Shepherd Leaders are Sheep First

shepherding sheep

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his namesake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:1-4, NIV)

Shepherding like a bedouin in Jordan

The only time I have seen a legitimate shepherd was in Jordan. A few summers ago, I had traveled with a large group from Lancaster Bible College to Jordan and Israel to tour Biblical and ancient sites. Within the first couple days, we made a stop in Petra and toured the ancient city. As we’re walking down into the valley, we begin passing many bedouins or desert nomads. One bedouin happened to be herding sheep.

treasury in petra jordan

It seemed like a tough job and not a job that anyone would’ve wanted. I’m not sure that if you asked a kid what they wanted to be when they grew up, even in the Middle East, that you would hear, “I want to be a shepherd!”

Being a shepherd is tough work. You spend long days herding lots of stubborn sheep, under the hot sun, in the desert where there is nothing to do. It wouldn’t really be my dream job and I’m guessing it wouldn’t be your dream job either. So, if it were up to you, what would your dream job be?

What would your title be?

If you could create your own title for what you do on staff (or what you hope to be doing in the near future!), what would it be, and why?

My guess is that you would probably choose a title like CEO, Owner, Director, Coordinator, Manager, or Associate. If you work in a local church, maybe your future title included Pastor.

Have you ever wondered what “pastor” means or where we got the title? It only shows up once in the Bible (Eph. 4:11). “Pastor” essentially means “shepherd”. Whether or not you ever have “pastor” in your title, you will be (or should be!) a shepherd leader (stay tuned for lots more on that!). But what if you’re not in a church? It doesn’t matter! We are all called to be shepherd leaders.

Shepherd or slave?

Two of the Bible’s primary metaphors, in regards to leadership, are that of a shepherd and that of a servant or slave. Most of us probably wouldn’t pick any of those terms for our job title, much less think about leaders when we think about those metaphors. Why does the Bible use these two metaphors to talk about leadership?

1. Servant or slave

Words like servant or slave may leave a bad taste in our mouths, especially Americans in regards to slavery. We typically view titles like servant or slave at the bottom of the pyramid. However, Jesus flips pyramid when he hears his band of disciples beginning to argue about who was the greatest among them:

“[25] Jesus told them, ‘In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ [26] But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant” (Luke 22:25-26).

Jesus changes the game, right here! Even Jesus is depicted as a servant and he tells us that he came to the earth to serve (Mark 10:45)! Jesus is seen as a servant leader in these moments when he humbles himself, like in his act of washing his disciples’ feet (John 13:1-15). Paul will often refer to himself as a slave of Christ (Rom. 1:1). When you think of being a servant or slave, don’t think of these as negative or undesired titles. Here’s a new definition of servant or slave: these are leaders seeking to serve God and serving those who are led.

2. Shepherd

While shepherds are typically seen as a lowly position, a number of shepherds seemed to fall into God’s leadership pipeline, being chosen to be significant leaders of God’s people. The big three are:

  • Joseph (Gen. 37:2; 47:1-4)
  • Moses (Exod. 3:1)
  • David (1 Sam. 16:11; 17:15; Ps. 78:70-72)

God is referred to as a shepherd over his people, as well as Jesus being the Chief Shepherd. God calls leaders to be shepherds and the role of a godly leader is to watch over, care for, feed, and protect the sheep.

This is where things can get confusing, because not all of may have had positive or negative influences that shaped our understanding of godly leaders.

Who have been the major influences in your life, whether positive or negative, that have shaped your understanding of local church leadership up to this point? What specifically did you learn from each of them?

In response to this question, you may have had a lot of positive influences that have shaped your understanding of local church leadership. Unfortunately, you also may have had pretty negative influences in church leadership. Would you like to know the good news? You’re not alone. That’s why it’s so important to study what it means to be a shepherd leader!

So, how should we live out this reality of being shepherd leaders?

11 Leadership Principles in Psalm 23

A great place for us to see what a good shepherd leader looks like, is from Psalm 23.

A psalm of David.
[1] The Lord is my shepherd,

1. Jesus is the authoritative guide.

 

I lack nothing.

2. They anticipate needs and systematically care for their flock.

[2] He makes me lie down in green pastures,

3. They must be watchful for a sabbatical rhythm in the life of his workers.

 

he leads me beside quiet waters,

4. They are called upon to see that all are treated fairly and justly, and the flock is rewarded for their work in as gracious a manner as possible.

 

[3] he refreshes my soul.

5. The result of shepherd leadership.

 

He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.

6. They earn the trust of their flock.

 

[4] Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,

7. They are able to lead their flock through the darkest valleys, while retaining the trust of their flock.

 

your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

8. They protect and rescue their flock.

 

[5] You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.

9. They are generous in their hospitality.

 

You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

10. They do not always need to seize on enormously expensive solutions in order to lead well.

 

[6] Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,

11. Just as God’s provision, abundance, and protection will always be there for the shepherd, they communicate the same to those under their leadership.

Walter C. Kaiser talks about the “shepherd” as a biblical metaphor for leadership in Psalm 23. King David wrote this poem about the Lord, who was true example of a Good Shepherd. In light of this, Kaiser asks a convicting question:

“If the followers whom I am leading were to write a poem about my ability to lead them and my personal style of leadership, what would they say about my leadership? Would they, perchance employ such gracious and complimentary words about us as those that are used in Psalm 23” (156)?

If not, what would they write?!

God’s Preference for a Leader

God’s not just looking for a servant leader, but he’s looking for a shepherd leader. Kaiser describes the major difference between these two types of leadership models: “Shepherd leadership originated in the sacred text, and servant leadership originated in a mystical novel” (162).

I believe that this is why it’s vital to understand that “Shepherd leaders are sheep first”. As shepherd leaders, we don’t arrive on the scene having it all together, because we don’t! We are not yet fully-developed leaders, but we are being formed by the Good shepherd and led to be leaders.

This means that good shepherd leaders are sheep first.

I Want to Hear From You!

In what specific ways do you live out this reality, where “The Lord is my shepherd”?

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7 Reasons DEVELUP is Your Best Next Step

DEVELUP - LCBC Church's 2-year leadership development program.

Here Are The Top 2 Questions People Ask Me About DEVELUP

What is DEVELUP?

The number one question people ask me about DEVELUP is, “What is DEVELUP?” DEVELUP exists to develop world-class leaders impassioned to serve the local church. Notice that the mission doesn’t include “impassioned to serve LCBC”. The program’s purpose is to benefit the local Church, as a whole.

This 2-year leadership development program gives you practical ministry experience and training in the areas of Campus Leadership, Worship, and Production. However, in this post, I’ll be specifically referencing the Campus Leadership program (although most apply to the program as a whole).

What’s it like?

The number two question I’m asked about DEVELUP is, “What’s it like?”

We hosted an event at LCBC Church – Manheim Campus called “DEVELUP for a Day”. This event gave prospective DEVELUP applicants a clearer picture of what the program was like.

In the morning, the attendees heard from our Senior Pastor, David, and the program director, Paul. They gave a pretty good overview of who we are and what we do as a church. Paul also gave a good overview of what the program was and what it isn’t.

Then, Paul invited a select panel of prior and current DEVELUP Staff to be interviewed and give the REAL picture of what DEVELUP is like. I say, “REAL picture”, not because Paul didn’t explain the program well, but because the staff will always have a different experience than the director and vice versa.

Our DEVELUP-for-a-Day Discussion Panel

So, here’s the gist of my DEVELUP experience:

I Didn’t Plan on Applying for DEVELUP

You have to know that I didn’t plan on applying for DEVELUP. At that time of applying, I had just got done legally forming a company and my plan was to get that company off the ground. However, God had different plans for me. Which is true of most of us, isn’t it? For me to apply, there were 3 hurdles that I had to overcome to apply.

3 Hurdles I Had to Overcome to Apply

Pride

My pride often gets the best of me. I believed that what I was doing in building a company and all of the other opportunities I was involved in, that I would be sacrificing it for a lesser opportunity. The turning point in me applying is that I realized I was focused on going faster in the short-term than going farther in the long-term. In the short-term, I tricked myself into believing that what I was doing was more important than who I was becoming.

Fear of Rejection

In addition to my pride, I was afraid of being rejected during the application process. I had applied a year prior and was rejected, so why would I want to feel that rejection again? It’s a natural fear we have, as humans. We all want to be accepted. However, this fear often prevents us from stepping out of our comfort zone and into the plan God has for us.

Reflecting on the reasons why I was rejected in the prior year, I determined that it was for the best. There was a lot of growth that still needed to happen and I’m grateful for that waiting period. Ultimately, God will put you in the position that He wants you – so if you’re not where you want to be yet, it’s because you’re not supposed to be, yet. This doesn’t mean that we don’t posture ourselves for God’s favor, by being faithful in what we’ve been given.

Fear of Missing Out

The last hurdle that prevented me from applying is that I was afraid of missing out on what I believed I was supposed to be doing. I believed that I needed to be building businesses – finding needs and creating solutions. In reality, I can do this at any time, but will I probably be more equipped to lead others after experiencing DEVELUP.

Once I named these hurdles for what they were, I was able to put aside my pride and apply. I’m so grateful that I applied because it led to some incredible experiences in my spiritual, professional, and relational development!

The Best Part of the DEVELUP Experience

It’s been recognizing that who I am becoming is more important than what I’m doing. There were 3 places where I recognized I was growing:

Spiritual Growth:

I’ve been learning to focus first on Jesus.

Professional Growth:

I’m been mastering leadership skills.

Relational Growth:

I’m learning that everything we do involves relationships! At LCBC, our business is people.

The Unexpected Benefits of DEVELUP

There have been several unexpected benefits of DEVELUP. When joining the staff of a church, you may have a pretty clear idea of what working at a church is like. However, I never knew what it would be like to work at a church like LCBC and it’s been a pretty cool experience. We really do care about our people here. I’m not just talking about the people who attend our church, but also our staff.

DEVELUP has not only challenged me in my thinking but also made me more aware of my strengths and what I could bring to the table in regards to developing people and our church. You will learn a lot about ministry, but you’re also going to learn a lot about yourself. You will also learn about growing as a follower of Jesus.

 

DEVELUP gave me tools in my toolbox to lead better now than I had ever led before. It challenged some of my suppositions of what church is and how do we operate as a church. DEVELUP has created a cool way to learn and grow together.

It challenged me to dig into my Bible daily, learn more about servant leadership, and become a shepherd leader. I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning now that I’ve shifted my life into the growth gear.

7 Reasons DEVELUP is Your Best Next Step

1. You will grow as a leader.

The world is in desperate need of leaders! Bill Hybels is famous for saying, “When a leader gets better, everyone gets better!” You are going to come into the program with room to grow. You are given feedback and the opportunity to grow and learn practical ministry. At the end of the program, you will have learned how to be a shepherd leader and oversee ministry areas at a high level.

2. It matters who you hitch your cart to.

This is such a key principle that we forget, nowadays. It matters who you hitch your cart to. It matters who you surround yourself with and the type of people you align yourself with. Who are the people in your life that are in the position that you want to be? What are you doing to learn from them and glean wisdom and leadership from those people? Through DEVELUP, we found staff being offered great opportunities outside the church because LCBC Church is held in high regard by local organizations.

As I was considering my decision to apply for DEVELUP, I met with several business and nonprofit leaders in the area. I discovered that they all held LCBC in high esteem. I’ll never forget, I was having a conversation with Roger North of North Group Consultants and told him that I was considering DEVELUP. Roger said, “Brad, that’s great! There are many leaders at LCBC who I hold in high esteem and look to for leadership. I believe you’re on the right path and that LCBC would be a great place to be developed as a leader.” His words actually influenced me to get rid of my “short-term mentality” and trade it in for a “long-term vision“.

3. You Love the local Church and want to help the mission move forward.

All of our primary purposes involve moving the local Church and fulfilling the Great Commission. Through DEVELUP you will learn skills and leadership to build up any church! As I said earlier, DEVELUP is not for young leaders impassioned to serve LCBC, but the local Church. Whatever skills and leadership you learn through DEVELUP, you can take to any church and lead well.

4. You want to be close to great leaders.

If you’re looking for world-class leaders, LCBC has them. Oftentimes, you’ll find yourself soaking up leadership via osmosis because the leaders just leak great leadership. There are so many great leaders around LCBC. Why wouldn’t you want exposure to that?

5. Take the next 2 years to set yourself up for the next 50.

I find that 20-somethings don’t think about what happens beyond the 2-year mark. I’m not sure why that is, but often our idea of a long-term investment stops at 2 years. Maybe it’s because we’ve seen parents and relatives spend 40 years of their lives in one company. This scares us because we have absolutely no idea what we want to do for the rest of our lives. Studies show that you won’t spend the rest of your lives doing one thing. So a 2-year investment is nothing compared to the life that we may have ahead of us. Don’t settle for going faster in the short-term when you can go so much farther in the long-term.

6. It’s a pretty sweet deal.

You will not find another opportunity like this in ministry, or organization for that matter. LCBC has really invested in DEVELUP, offering many benefits for an on-ramp that may not be the best fit. Some of those benefits include (for Campus Leadership Program):

  • Theological training that counts for 18 FREE credits of a Master’s of Arts in Ministry or Master of Divinity, in collaboration with Lancaster Bible College.
  • All-costs-covered for supplementary classes, trips, retreats, and conferences.
  • FaceTime with World-class Leaders.
  • Entry-level full-time salary and benefits package made available.

7. God is really directing you to this next step.

Everything else aside, I believe that God may be directing you to this next step of applying for DEVELUP. It’s rare for me to consult God before making an impulsive decision. I usually just say, “That sounds like an awesome opportunity!” I add this opportunity to the list of things to do and I end up spinning my wheels instead of making progress because I’m trying to keep one foot in everything.

I’ve learned that there is a better way. The alternative way to approach life is to prayerfully pursue one thing, running full-steam-ahead. View yourself as a ship in the ocean with the wind at your sails driving you forward, then God should be the rutter – steering your life in His way and timing.

Apply for DEVELUP

What are you waiting for? If you feel like God is leading you to apply, then do it! Apply here and let God do the rest. The application deadline is March 31st, 2018. Don’t miss it!

For some of you reading this, maybe DEVELUP isn’t your best next step, right now. If you’d like to follow along with what I’m learning in and out of DEVELUP, subscribe to my newsletter below. I try to post once a week.

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What steps are you taking in your growth and development as a leader?

2 Steps to Shift Your Life Into The Growth Gear

car gear shift gears

How to Find the Growth Gear

For some of us, the growth gear is an elusive gear that we can’t seem to find in our gear selection. When some of us think of shifting into gear, we think of gearshifts in cars with a manual transmission.

A Story About More Than Car Trouble

If you know me well, you know that I haven’t had the best luck with cars lately. It seems like every few months, something would go wrong with my car. Last September one of my car’s tires exploded on the drive back from my work. It wasn’t worth the investment as the inspection was coming up, so I decided to salvage the car.

As I was searching for a new car, I decided that I would try something different. I had driven automatic transmission cars all of my life, and I decided to buy a car with manual transmission. I found a 2001 Honda Civic with a manual transmission for sale and bought it within the next couple weeks. After negotiating down the price, I had a friend drive the car back and he tried to teach me how to drive manual. I ended up getting so fed up with trying to learn how to drive this car that I parked it outside my apartment building and went back to my apartment to sit on my couch.

I was so frustrated! It was hard work and I felt like it was impossible to learn in such a short time. However, as I was sitting on my couch, I realized that I had to drive up to work the next morning, so whether I was comfortable driving it or not, I had to find a way to get to work. So I got up off my butt and taught myself how to drive a car with manual transmission. Trust me, it was not pretty, and I’m sure I put a good bit of wear on my clutch – but I got the result I wanted. I learned how to shift gears, how to accelerate and decelerate, and drive in traffic with this car.

I was so proud of myself and grateful to my friend and dad for showing me how to drive a car with manual transmission. However, I learned that, even though I had people instructing me on how to do something, growth didn’t just happen. I had to be intentional to put into practice what I learned. I other words, I needed to shift into the growth gear. In DEVELUP, we are often challenged to shift into the growth gear, in order to be intentional about growth.

In DEVELUP – we focus on experiencing growth in 3 ways:

1. Spiritually

We learn how to resolve and become fully-devoted followers of Christ and relate what the Bible teaches to the challenges of life and ministry.

2. Professionally

We learn to lead with courage and confidence at a director level and display a thorough understanding of LCBC’s ministry areas and DNA.

3. Relationally

We apply our leadership skills to serving as an exemplary team player and demonstrate compassion towards others and humility in leadership.

Some of you may ask, we understand that there are different areas of growth, but why is it important?

Why should you grow?

The Bible gives us 3 reasons that growth is important:

  1. Growth is biblical.
  2. Jesus modeled growth.
  3. Jesus celebrated growth.

Now that we know the WHY behind growth, HOW do we best grow?

How do you grow?

Growth doesn’t just happen, it starts with us being intentional.

What do you mean that growth doesn’t just happen? Don’t read the statement above too literally. There are times that we will grow from learning from mistakes or in the process of our decisions. What I do mean is that none of us drifted into our station in life by accident.

How does one know the difference between accidental and intentional growth? This table below shows the differences between accidental and intentional growth:

Accidental Growth Intentional Growth
Plans to start tomorrow Insists on starting today
Waits for growth to come Takes complete charge to grow
Learns afterward from mistakes Often learns before mistakes
Depends on good luck Relies on hard work
Quits early and often Perseveres long and hard
Falls into bad habits Fights for great habits
Talks big Follows through
Plays it safe Takes risks
Thinks like a victim Thinks like a learner
Relies on talent Relies on character
Stops learning after graduation Never stops growing

Accidental vs. Intentional Growth Table

So, if the above statements are what accidental and intentional growth looks like, then what’s your next step in pursuing growth?

What’s your next step in pursuing growth?

Step 1: Get into a growth environment.

You need to get yourself into a growth environment. You may ask, what does a great growth environment look like?

Characteristics of a great growth environment:

  1. Others are ahead of me
  2. I am continually challenged
  3. My focus is forward
  4. The atmosphere is affirming
  5. I am often out of my comfort zone
  6. I wake up excited
  7. Failure is not my enemy
  8. Others are growing
  9. People desire change
  10. Growth is modeled and expected

Don’t wait for a growth environment to come to you. You either need to create a growth environment for yourself or get into a great growth environment. Don’t settle for accidental growth but lead yourself to intentional growth.

Step 2: Be willing to make tradeoffs.

“You have to give up to grow up.” – John Maxwell

John Maxwell tells us in The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth that you have to give up to grow up. In the Law of Trade-offs, he says that there are certain things we will need to give up in order to achieve the life that we want to live. I love how Dave Ramsey puts it in Financial Peace University:

“If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” – Dave Ramsey

In the Law of Trade-offs, Maxwell says, “Don’t make bad tradeoffs!” If making trade-offs were easy, then everyone would be doing it. However, we all know that making the right choice takes discipline, so Maxwell gives us 3 trade-off principles.

3 Trade-off Principles:
  1. I am willing to give up financial security today for potential tomorrow.
  2. I am willing to give up immediate gratification for personal growth.
  3. I am willing to give up security for significance.

Keep these 2 steps in mind when you’re pursuing growth and you’ll be well on your way to shifting your life into the growth gear!

I want to hear from you!

What tradeoffs do you need to make in order to pursue growth?