarding a certain situation you have a hard time telling the truth) each time the subject (like of how I talk about a friend) comes up in the next three days and I will have my special friend (name), ask me each day how I did (that means I need to tell my special friend who I have a hard time lying to, to hold me accountable). Try something like that to grow and develop in your life to pursue arete’.