I think one of the temptations in church leadership is to forget our DNA. We can forget we are 100% human being. I think this is because we open the pages of The Authority every week and teach from it. Over time, we can get confused and think that our thoughts about The Authority are the authority, but they are not.
Too many leaders believe they are exempt from “sheep status” and act as if they are a shepherd. I have attended too many church leader conferences where the conference speaker talks in a derogatory way about “the sheep,” meaning “the people in our churches.” Its a cheap hit that gets an easy laugh from the fellow church leader attendees. But wait, aren’t we sheep too?
Yes, some people can be frustrating and difficult. They can be amazing too. I would like to hear more church leaders share stories of what they have learned about God from the people they are leading in their church. I have dozens, if not hundreds of examples of lessons and inspiration I have drawn from my fellow sheep.
When it comes to preaching, Jesus is the Good Shepherd, we are his sheep. Our job is to hear the shepherd’s voice. If you want to get technical, we sometimes inhabit the role of under shepherd or perhaps even sheepdog (!!) But even when we do, we are still very, very sheepesque.
We are fully human like the people we preach to. Our DNA never changes due to theological training, preaching, leadership experience and spending time each week studying and listening to God. Am I better at listening to God’s voice than other sheep? Maybe, maybe not. I know that I am paid to spend time listening to it on behalf of my fellow sheep, but I am not the shepherd.
Of course, the Bible clearly teaches that leaders are overseers and shepherds responsible for the well being of our flock. I have no intention of claiming otherwise, but this command is one of function not of DNA. We function as a shepherd in our protection and care of people, but we are still sheep through and through.
We suffer the same foibles and sins as our people and we ought to posture our message as one most in need of hearing it. We never gradate to be above the people we preach toward. Our preaching posture is that of “fellow sheep” not that of “shepherd teaching the sheep.”