In 1 Peter 5:2-4 we read: So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (ESV)
Peter identifies Jesus here as the chief Shepherd. John identifies Jesus as the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14). The writer of Hebrews identifies Jesus as the Great Shepherd of the Sheep (13:20). Christ-like leaders are best identified as shepherds who submit to the good and chief and great Shepherd and are thus under-shepherds.
Space will not allow for much comment on this passage but a few key concepts are critical for every shepherd leader to understand and practice.
- Shepherding is a role with responsibilities. Do these responsibilities apply to any follower of Jesus or just those in a category of elder? Although anyone can serve in a shepherding role (leading, developing, and caring as was suggested in a prior blog post), those seeking to lead like Jesus over a flock of His followers have some special requirements.
- Under-shepherds should expect serving with effort and even hardship (sufferings). I cannot think of any leader in the Bible, in history, or contemporary life that does not experience difficulty when seeking to lead like Jesus. It just comes with the territory.
- Under-shepherds are commanded to serve like Jesus. When someone senses a calling (an appointed assignment) to lead a flock, he or she must do so in a prescribed way.
- Under-shepherds must shepherd intentionally, willingly, and according to God’s will or pattern. The leader does not decide the standards for leading—they are clearly conferred with the assumption of compliance.
- Under-shepherds must have as their motive to receive their reward not from financial income but from joy when seeing that the flock is healthy. Jesus’ followers led well should be our eager expectation.
- Under-shepherds, those leading like Jesus, must take the servant posture. Jesus addressed this issue multiple times with the disciples since it was so critical to the growth of His Church. There is no place for domineering. Jesus’ example is the only way to shepherd well.
At the transfiguration Peter had a foretaste of heaven. He was absolutely confident that Jesus would return and when He did, he, and all under-shepherds, would be rewarded. Crowns were the honor bestowed on victors. In games only those who go through the discipline of rigorous training and living will win. Under-shepherds live to win by serving those they lead well.
The Shepherd metaphor for leadership is the primary one in the Bible. It is rich with meaning and worthy of our emulation. May we who lead as husbands, mothers, fathers, teachers, managers, supervisors, etc., commit afresh to lead like the Good, and Chief, and Great Shepherd!