Leaders are shepherds, not cowboys. Shepherds lead the flocks by going before them and calling them, but cowboys drive them from behind by shouting orders. Israel's leaders failed to shepherd the people. Instead of leading to green pastures where the sheep would be fed and refreshed, Israel's shepherds were busy feeding themselves: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock" (34:2-3). Shepherd-leaders focus on leading the flock to green pastures, so they may be fed and satisfied. Leadership is not about feeding our ego and our pride. When we are focused on helping the sheep becomes healthy and strong, we don't care how "big" our church is, but we care how healthy and strong our people are becoming.
Jesus only had twelve disciples for three and half years. In terms of number, he must be considered a dismay failure - a church of only twelve people after three years? Jesus was the shepherd-leader par excellence: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:11). Even though he had only twelve disciples to show after three years of intense ministry, nevertheless, it was through the twelve disciples that thousands later came to Christ. As shepherd-leader, our focus is on developing our people to become multiplying disciples of Christ - true "fishers of men."
Whether we are shepherd-leaders or sheep-followers, our focus should not be on man but always be on Christ our Good Shepherd. David, even though he himself was a shepherd-leader of Israel, nevertheless declares in Psalm 23:1 that "the Lord is my shepherd." But in order for us to be shepherded and guided by the Lord our Good Shepherd, we must learn to hear His voice and obeys when He calls. Jesus says in John 10:27, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." The ability to hear the Shepherd's voice and follow Him is the key to His protection and presence. If we want to be kept safe from harms, we must cultivate a sensitivity to His voice. And Jesus speaks to us through His Spirit in a voice behind us, saying, "This is the way; walk in it" (Isaiah 30:21).
Over-reliance on human shepherds is no good because like Israel's shepherds, they can fail us. But if we train ourselves to listen to the Lord who is our Good Shepherd, we will never be led astray and be hounded by wolves in sheep's clothing. "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Be wary of people who says, "Thus says Preacher So & So" but instead listen to disciples who say, "Thus says the Lord". We have the Spirit and the Scriptures--why not learn to hear the Good Shepherd's voice--it will keep us away from strange voices.
Father, help us develop an ear to hear Your voice, so that when You call, we may obey. Amen.