But now the situation is different. I’m leading a team of full time ministers. The difference is that lay people are easy because they’re only invested in their spare time. As such, any time they succeed at something you get to come alongside them and rejoice. And when they fail miserably you both just look at the situation and shrug your shoulders and try again. With full time people when they succeed it’s good, but it isn’t altogether surprising because it is, after all, their full-time job to succeed in ministry. And when they do something poorly it’s a bummer because it’s usually more your fault as the leader than it is theirs.
Whatever the case may be, I’m finding myself growing fond of leading. While it used to be primarily the vision casting and forward momentum that got me excited my heart has begun to change about this. The Lord has been bringing to mind that while He did occasionally speak to 5,000 people (and then whip up a meal for them), He spent most of His time with a select few making sure they were truly following Him.
This is my real job as a leader. I can cast vision for something and that’s good, but if I can help people deeply love, clearly see, and follow after the orchestrator of the universe then they will have infinitely more of an impact on the Kingdom of God than any plans I come up with for ministry. I think I used to see “leader” as something of a dirty word. Why is this person a leader? Or why am I a leader? What do I have to offer that’s any better than these men who work with me? They are all serious lovers of the Lord, men who have been in this country for many years, and most have leadership experience.
But I’ve been processing lately the Lord’s heart for leaders and it's clear the Lord puts people in leadership intentionally. But it's also clear those leaders don't always do the will of the Lord. A couple of days ago I read Ezekiel 34:1-10 which is a scripture of condemnation against the incompetent leaders of Israel. It says:
The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.Now I’m not going to unpack in this great detail but I want to comment a few things.
“Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As I live, declares the Lord God, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them."
First of all the leaders were taking care of (feeding) themselves, and not their people. They should have been feeding the sheep, and they weren’t — fail.
This verse also should bring to mind a clearer picture of what Jesus was talking about when He reinstates Peter in John 21. Jesus is asking Peter to lead and to take care of His people, the church.
The leaders also should have been strengthening the weak, healing the sick, binding up the injured, and they weren’t — fail.
The next part is repeated constantly, “The strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought. “ That is, the people needed leadership, and they didn’t provide it — fail.
They treated the people harshly instead of with patience, grace, and understanding — fail.
The people were scattered, they were out everywhere. They should have been lead by their leaders to follow the Lord. But the leaders dropped the ball — fail.
The Lord had all kinds of complaints against the leaders of Israel, including watching out for themselves instead of their people. But the primary point of this passage is that the Lord is angry with them because the Lord made them leaders and they didn't lead.
Leadership meant 1) pointing people to the Lord and then 2) caring for them. This is the point of leadership. To point people towards what I think we're supposed to do ministry is only secondary to these two primary things. Before anything else I am to call people to the creator and orchestrator of the universe. And my care for them is to help them follow Him well.
I'll say it again so it's clear as the day is long. If you're in a place of leadership then focus on these two primary things and let nothing else destract from them.
1) Point people to Jesus.
2) Care for them.
Because when we fail to do this we're worthy of the condemnation of Ezekiel 34. If the Lord has called you to lead you are to do so boldly. But that boldness is not to be focused on leading people where you think they should go (though this is helpful), but rather, that boldness is to be focused on leading people to walk closer with Christ.