“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which he purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28, NASV).

The leadership style of shepherding is an ancient emphasis on godly leadership among God’s people. God wants His people to be led by those whose focus is on God, not controlled by those who are focused on human priorities or human agendas.

This leadership style always was God’s leadership style. In 1 Samuel 8 when Israel wanted a king, their desire was (a) for the wrong motives and (b) a distinct change in leadership styles. God never tolerated leadership over His people by evil men. The key solution to Samuel’s sons being evil (verse 3) was national repentance, not a change in leadership styles. God led. Humans dictated.

After God explained that kings were (a) expensive and (b) easily corrupted, Israel still insisted that the answer to their problems was a king—he would make them like other nations, he would judge them, and he would choose their battles and lead them into battle [they would become aggressors, not victims].

Their solution became their disaster. King Saul became blinded by dedication to his own power. His fears and insecurities determined his policies. King Solomon was blinded by his building programs and foreign wives. He lost sight of the needs of God’s people. Rehoboam committed to Solomon’s leadership style, not the needs of God’s people. The result: in only 120 years, Israel permanently divided.

The only exception was King David [not our choice because he committed adultery and murder]. When Israel came to David in Hebron (2 Samuel 5), they asked him to be their king. King Saul was consumed with himself. They wanted a change in leadership style. They wanted a shepherd. Before David was pursued by King Saul, they said Saul was king, but David was their shepherd. They considered David’s leadership style a mandate from God (1 Samuel 5:2). The fact that God’s style of leadership over Israel was that of a shepherd is inferred in 1 Samuel 7:7.

The emphasis on elders leading in the style of shepherds was [is] ancient, not new.

God has tremendous interest in people. Good shepherds have tremendous interest in the flock. God wants men to lead His people out of concern for the righteous well-being of the people. The church is God’s people. It is not about money, property, or society’s dictates. It is about the well-being of people. The “bottom line” always is this: what is in the best interest of people.

Blessed is the congregation who is led by men who are concerned about people. This is a difficult age often consuming people with society’s values instead of God’s. It is easy to tell people what they should do. It is demanding to be concerned for them in their struggles when they fail. “Do not be content to tell me I messed up! Love me when I fail [just as does God] and show me how to recover in Christ.”

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 18 January 2007

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